Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Elusive Perfect Oyster

While enjoying a really tasty dinner at Timpano Chophouse a few months ago our server and I got into a discussion about one of my favorite foods, oysters on the half shell. He suggested that I might find the perfect oyster at Oystercatchers Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive.

The Fates, having the subtle but awesome power of deciding a man's destiny, decided that my bride and I journey to a place hidden amongst a natural landscape on the shores of Old Tampa Bay. When I say hidden, I am not just a-whistlin' Dixie. Oystercatchers is situated at the end of a long winding road behind the Grand Hyatt. But fret not, because Oystercatchers is worth the scenic drive.

A personable young man greeted us as we drove up and took charge of parking our chariot. The valet parking is free, which is a nice perk.

We were greeted at the door and were given our choice of tables since it was early and the crowds had not yet arrived. We chose a spot with a large window overlooking the bay that provided a view of the glorious sunset.

What you might mistake for miniature helicopters in the photo are actually dragonflies flitting about and devouring less desirable insect creatures.

We began our evening with cocktails, a sangria for my delightful dining partner, and a mojito for me.

(You may click on any photo to enlarge)

As we soaked in the vista as well as our adult beverages, we leisurely looked over the menu.

Oystercatchers had several different oyster varieties available that evening and even though they are $3 a pop I couldn't help but to order a dozen of these tasty mollusks on the half shell.

Of the choices that evening, the Wianno were my favorites - a deep cupped oyster with a sweet and briny flavor from the clear, cold waters of Cape Cod.

They were so good, I splurged and ordered three more, and Bob, our server, tossed in an extra from Apalachicola. Growing up not too far from Apalach I feel kind of guilty by saying the wiannos were far superior.

While the oysters were tasty enough, a number of them were mangled and drained of their salty liquor. When a fresh oyster is masterfully shucked, a small pool of clear liquid will remain with the oyster in the bottom half shell. Sipping this liquid immediately before or after eating the oyster will naturally compliment its meat.

Several of those oysters brought to our table should never have been served - they should have been discarded. 

With a name like Oystercatchers I would expect a much more professional presentation.

On a positive note, we fared better with the rest of our selections, starting with a bottle of Albariño Paco y Lola, a white wine from Galicia, Spain. This is a young wine that goes extraordinarily well with many appetizers, Cajun fare, poultry, shellfish and grilled fish. 

It paired well with my bride's appetizer of Tuna Tataki atop a mound of shelled edamame and our other dinner choices.

Having been born and raised in a landlocked state, the Belle of Ballast Point was not introduced to really good seafood until she moved to Florida. She is slowly discovering that seafood, properly prepared, can be a real treat for the senses.

This wood grilled Gulf Snapper was one of those magic moments in gastronomy. The accompanying Mango-Cilantro Coulis just put the dish over the top.

The faint aroma from the wood fired grill that filters through the restaurant just demanded that I order the Seafood Mixed Grill prepared over that wood fire. The mixed grill comes with fingerling potatoes and a sauce rouille.

The grilled grouper, salmon, scallop, and shrimp were shear perfection. The same cannot be said for the half Florida lobster tail. The meat did not remove cleanly from the shell - bits of meat stayed behind, firmly attached to the interior of the shell. That is a sign of old age or over cooking.

My bride topped off her evening with a dessert of chocolate - the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup - crisp phyllo cup with caramelized bananas on the side. 

Her dessert was indeed a tasty treat, but I was too stuffed to eat another bite, preferring instead to sip an espresso.

In addition to a full bar, Oystercatchers also features cigars on the menu that one might purchase and smoke while sitting outside next to the fire pits.

Oystercatchers tacks on an 18% service charge to the bill. We added another 2% or so to bring the gratuity up to what we would normally tip for superior service. Our total for the evening came to a bit under $290.

Yes, it is pricey, but the food, for that kind of money, should have been sheer perfection. It wasn't.

The scenery is terrific, but inedible.

There are better venues for seafood. Unfortunately, they aren't in the Tampa area.

Oystercatchers on Urbanspoon

Oystercatchers At The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay on Foodio54


  1. Looks tres delish! We tried Oystercatchers a couple of years ago (with a cert, thank gawd) and were relatively underwhelmed considering the price point. Nothing wasn't good...but for around $200 for two people, I was expecting to be in the throes of ecstasy by dinner's end but wound up feeling more like I was kissing my favorite brother. As a seafood lover, you should try Middlegrounds Grill on Treasure Island!

  2. Hi Sweet Polly,

    I agree with you - for the price point I would expect to have had a gastronomic orgasm. That didn't happen. As you said, nothing wasn't good - there were a few, shall we say, inconsistencies that should not occur in a high end restaurant such as Oystercatchers.

    The next time we leave the paradise that is SOG City we will give Middlegrounds Grill a try. You have impeccable taste in food and dogs. Speaking of which, tell Underdog we said hello.