Favorite Places To Eat Raw Oysters on the Halfshell

Market Dozen at L&E Oyster Bar

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you’ve probably noticed how much I’ve been craving oysters recently. For awhile, I wasn’t exactly sure whether it was a by-product of my trip to New York – every day of which I enjoyed raw oysters (and what a glorious trip it was).

As it appears, my itch has failed to taper off whatsoever.

So what am I to do except create a round-up of my go-to spots for raw oysters on the halfshell? It’s pretty much the best seafood to consume in the world, with 95% of all oysters consumed being farmed with sustainable practices. And if bacon were vegan kryptonite, oysters are almost vegan … kale-beet salad? Having no central nervous system, oysters feed off plankton while filtering the waters around them and actually benefiting nearby marine life. Check them out on Seafood Watch to see that they’re “Best Choice” when it comes to consuming seafood.

I’m lucky enough to have great options in my neighborhood offering quite a variety of ambiances, as well as a variety of oysters to enjoy between Oysterholics Anonymous meetings, to boot. Of course, you’ll find more West Coast varieties with a sprinkling of East, but never fear – you’ve a handy online oyster guide spun off Rowan Jacobsen’s book to guide the way. It’s a fantastic way to have info on each oyster handy at your fingertips.

Anyway, back to it. Here’s where I personally break to slurp on those briny and not-so-briny bivalves. And yes, it’s centered on Hollywood and Silver Lake since this is my hood!

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Fanny Bay

Located down from The Satellite and across from LA MILL, the no-reservation L&E Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a dozen – the Daily Dozen, to be clear.  You’ll get three varieties while saving a few bucks off the per-oyster price. Wash each oyster down with one of the excellent varietals of wine (after all, Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner also brought us Bar Covell). L&E is already a neighborhood favorite but also the subject of a recent S. Irene review, so your best bet is to arrive near their 5 PM opening time. It’s often slammed, but when it comes to oysters it’s easy to see why.

Jonesin’ for bivalves on a Tuesday? Escape into the Roosevelt Hotel and into this 1960’s library-esque restaurant with moss-lined dining rooms, high ceilings and rustic interior for their special oysters and Champagne menu. They’ve a dozen varieties of West and East Coast that switch out from week to week – so whether you want $14 for a half dozen, $20 for nine, or $28 for the dozen, you’ve got a few increments to choose from. And if you’re not looking to end on bubbly, there’s two awesome bars in the same hotel: The Spare Room and Library Bar.

Well look at that, little French Champagne & cocktail bar! This latest venture by Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix and Mark and Johnnie Houston is just one of those bars I’m so glad is in town – oysters or not. But hey, if oysters are a go, then you’ll really find no other place in the city with better libations to slurp them down with. If cocktails are the new food-is-the-new-rock, Pour Vous is essentially your rock supergroup with a vast but excellent menu featuring 26 drinks. But don’t come here if you’re looking to grab a dozen in your sweatpants; remember to come with a jacket and/or collar, guys, and ladies – you’ll have tons more fun dressed to these fabulous surroundings in your sharp garb. If you’re lucky, Livigni will be on deck…er, on the decks.

My David Lentz plate at LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

Hungry Cat’s really been the neighborhood stalwart of seafood, so when power duo David Lentz and Suzanne Goin expanded all the way over by PCH in Santa Monica, our city’s beachcombers rejoiced. Whether you supplement your oysters with one of their solid cocktails or get them as a prelude to their annual CrabFest (which sells out soon after it’s announced), you really can’t go wrong. Get the half-dozen for $15 or a full dozen for $30 – and supplement with plenty other shellfish and seafood – including plenty of other raw iterations – at will. Parking in the complex lot is also a cinch thanks to 2-hour validation.

