10 June 2005

Monster Oyster

I have been waiting for the chance to visit this Japanese restaurant again ever since I got my new Lumix. From the picture above, it is easy to guess the reason why. Nobody believed me when I told my friends back home how big and yummy these babies were. They were specially flown in from Canada although the waitress was unable to tell me specifically which part of the country, since she didn't even know where Canada was to begin with.

"I was only told that they are from Canada one.", unquote.

To let you have an idea of the size, I placed my cell phone next to it for comparison but alas it didn't show convincingly due to depth perception of the oyster and the phone. Perhaps, a better gauge would be the plate on which the oyster sits. The place is the same size as those that you would find on the conveyor belt of sushi restaurants like Genki and Sakae. The shell alone is bigger than the plate and the oyster itself spans exactly the diameter of the place. The thickness is slightly over an inch thick. How's that for size?

I used to jokingly tell my guests that they were hauled off the shores next to the nuclear power plant.

I started appreciating oysters pretty late as compared to some of my culinary expert (read: greedy gluttons) friends. Truth to be told, I never liked oysters in the beginning. The foul smelling fishy odour really puts me off. As such, no matter how much as my friends raved about how the Orh Luat* (or "Orh-Ah-Jian" as the Taiwanses would called it), at a certain place was yummy, it never appealed to me. The overpowering fishy smell was just too much for me to even pretend to like it.

I believed it was in the late 90s that my perception of the shellfish changed. I remembered it was at Pasir Panjang Village at this restaurant called "The Wharf" (no longer in existence, unfortunately). It was what golfer's would refer it as the "Pro Shop" of western seafood cuisine. It was also the same place that I was introduced to Bruno Paillard** champagne, which later become my all time favourite alongside with Mumm and Louis Roederer Cristal.

I spent a few evenings over time at the restaurant learning the different types of oysters. There were the French Belons, Dutch Gigas, Scottish Gigas, Japanese Kumamoto, to briefly name a few. I had a fun time learning, appreciating and of course, eating them. The major factor that turned my perception around was the absence of the fishy smell which I learned was because they were fresh and of a higher quality (cleaner waters?). There, I also learned that the fishy smell from the Orh Luats were due to the fact that they are more often than not, frozen upon arrival from their suppliers. Obviously, due to cost reasons, they are of a lower grade.

Here's a couple of trivia for you.

1) If you squeeze lemon juice onto a live oyster, it will shrivel, especially around the edges, due to the acid irritation. If you don't see a reaction, it is probably already dead, even if the chef just schucked it open in front of you. It is already dead. Period.

2) A good restaurant never put the oysters on ice to keep it cold and alive. The ice that they used are often conveniently obtained from the kitchen's ice maker i.e. tap water i.e. chlorine. Chlorine kills the oysters. So unless the restaurant make their own ice using sea water(!?), the oysters are not to be alive for long. So don't bother squeezing lemon on this guys at the buffets and expect to see some movement.

Disclaimer: I can't back any of the 2 tips up. This so-called wisdom was passed down to me from other people which I thought was credible. So please draw your own conclusions.

* Oyster Omelette

** Bruno Paillard was in Singapore a few years ago but then disappeared due to lack the of marketing power in contrast to commercial likes of Pommery, Bollinger, Lanson, Moet&Chandon, Veuve-Clicquot, Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck, etc.. After all, it was one of the smallest champagne houses in France. It was only recently when it resurfaced in The Canteen (A restaurant of the Les Amis Group). Bruno Paillard lacked the prestige of the major champagne houses as it doesn't have its own vineyard, i.e. they buy the grapes from other people. However, because of the snobbish nature of the champagne business, this is viewed as a big disadvantage which hence, means a weaker ability to command a high price tag (much to my delight).

What I like about Bruno is that the champagne is very flavourful. Lotsa body and character, although I, for my limited knowledge in this area, am unable to tell you what fruit or food it hints of (Ramli Burger?). Read here for a review.

- Voxeros

1. whateverstreet left...
Friday, 10 June 2005 5:25 pm ::
holy cow, the oyster looks delicious. big is definitely an understated adjective to use....
which restaurant was that from?
2. JayWalk left...
Friday, 10 June 2005 10:31 pm ::
It is this restaurant in Ch1na called Yuan Tong.

Very fresh and cheap. The oyster costs only about S$ 4.50 per piece.

I go there like every other week. Somehow, always got leftover sake to have to go back and finish it. But each time, I leave with more leftover sake at the restaurant.
3. anna left...
Tuesday, 14 June 2005 6:07 am
That oyster is huge. Haven't seen such a big one here in Canada. In fact, most of the oysters here are from Washington, US.

Interesting trivia about lemon and oyster.
4. JayWalk left...
Tuesday, 14 June 2005 9:28 am :: 
Anna: You haven't seen them is probably because nobody in Canada is dumb enough to want to eat oysters hauled off the shores of the nuclear power plant! Maybe that's why, they export them to us! hahaha

* Just kidding about the nuclear plant thing hor....
5. barffie left...
Wednesday, 15 June 2005 10:59 am
6. JayWalk left...
Wednesday, 15 June 2005 11:47 am :: 
Yah man... talking about mutant seafood, I was in Sydney earlier in Feb where we had the King Crab.
The bladdy thing weighed 6 kg!! The friggin' claw was as big as my fore arm. At AUD 80 per kg, I didn't think it was worth the money. 

Gimme my chilli crab or black pepper crab anyday. Cheap and good. Better yet, gimme the salted-egg crab as well. Yum.

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