We've had tables that order 200 at a time
—Jesse Friesen, chef
Most of us look at an oyster and think, 'Not even if you double dare me.'
But the challenging appetizer is enjoying a resurgence in restaurants everywhere, including here in Winnipeg.
At Peasant Cookery in the Exchange District, head chef Tristan Foucault added a buck-a-shuck oyster night every Wednesday in late 2011. His supplier is Village Bay, a New Brunswick operation that farms its product. "Village Bay oysters are very user friendly," Foucault says, pointing to their easy shucking and long shelf life.
More important, they may convert the oyster-phobic. These bivalve molluscs are delicate, slightly buttery and even refreshing: no squid-like texture or fishy taste here. And no desire to slam them back and speed swallow. These are oysters to be savoured.
On the busiest nights, the Peasant Cookery serves about 1,500 oysters. "It took one month to catch on and since then it has been crazy," Foucault says.
Lobby on York head chef Jesse Friesen says on the busiest buck-a-shuck nights, the lounge serves more than 1,000 oysters. (Robin Summerfield)
The same goes for Lobby on York's Thursday night $1 oyster deal in the lounge. On Winnipeg Jets game nights, two kitchen staff will spend the entire night shucking oysters and not much else.
"We've had tables that order 200 at a time," says Lobby's head chef Jesse Friesen. The restaurant has fresh oysters delivered every week. Friesen serves them over chipped ice with a lemon wedge, red-wine mignonette or a slightly spicy ponzu sauce.
Over at Assiniboine Park, Terrace in the Park has just added six different oysters to its new menu. Wasabi on Broadway has designated Wednesdays as Oyster Night.
The local movement follows a broader trend. In an almost heretical shift away from chicken wings and nachos, Esquire
magazine promoted char-broiled oysters as a Superbowl Sunday party snack.
Clearly, it's time to stop fighting it. Swallow your fear. Swallow an oyster.