Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alberta Street Oyster Bar (NE)

As you may not have realized because of this genuinely crappypants weather, it is officially spring. And since the dawning of spring turns our thoughts to love, and oysters make people love each other more, we decided the (albeit anticlimatic) arrival of spring would be a perfect excuse to go visit the the Alberta Street Oyster Bar on NE Alberta. We hadn't been to Alberta Street Oyster Bar since it closed then changed hands and reopened, but we knew hottie Executive Chef Eric Bechard was still in the kitchen so we were confident the food would be as stellar as our last visit, which happened to be last spring.

We were seated promptly by gracious new owner Bruce Kaad at a table in the center of the modern, L-shaped dining room, which has high ceilings, a vivid red, black and white color scheme, cement floors, flattering pendant lighting that highlights the contemporary art pieces on the walls, and a generously sized L-shaped bar that was filled to capacity, mostly by couples with champagne in their hands and gleams in their eyes. Or maybe it was just the flicker of the tea lights in the dimly lit dining room, it's hard to say. Sadly, Bruce told us that Chef Eric Bechard wasn't there that night, he was off for Easter, which totally took the gleam our of our eyes.

While we argued about, I mean, decided what to order, Michelle, our friend Tata and I ordered drinks and a half dozen Kumamoto oysters, from the Tillamook Bay right here in Oregon. Small, bold and creamy, they were divine sprinkled with the accompanying black pepper & fresh vanilla and blood orange toasted fennel mignonettes. Michelle paired hers most appropriately with a glass of the Blanquette de Limoux, Domaine Rosier, NV ($9) a crisp, refreshing sparkling wine with hints of apple. Tata ordered a Bloody Mary ($8) and because I was feeling as though I might be getting a cold, I had the Lucrecia cocktail, with Pepper Infused Tequila (for strength), Pomegranate Puree (for antioxidants), and Fresh Lime (cleansing) on the rocks with a salted rim ($8). It was excellent, with a strong black pepper flavor that was mellowed out by the sweet tang of the pomegranate and the tart lime. I felt better immediately.

Michelle's appetite for oysters was hardly sated by her share of the Kumamotos and she kept squalling about wanting a "meatier" oyster, so she ordered another half dozen, this time one of each of the oysters on the board behind the bar. When they came out along with two new mignonettes--a pink peppercorn with champagne and a cucumber & horseradish--we labeled the white paper tablecloth with the name of each oyster so we could keep them straight, and here are our conclusions. (Well, Michelle's conclusions. It's hard to divide an oyster three ways, even a 'meatier' one.)

SNOW CREEK (WA): "Holy ****, that's good." (Sis, I thought you gave up both kicking puppies AND saying bad words for Lent!)
MIRADA (WA): "I'm moved by this one , it's just how an oyster should taste. I feel dizzy from it." (Yikes. Tata and I moved back a little after that one.)
KUMAMOTO (OR): "Smooth and non-fishy." (No comment)
VIRGINICA (BC): "It's huge, but had no taste until the end. Way less flavor than the others. Bigger is not always better."
MALASPINA (BC): "Fishiest one yet, good but not as good as the Mirada, has more of a sea taste to it." (The Canadian oysters did not fare well tonight.)
TONTEEN (WA): "Most beautiful, nice smoky fishy flavor."

Michelle ranked her top three oysters as such:
1. Mirada (WA)
2. Snow Creek (WA)
3. Kumamoto (OR)

So I guess the conclusion we can all draw from this little taste test is: Pacific Northwestern oysters totally get more chicks than Canadian oysters.

Onward to the food!
So Tata started with the Tuna Tartare ($12), which was served alongside a parsley salad with horseradish vinaigrette and bone marrow toast. Our server explained that Tata was to mound the tartare and salad on the toast, which was a divinely savory combination and made me a little dizzy. Michelle's escarole salad had a tart, creamy dressing that was just garlicky enough. Fat green olives rent in half and crispy croutons surrounded the salad, and two meaty anchovies topped it. Like I said, I wasn't feeling so hot, so I just had the grilled beef burger ($9) on a fresh ciabatta roll, with gobs of blue cheese gushing out the sides, and tender sweet carmelized onions, and a smattering of winter greens. I also got the house cut fries ($4), which were lightly fried and golden with a spicy garlicky remoulade alongside.

"I love it when the blood soaks the bread," Michelle said rapturously as she bit into my burger (cooked medium), then added, "It's a good burger. It's not a Castagna burger, but it's a good burger." So there you have it.
Tata had the potato gnocchi ($11) studded with jet black slightly chewy escargots and black truffle, and topped with a dramatic red-wine poached hen egg, so it sort of matched the design scheme of the restaurant. This dish was a blend of unusual flavors and had a lovely creamy texture, both to the gnocchi and the pan sauce blended with the burst egg yolk, although Michelle and I thought it was a little undersalted because we LOVE SALT. Michelle had the seared diver scallops ($13), great fat things set on a bed of tiny black beluga lentils resting on top of a rich chicken liver sauce, and topped with a mound of wispy golden fried shallots. Once again, great flavor and texture but we thought perhaps they could have used MORE SALT. WE LOVE IT! Also, I think I'm going to start poaching my eggs in red wine, because it just looks neat.

After dinner Tata ordered a Makers Mark neat (eek!) and we all shared the ""Coffee & Donuts" ($7) - Coffee Pot de Creme and Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes. The server was kind enough to even bring extra donuts out with the order, I guess we looked like girls who could really polish off the donuts. The thing is, when I order donuts/beignets for dessert, I like them to come out of the kitchen piping hot, with that freshly fried puff to them. These particular donuts felt like day-olds.

It took a minute for the check to come, so we entertained ourselves by creating haiku about dinner.

Many good flavors
I thought it was all quite good
It made me happy


Alberta Street Oyster Bar * 2926 NE Alberta St * 503.284.9600 * * yes reservations, yes fantastic oysters, yes hard dough-nuts

1 comment:

  1. Alberta Street Oyster Bar has all kinds of foods to be have. Michael enjoyed a lot in having foods.
    It is very much populated because of its delicious foods.
    it is more much welcomed as it is attached with a bar.
    alberta drug rehab