Grilled Spanish octopus makes a brilliant splash of color on a serving platter at Shuck Oyster Bar. The remarkable presentation, along with the cool freshness of oysters on the half shell, is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Location: The Mix at SoCo, 3313 Hyland, #A1, Costa Mesa, California
Menu: Shuck Oyster Bar serves variations of raw/chilled seafood, from oysters, clams, and caviar, to sea urchin, crab, scallops, and shrimp cocktail.
There are small dishes like Salmon Toast, Mac and Cheese, and Shrooms. All three greens selections, of course, include seafood or fish.
A traditional New England Clam Chowder or Cioppino stands beside Clams and Chorizo or Drunken Mussels in the Soups/Steamers section.
If you are a little more daring, Sea Urchin Pasta with butter, chives, and parmesan cheese head up the Main Course. Fish and Chips, Lobster Linguine, Seared Scallops, and the Grilled Octopus share this scene as well.
Thoughts: Octopus is the specialty of the house. The way this dish is carefully prepared and displayed is extraordinary. Their motto “no color – no flavor” defines what they bring to this seafood meal.
Speaking with the chef, it was interesting the way he described how the octopus is simmered with celery, onions, carrots, herbs, and broth for an hour to make it tender. That’s so you don’t end up with tough, chewy octopus meat.
It’s then seared in a cast-iron skillet and blow-torched to give it color. The octopus, dressed with heirloom tomatoes and a Thai sauce, is placed on a black platter and served with beet aioli dots in which to dip each bite. The black slate platter makes a striking presentation against the strong and contrasting colors in the dish.
There were 22 varieties of fresh oysters, shipped in daily and guaranteed fresh, listed on the menu the day I was there. Imports come from New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and New Brunswick. Many hailed from Washington State and others from the Eastern Seaboard.
I sampled a Wellfleet from Massachusetts and an Ichiban from Washington. Both were cool, fresh, tender, moist, large, plump, and each had a distinctive flavor. I preferred the Ichiban, but both were delicious. The oysters, served on a bed of ice with lemon slices, are accompanied by spicy condiments of freshly grated raw horseradish, tangy vinegar with shallots and parsley, and a house-made fiery Fresno pepper sauce.
A daily Happy Hour provides discounts on one-dozen Chef’s Choice clams or oysters and beer or wine.
On a second visit, I tried the Drunken Mussels. There were about 20 of them in a bowl with a tasty broth and crisp toast wedges to dip. I’m looking forward to my next visit to again try something different.
Geared towards millennials who are looking for excellent and sophisticated food in a casual atmosphere, Shuck Oyster Bar serves a wide demographic. There are handicapped-accessible tables, a long table suitable for groups, as well as barstools, to be close to the action at the oyster-shucking station.
A nice perk is that they give one free corkage per party, so you can bring your wine if it’s not on the Shuck Oyster Bar menu.
Price Range: Individual oysters are $3.35 each and clams are $2.50 each. Great for sampling and picking a favorite. Other choices from the Raw/Chilled menu run from $8 to $75 (caviar), and Market Price for Sea Urchin and King Crab Leg. Small Plates, Sandwiches, Greens, and Soup/Steamers are $3.50 to $25. Main entrees are $16 to $20, and dessert is $8.
Disclosure: Shuck Oyster Bar treated me to the Octopus platter and two sampler oysters. I went back a second time to try some other menu items on my own.