After seeing a friend a in SoHo and stopping at some of my favorite shops there (Uniqlo, Evolution NYC – the mecca of science geekdom in NYC) we embarked on a quest for cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery that ended not entirely in vain. Cronuts, the croissant doughnut hybrid that swept the nation in buzz fueled fervor a few months ago.
The made to order madeleines were perfect, although the hot chocolate wasn’t entirely that impressive, nor as hot as I would have liked it to be. The chef was in the house being interviewed in the back. With these creations he is on his way to further celebrity chefdom; most likely spending his future away from the kitchen and behind the camera.
There were quite a few interesting pastries and employees; had I more stomach room I would’ve indulged a great deal more. I’ve always felt that pastry chefs with their scales, scrapes, and metric mantras are some of the cleanest cooks in the kitchen, yet the visible part of the bakery did not support that feeling.
At the corner we noticed the sign for Aqua Grill, which I had read as one of the top places in the city to get oysters. Though we were quite full from previous meals, I insisted that we stop for some oysters.
I was surprised to see that Aqua Grill didn’t seem to have a huge display of oysters, but once we received the menu I was actually quite surprised at the selection of both east and west coast oysters.
I asked the bartender what she thought set Aqua Grill apart and I really loved her answer; overall quality, freshness, and expertise in the shucking. She mentioned Manny’s as a NYC institution (not sure – Manny’s on Second?) but proffering a more rustic experience in comparison to Aqua Grill. Aqua Grill has a classy feel, I particularly enjoyed the art. Warm and friendly service from the bartender.
As Coltrane’s Equinox played softly in the background (the perfect soundtrack to a blizzard ) we could see the the Puerto Rican gentleman shucking oysters quite expertly was visibly annoyed with his task (I found this quite comical, as I love NYC attitudes). Still, he cranked out a lovely dozen of delicious oysters, many of which from appellations I had not heard of.
Let me start off by saying I eat oysters without anything for the most part. If I have several oysters of the same kind I will start to add horseradish, mignonette, etc, but usually I want to taste the essence of the bivalve without adulteration.
I am certainly starting to develop a preference for east coast oysters, with their slight brine and excellent array of flavors. We started with Chilmark, which had the aforementioned slight brine and a delightful slightly sweet finish. Next up were some Race Rock, which were some of the largest oysters, i’ve ever seen (I’ve seen slightly larger at Borough Market in London).
Watch Hill had the most brine of any of our selections but were still enjoyable, yet when we reached the Indian Creek we thought we were taking a swig of creamy salt water. Sweet Neck turned out to be the favorite, lightly salty and medium sized with good texture.
We were told as we finished that right now (January) is the perfect time to eat oysters. I couldn’t agree more. This was such a fun spot and a great find – highly recommended as a stop off between spending the money you don’t have shopping in SoHo.