New York is no stranger to cooked oysters, be they fried, tossed into a creamy pan roast, or butter poached and paired with caviar. But for years, any new restaurant or bar that offered them on the half shell tended to serve them raw. Roasted oysters have mostly been the purview of classic spots like Grand Central Oyster Bar or Keens, both known for their oysters Rockefeller.
In the last year or so, though, NYC restaurants have finally taken a page out of the New Orleans (or 19th century New York) playbook and are getting into the roasted oyster game. They come simply broiled with butter, or cooked with the help of a wood-fired oven. They also arrive more dressed up, like with charred uni mayo, seaweed butter, or grated purple daikon. And yet, despite the adjustments, they still celebrate the joys of eating an oyster — the feeling of slurping it off a shell and finding a plump, salty, creamy, and wonderfully gooey bite of seafood.
Yes, raw seafood tends to highlight the freshness of the product, and it makes sense that raw oysters were the appetizer du jour for so long. And some of the new broiled oyster-slingers express explicit inspiration from New Orleans’s dining, like Canary Club. But others, like 232 Bleecker and Anton’s, cite broader influences, signaling that the roasted oyster app could keep spreading. Regardless of the source, cooked oysters are back in vogue, and man, do they taste good.
Here are a few of the new restaurants slinging top-notch versions of cooked oysters on the half shell.
This vegetable-focused restaurant in the West Village, which opened in December, is the first full-service project from lunch chain Dig. Chef Suzanne Cupps, formerly of Untitled at the Whitney, roasts Island Creek oysters over coals, then tops them with grated purple daikon, Meyer lemon, seaweed, white soy, and aji dulce hot sauce. The bivalves themselves are plump and faintly smoky, while the condiments lend acidity and fragrant heat. A plate runs $16.
Nick Anderer’s West Village restaurant is a throwback European-American restaurant and, tipping its hat to old New York, offers oysters both raw and broiled. Broiled, they cost $24 for six or $4.50 each. The flavor here is simple and straightforward: The soft oysters get a crunchy kick from a layer of garlic breadcrumbs.
This LES newcomer feels more like a bar than restaurant, and the food on the menu specifically pulls from NOLA cuisine. While not everything on the menu is a hit, the wood oven-roasted oysters alone are worth going to the restaurant to order, according to critic Robert Sietsema. They come with “Canary butter” made with a range of spices, including garlic, onion, Worcestershire, and a poultry spice from chef Paul Prudhommes of NOLA’s famed Commander’s Palace. Order three for $11 or six for $21.
Madame Vo BBQ
The meal at Yen Vo and Jimmy Ly’s East Village Vietnamese restaurant Madame Vo BBQ centers around a tabletop grill, but the inventive appetizer section features a BBQ oyster, which comes on a half-shell with a charred uni mayo.
Chef Jenny Kwak’s acclaimed Korean bistro Haenyeo in Park Slope has culinary nods to lots of various cuisines, including that of New Orleans, where her husband (and the restaurant’s owner) Terrence Segura is from. A stand-out item from the beginning has been the grilled oysters with seaweed butter (picture above), which come five to an order along with a slice of brioche toast for $18.