There’s something to be said for taking it raw. Fresh seafood doesn’t need anything more than a little salt and a squeeze of lemon, not even heat. Oysters, clam, conch; just about any kind of mollusk is delicious on the half shell. Crustaceans such as lobster, shrimp and crab can also be enjoyed raw, but most preferred them cooked. The same goes for most salt water fish. Raw tuna, salmon and their underwater brethren are able to be enjoyed uncooked, marinated or heated. It’s all about the freshness, and you’ll usually (but not always) have to pay a premium for such treats.
213 E Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33444
City Oyster knows seafood. In addition to a raw bar showcasing varieties of its namesake treat from the East and West Coast, it features a full sushi bar and a vast menu of other seafood dishes. An in-house bakery located above the restaurant provides desserts, pies, bread, crackers and pasta. With a vast selection of wines by the glass and bottle, including flights, it is the perfect spot to relax with a glass of wine and the luxury that is fresh seafood.
On the night of our visit, we enjoyed six different oysters from the north Atlantic and Pacific Northwest, each a briny gem perfectly complemented by a tart mignonette, zesty cocktail sauce and horseradish. Freshly made crackers were a bit thick to enjoy with the oysters, but did act as a palate cleanser between each variety. If raw isn’t to your taste consider the tuna ceviche, accompanied by pico di gallo and guacamole offered up a huge portion, easily enough for two, not bad for $16.50. Crudo, thin slices of fish dressed with a little oil, salt and herbs is another way to ease yourself into raw fish and City Oyster offers a variety of options, including; tuna with shiitake, toasted sesame, sundried tomato oil and 12 year old balsamic, salmon with pickled jalapenos, miso aioli, mint and smoked paprika oil or hamachi with orange, cucumber, watermelon and orange oil.
From the sushi bar we each enjoyed a roll. The lobster salad roll combines Maine lobster, scallions, masago, spicy mayo, cilantro, avocado, while the #10 puts salmon and avocado in an inside out roll with black tobiko, wasabi tobiko and salmon roe. While tasty, the #10 roll is a bit outrageously priced at $25, especially when the lobster roll goes for nearly $10 less.
If you prefer your fish cooked, the “Big Fish” entrée with a choice of fish such as salmon, mahi or the daily catch is a good option. I opted for the roasted “Hong Kong” style (also available panko-breaded and fried), served with jasmine rice, sesame and ginger sauce and Asian veggies. My hubby struck the jackpot with shrimp and grits with a jumbo lump crab cake and grilled asparagus, which had the creamiest grits I’ve ever tasted, huge perfectly prepared shrimp and a crab cake the size of a hockey puck.
We couldn’t decide on which of the numerous desserts so we opted for the sampler which promises “a little of each.” Be prepared, there was enough for six people; however, the pastries were the one disappointment of the meal. The strawberry pie was among the worst I’ve ever had; the crust was tough and the filling flavorless. The same crust and an unctuous filling ruined the pecan pie. The Key lime and peanut butter pies fared better, perhaps because of the graham cracker crust. City Oyster isn’t cheap, a three-course dinner for two with wine can easily run $100 or more, but the fish is among the freshest I’ve had and the service is efficient and friendly.
If Delray isn’t convenient, there are a number of other raw bars options closer to home.
G&B Oyster Bar
429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Converted from a dive shop, the upscale spot is the sister restaurant of Coconuts is open-air spot with an amazing water view and if you don’t have a view, a camera focused on the intercoastal and marina broadcasts to three flat screens sitting end-to-end. A mirror mounted above the raw bar allows patrons to watch the show as fresh oysters and clams are shucked and plated. Raw bar items are market priced; entrees are in the $20-$25 while lunch and sandwiches run $10-$15.
Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille
620 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Decidedly upscale, with a menu driven by James Beard Award Chef Toby Joseph, the cuisine ranges from a seasonally fresh raw bar to unique entrees. Hand-crafted cocktails and an extensive wine list complement the menu. The raw bar tasting platter is $49 and includes lobster and poached shrimp as well as clams and oysters. Appetizers run $10-$15, lunch is $15-$20 and entrees are in the $25-$35 range.
Southport Raw Bar
1536 Cordova Rd., Fort Lauderdale
If your budget doesn’t allow for such extravagant meals, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in the raw. Southport Raw Bar is bare bones; food is served in paper baskets with plastic utensils. The crackers aren’t house-made, just saltines in plastic wrappers. While it’s not fancy, for the most part the fish is quite fresh and well prepared. You won’t put a dent in your budget, glasses of wine are $5.50, all raw bar items and most seafood entrees are market price, but on a recent visit a dozen oysters went for only $15, entrees and sandwiches are all $10 or less.