For the past few months, family and friends have been calling me with an important question: "When is the Oyster House reopening?"
I’m delighted to inform everyone it finally has.
Dave Mink opened the Sansom Street Oyster House in 1976. He and wife Judy welcomed son Sam the same year. It was the place for raw bar, immaculately fresh fish and vegetables. Years passed and Dave sold the business to Cary Neff. More than a year ago, Dave bought it back, asked Sam to return from San Francisco and they gutted the property. It took a year to turn the establishment into a newer, brighter, sleeker version simply called the Oyster House.
The Oyster House is high-tech with looming ceilings and walls washed in white tile and soft gray. The Minks’ collection of oyster plates provided color, but so do its patrons. John Foy, owner of Bridget Foy’s and chef Olivier de St. Martin of Caribou Cafe and Zinc told us they were here for an aperitif and oysters.
We landed the two remaining seats at the oyster bar and were greeted by Cornell and Kareem, the best shuckers in the business. We sipped big, cold martinis ($10) and could not wait to dig into the shellfish. There is an oyster of the day that goes for a buck apiece. We ordered six along with six cherrystones ($13 total). There is nothing finer than a cold, freshly shucked oyster enhanced by mignonette sauce. Edward ordered six more big and plump cherrystones ($7). A squeeze of lemon and freshly grated horseradish made them even better. So did the crunchy oyster crackers.
The menu featured small and large plates. Regular readers know I am not fond of "small plates." To me that means miniscule. Still, from this category we selected the classic fried oysters with chicken salad and a bucket of steamers (both $12). Each portion was generous.
Four mid-size oysters were coated in seasoned cornmeal and flour and fried to golden perfection. They were crisp, hot and still a bit creamy inside as they should be. The homemade chicken salad provided a cool contrast to the shellfish. It was a marriage made in culinary heaven.
Steamed soft-shell clams are a favorite from my childhood. I love the ritual that goes into enjoying these rarely seen treats. You dip them in clam broth to remove any sand then into clarified butter. I pulled off the skin of each mollusk’s tail, dipped then scarfed down the filled bucket with ease. Our server brought us French bread and softened butter earlier in the meal. The bread gilded the lily, so to speak.
Edward ordered a pint of Yards Brawler on tap ($5) and I sipped a glass of flowery house white ($6). Both were bargains.
Earlier in the evening, Sam and Dave greeted us. We’ve known Dave for years and I met Sam last summer when he was at Distrito. Everyone in the restaurant received the same fine service we did (I had a fine vantage point and was able to see all the goings-on).
Dave brought over a plate of oysters fungi ($12). Four small oysters were nestled in their shells, topped with fresh, chopped morels, which are in-season, a bit of dry vermouth and thyme then baked. The combination of flavors and textures was an unexpected surprise since I usually prefer oysters raw.
Large plates are entrees at the Oyster House. We shared striped bass with asparagus, morels, fennel and corn bathed in a charred tomato vinaigrette ($24). The fish was nicely seared, but needed salt and pepper. I liked the kernels of sweet corn, but would’ve preferred asparagus spears. This is a matter of personal taste.
A colleague of Edward’s was dining with friends. I was given a taste of their lobster roll with shoestring fries ($26) and found it as good as any version in Boston. The sweet, succulent meat was not loaded with mayo and the fries were golden and crisp.
This is not your parents’ Oyster House. It’s a modern, up-to-the minute fine fish house brought to the fore by a father and son. As Dave told us "this is Sam’s vision."
Three tips of the toque to the Oyster House.
1516 Sansom St.