Friday, November 2, 2012

Oyster House

Trek through enough places, enough downtown places, seek out what sounds good, and that anticipation will eventually lead the heart to expect something grand almost all the time. There are places that meet your expectations, that’s always a relief. There are places that exceed your expectations, that’s something grand and dreamy. But then, there are the places that lift your spirits high by name, and sink your feet back down to earth by taste. 

This place is Oyster House. I had really high hopes for this place-first seeking it out for Restaurant Week in Philadelphia, then holding off until Mama B came out. I mean, the name says it all, right? Part of my excitement, though, blinded me from remembering that a restaurant that has that type of namesake is either a) really overpriced, or b) not as good as it claims. In this case it was c) both a and b. 

It was wonderfully bright in there, a good thing, since Philadelphia was cool and overcast most of the day. The display is worth noting, as when you walk in, the oyster bar is front and center, and if there had been two of us, I would have been very happy sitting there, eating oysters on the half shell. The d├ęcor was a little kitschy, but I did like the goblets with the oyster crack puffs. I didn’t really care if they were old, and from watching the wait staff, it looked as though they changed them out if they weren’t eaten.

So, what do you order when you got to Oyster House? Well. Oysters, of course. And so I asked for the raw bar menu, and was stunned at the individual prices of the oysters. I’m from Los Angeles, freshest seafood I’ve ever had, but this, Philadelphia, was very ridiculous. I’m angry just sitting here, remembering. I think Mr. V noticed my astonishment as well. But, I am polite, if not even tasteful, so I kept my wits about me. I ordered the top layer of oysters, the “non premium”. I dislike that, but it seems to be a common thing around here. And they were good, fresh, cold, and salty. As they should be. Here me now…raw oysters should always be good, fresh, cold, and salty. The idea is to get the ones you could eat twelve of in one sitting. These, not so much. 

You all know me, right? 
Know my liking to order the weird things, or things I’ve never had before. 
Just the other day, I ordered brussel sprouts. 
First time ever. 
Also first time ever? 
Seeing Snapping Turtle Soup. 
Let alone tasting it. 
But I did, and it was amazing. 
The meat was darker than I expected, but lighter in the taste of game.  
It’s one of those Chilean sea bass issues
Those of you who eat Blue Fin tuna, know that it’s considered the same type of dish in terms of “whether or not you should eat it”. 
I probably won’t have it again, but I do not say no to foods.

Mr. V and Mama B both ordered the same thing-fried oysters. 
I’m not a fan of this, considering that oysters are very delicate in flavor, so frying them seems to me pointless. 
Why not just order fried batter? 
But they enjoyed them, and the batter was quite good. 
The tartar sauce was fresh, so that was an added bonus, possibly restaurant made. 
 I’m also not a fan of grilling oysters either, so I’m a little bias for the little guys. 
They need to be alive minutes before they enter my belly (enter scene from Alice in Wonderland).

So, you might ask why was Oyster House a disappointment? 

The main reason is the price. I have no problem  with expensive meals. I’m a sushi fan, sashimi eater, how can I care about price? I drink Nigori! What I do have a problem with is when the price doesn’t meet the quality. And Oyster House does not meet the quality. If you’re going to advertise oysters, have it in your name (!), then you need to have the best oysters in the city, the best around. And I can name one place, right off the top of my head, whose prices match Oyster House, but the oysters are terrific-Harry’s Seafood on the Riverfront in Wilmington. I shouldn’t be able to do that. 

Secondly, the wait staff was hard and unfriendly. I barely could get our server to come back to our table-I don’t mind slower service, and often ask for it. I don’t like inattentive staff. And I tried three times to order a cocktail. And finally gave up. 

Thirdly, the desserts were so underwhelmingly listed. They put all their shells in the oyster basket, thinking that is enough. But it is not. Everything on your menu needs to be fun and fresh. Or at least tasting like I would want to come back. 


Oyster House: Meh. Oysters are good, so if I want oysters and am in Philadelphia and need something quick, I’ll go there and sit at the bar. I will not, however, go out of my way to go here, or even recommend it to people who ask for places in Philly.
Favorite Dish: Snapping Turtle Soup. In an oyster house. Really?
Price: Overpriced.

I dislike writing all this! 
But, I need to stay true to my opinions. 
And this was a not so awesome one.

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