Let’s not forget your own place or event. I was at a Dine LA media party once, and my friends and I were essentially glued to Christophe Happillon’s shucking station. It was the best party, ever. Everything I learned about oysters (away from the internet), I learned from this guy. You’ll learn a ton about oysters in the process, as in how environmental conditions and geography play a role in how each variety looks and tastes. You can also seek him out on Tuesdays at Church & State and Fridays at Joe’s Restaurant.

I’ll see you at the oyster bar!

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L&E Oyster Bar
1637 Silverlake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323.660.2255

Public Kitchen & Bar in The Hollywood Roosevelt
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.466.7000

Pour Vous
5574 Melrose Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90004
323.871.8699

Hungry Cat Hollywood
1535 Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.462.2155

Hungry Cat Santa Monica
100 W. Channel Road (@PCH)
Santa Monica, CA 90402
310.459.3337

LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Ushers In Fall Flavors

LA Loves Alex

There were a lot of events going on over the weekend, but the inaugural LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade at Culver Studios was a culinary extravaganza to hit it out of the park. The backdrop? The famous Gone With the Wind mansion on a beautiful autumn day. Our hosts were Chefs Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne (Lucques, AOC, Tavern) along with Chef David Lentz (Hungry Cat) – and there was a solid showing of chefs from across the country who all offered their live talents to an event whose goal was to fight childhood cancer.

Seasonal Antipasto | Chris Bianco

The standouts? Chris Bianco’s Antipasto dish, featuring beautifully seasoned fall vegetables and almost making us forget that it was his pizza we were looking forward to. Celebrity chef Giada of The Food Network was personally on-hand to serve up her Pasta Ponza, topped with a fried prosciutto. Paul Kahan, of The Publican in Chicago, brought forth a delicious house-made chorizo coupled with cured ham and dressed with arugula and apples. Hailing from New Orleans was a dish from Susan Spicer’s Bayona – a delicious grilled rosemary shrimp with artichoke bread pudding. Local Neal Fraser (Grace) had pig on the brain, or “Pig in a Box,” as he called it. We caught him reloading charcoal into his smoking apparatus and appreciated the pork he prepared, dressed with a side of mustard potatoes and brussel sprouts.

Caramel Chocolate Macarons | Tavern

With all the dishes at the event making it ever apparent that it was autumn in Los Angeles, the cocktails and beer did not pale in comparison. VIP had access to Craftsman Beer, offering up their Triple Sage, Lavender Sour, Poppy Fields and Firestone brews. Hungry Cat cocktails were also in VIP and out in the common area and were delicious as ever. Of course, we can’t forget the epic dessert table from Tavern and Lucques. S’mores, caramel chocolate macarons, carrot cake – I didn’t even have room for a bite of everything on the table, though I wanted to. Fortunately, I was able to stuff in almost a half-scoop of Mozza’s Meyer Lemon Gelato. Its lemon zest packed punch in the midst of a goat cheese-like flavor and consistency.

If Caroline on Crack, Lindsay of LAist and I didn’t have somewhere else to be later that day, we would have surely enjoyed basking in the Culver City sun with our perfect cocktails, food, beer and desserts the rest of the afternoon. Overall, it was such a stand-out showing that I do hope the event moves from inaugural to annual.

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Held last Sunday, November 7, 2010

12 – 4 PM

Culver Studios
9336 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2600

The Hungry Cat Crab Fest VI

Maryland Blue Crab

It’s a famed event. After, all, we’re on the Crab Fest No. 6. But I’m late to the party and this was my first time around – but now I can finally say I’ve been initiated as a Hungry Cat Crab Fest attendee. The prix fixe pricing ($65) could justify itself well enough, with the starter courses providing a stable anchor to the batch of crabs to follow. The Peekytoe Crab Beignet with its spicy aioli was like a crispy wonder given a creamy kick. And the Solomons Island Crab Soup that followed was extremely flavorful and even a tad spicy, its vibrance really bringing my sinuses to their senses despite my recovering from a cold.

