Thursday, July 7, 2016

Zadie's Oyster Room

Zadie's Oyster Room is the latest incarnation of Chef Marco Canora's tiny restaurant space on E. 12th St.  Previously, it was Fifty Paces, due to its location 50 paces from his much larger flagship up the block - Hearth. Before Fifty Paces it was Terroir, a much-liked wine bar, with some good snack-y food to go along; but that was ages ago in restaurant years. And now it's Zadie's. And now it's damn good.

Marco opened Zadie's as a tribute to the great oyster bars that once dotted lower Manhattan as Starbucks does today. As he explained in an interview with local blog Bedford and Bowery:

“I always had it in my mind to make a turn-of-the-century grand oyster bar,” he explained. “I would go to the New York Public Library and did a boatload of research and gathered old menus from that era,” he said, describing his fascination with the oyster industry that thrived in the city’s harbors in the late 19th and early 20th century. During his research, he was struck by their sheer proliferation of oyster bars in Manhattan. “They called them oyster rooms, oyster cellars – because a lot of them were underground, oyster saloons… there was all this verbiage around oyster bars, there were a lot of words for oyster rooms,” he said.

Marco's research also pointed out to him how oysters at those grand oyster bars were served in a variety of cooked styles, and that's exactly what's on the menu at Zadie's. Oysters at Zadie's can be ordered baked, broiled, steamed, fried, pickled, poached, and raw. Each prep is slightly different from another, but they all contain a special ingredient (shhhh - it's seaweed), as Chef likes the way seaweed punches up the flavor of the bivalve.

He's also offering an oyster-friendly wine list, with lots of bubblies, including a half dozen half bottles, as half bottles are a favorite of mine. So Significant Eater and I started off with this...
Cremant de Bourgogne
A fine, dry sparkler that went perfectly with our eats. And oh - the eats.  We began with crab cake sliders, 2 to an order; nice, generously crabby crab cakes, served with a textbook aioli and cucumber for a little crunch.  We also tried the shrimp cocktail, with beautifully poached shrimp and a nice, tangy cocktail sauce...turns out I'm not the only one who can cook shrimp properly.

But - it's an oyster room, so save room for the oysters. I've never seen so many offerings of oysters in different states of recently deceased...
Baked oysters and shrimp cocktail
Starting with the baked oysters (and obviously the shrimp cocktail), which were practically perfect. Oysters topped with prosciutto cotto, seaweed butter, egg, and leeks per the menu, and why can't I get a baked clam prepared as deliciously as this oyster is? Just one please.

See that picture? There are 3 baked oysters ; the cooked oyster dishes are served in 3s ($9.75) or 5s ($16.50) - and it's an arbitration process for Sig Eater and me at this point to see who gets the extra.

Moving on to a couple of glasses of wine to have with fried oysters, which were awesome atop their fennel slaw; we were advised to eat all in one bite with fingers; one delicious, crunchy, messy bite. The fried oysters are a must. The poached oysters, well -  I didn't love as much - though I think Sig Eater qvelled.

There's so much we missed. Broiled oysters, Pickled oysters. Steamed oysters. Smoked whitefish paté. Anchovy butter with brown bread. Even a classic Caesar, which I'm guessing Marco does right. Raw - of course there's happy hour Mon - Fri, with some oysters at half price. We'll be back soon, for a nice, casual, fun meal. If you're oyster fans like we are, head on over - you'll be happy you did.

Zadie's Oyster Room - 413 E. 12th St., NYC