East Coast seafood comes west
Posted October 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm in Lifestyle
Santa Monicaâs Ocean Avenue is the epitome of the mythical Southern California lifestyle we like to dream about: sand, surfers and shopping. Nestled amid all the tan bodies, however, is an unlikely bastion of East Coast summer food, Blue Plate Oysterette, a deceptively casual seafood joint that serves up artful bites of the Atlantic seaboard.
Upon entering the kitschy, bright, ocean-facing restaurant, one immediately feels like they have stepped into a stylish auntâs beach house. The restaurant is swathed in cool blues, fun stripes and touches of tawdry seashell knick-knacks, Â and topped off with a central bar and open kitchen proudly displaying a large blackboard of the dayâs fresh specials.
The Oysterette offers a decent raw bar with oysters, ceviche, crudo and prawns, and even gives the exact species of some of the items. Those unfamiliar with the intricacies of frutti del mare need not worry, however â servers are more than willing to brief eaters on the differences between sizes, textures and flavors of those tricky-looking bivalves that many shy away from because, well, theyâre weird.
Many less adventurous diners donât order oysters because of past terrible experiences. âTheyâre slimy,â they say wearily. âAnd gray,â they add with disgust. But thatâs what happens when the only interaction theyâve had with the famously finicky protein is from bad hotel brunches where the oysters have been sloppily chopped from some crate taken off a dirty truck. Most people, sadly, have only tasted the cheap stuff.
This is not the case at Blue Plate Oysterette. Oysters are the restaurantâs stars. The place is named for them, after all.
The reputedly aphrodasiacal creatures are served on ice. Theyâre fresh, taste like what the ocean should and although theyâre not exactly an economical purchase, theyâre an enjoyable luxury served without all the pretentiousness of a traditional fine-dining restaurant.
The Oysteretteâs the kind of place where you can walk in with sandy flip flops, slurp straight from the shell and unashamedly chase oysters and vinegar with some Perrier.
Itâs not just oysters that make the restaurant unforgettable, however. Dishes like steamed mussels, when they have them, turn even the most picky of eaters into bowl-licking beasts. Perfect little packages of salty-sweet heaven bathing in the ultimate creamy white wine sauce, the mussels also come with some good old-fashioned grilled toast that absorbs sauce like a dream.
The ultimate Maine seafood dish is here too; the respectable lobster roll might not look like much, but once bitten itâs an instant trip to Bar Harbor.
With generous mayonnaise and a fresh â but not overpowering â dollop of tarragon, the densely-packed lobster filling heaped into a buttered and browned brioche will make a delightfully messy meal. Feel free to stuff the homemade sweet potato chips the sandwich comes with in the already-overstuffed bun for a satisfying crunch that cuts through that creamy-savory-fresh-butter taste for a symphony of seafood.
Eaters be warned, however. The sandwich is good, but it isnât cheap: expect to be set back $22 for an indulgent, thoroughly nostalgic entrĂ©e.
Blue Plate Oysterette, however, knows that itâs very much still on the West Coast. Dishes like the fish tacos with grilled mahi-mahi, cilantro aioli, guacamole and crisp cabbage tastes like quintessential California.
If you could create a flavor that could combine the smell of ocean winds, the sight of Westsiders rollerblading and the feeling you get speeding down a traffic-free PCH with all the windows down, these tacos would be it. Regrettably, theyâre not as authentically Mexican as your neighborhood hole-in-the-wall joint that hand-makes their tortillas from masa and lard, but the quality of the fish makes up for that in leaps and bounds.
A seared ahi sandwich with tarragon aioli, arugula and onions is also served on brioche here â another remarkably Californian dish that holds its own against the East-coast items. Itâs crisp, tasteful and simple â the way a sandwich should be.
Non-pescatarians shouldnât feel completely out of place here, however. The menu still has items like macaroni and cheese, a burger and grilled chicken. But seafood remains the heart and soul of the Oysteretteâs vision.
Though itâs homey and light in spirit, donât expect to step out having spent lightly. Itâs a definite extravagance, but the atmosphere, polite service and most of all brilliant food evokes an endless summer thatâs filled with sun, sea and seafood.