The spicy sauce that sat expectantly at the bottom of the bowl of Singapore-style Softshell Chili Crab rewarded me well. And it made me wonder less if the delicious, crunchy salad that smothered the crab was meant to distract in the first place. But what a refreshing salad to compliment the leggy crustacean. Just don’t ignore that sauce and accept the lesson in surface to meat ratio. Relish that softshell. Chew those legs!

And one thing’s for sure, you can always count on a good cocktail at The Hungry Cat. Solid pours all around – my mint julep not excepted. But when the crabs came out – and then again for round 2 (at 6 crabs per person), I was ready. Flip up that apron on his underbelly and pry his shells apart. Move aside his gills. Or hers, as a couple females ended up on our table – and a couple crabs with more liquid than meat. No matter, it was par for the course and we were pretty much satiated and salted. The copious amounts of seasoning weren’t quite the problem, but whatever of it was salt encrusted my fingers in white. My white napkin, as it stood, became streaked with orange. The camera never came out again, not even for dessert.

Mmm, the sides. The Roasted Corn Salad With Pablano Chiles, Avocado and Queso Fresco was sweet and savory – great for tempering our spiced crab. The Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes With Provolone, Red Wine Vinegar and Oregano came with sweet onions and a kick-filled arugula salad. And once all the shells had been wrapped in the once table-covering newspaper and stowed away, our Lemon Curd Parfaits with berries came out to put the tart period on the end of our 4-hour meal. Sorry – were you going somewhere? Whether or not you’re late, you’ll have to roll there, now.

Bottom line: The $65 price point is a good deal. Not everything was a home-run but the beginning courses and sides were tasty, the crabs are a tad salty, but let’s be honest. I have a hard time arguing with crab. Where’s that wooden mallet?!

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The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.462.2155

@thehungrycat

Mon – Wed: 12 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat: 11 AM – 11 PM

Happy Hour Mon – Fri: Noon – 6 PM
1/2 price specialty cocktails
1/2 draft beer

Every Tuesday:
1/2 off Bottle of Wine

St. Patrick’s Day Round-Up of Round-Ups

Photo credit to sebastian.b (altuwa) on Flickr

I’ve been eyeing the St. Patrick’s Day specials going around Twitter all week and have finally decided on one – in Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of other options available. Whether you’re looking for a few special Irish menu items, a pub to knock back a couple ales, Irish music or happy hour pricings (or any combination of the aforementioned) – these round-ups got them all:

Alternatives to Green Beer: St. Patrick’s Day Cocktails + 2 Cocktail Recipes – Caroline on Crack for LA Weekly Food

  • includes Drago Centro, 8 Oz. Burger Bar, Chaya, Comme Ca, The Edison, Pitfire Pizza, Rush Street, 25 Degrees

Pubs in Los Angeles – Google Maps

Where To Drink Green Beer – Elise Thompson for LAist

  • Elise of LAist put together this Google Maps mashup of pubs – because sometimes you just need to know where to get a pint of ale. Also check out her green beer post.

Where To Get Shamrocked – LA Times

  • includes Redwood Bar & Grill, Brennan’s, Bigfoot Lodge and even The Standard (er?)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – The Happy Hour Tour

  • includes Blue Palms Brewhouse, Henry’s Hat, Bodega Wine Bar, Liquid Kitty, Saints & Sinners, Cabo Cantina and Tom Bergin’s

Also, don’t forget Pourtal Wine Bar in Santa Monica, serving up $5 Vinho Verde (green wine that is ironically Portuguese) starting at 4PM. Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park is serving up Devil’s Pie late-night; wash it down with a brew on-tap. Hungry Cat in Hollywood – where I’ll be – is offering $4 Murphy’s Irish Stout Irish Slings and $6 Picklebacks (whiskey with a chaser of pickle juice). Also, Allston Yacht Club in Echo Park will be serving up Corned Beef Sandwiches for $6 each and pints of Guinness for $4. All food is $5 as they integrate St. Patty’s with their Wicked Wednesday.

Erin Go Braugh, Los Angeles!!