Sammy Monsour’s modern American southern coastal restaurant, Joyce, opens in the South Park neighborhood of downtown L.A. today, and it brings with it plenty of twists and turns on some classic soul and seafood dishes.

For oyster lovers, beverage director and Monsour’s wife, Kassady Wiggins, has created a Mother of Pearl martini, made with roasted oyster shell Grey Goose vodka and garnished with an oyster flower from Fresh Origins Greenhouse in San Diego that doesn’t just serve as a garnish, but mimics the taste of its namesake as if just plucked from the ocean. It comes on ice and is offered with a three-gram American royal sturgeon caviar bump and oyster as an extra if you want to splurge.

The oysters on the menu themselves are served in a very unique and practical fashion, with droppers filled with two house-made sauces, a green hot sauce that’s comparable to an icy fresh tabasco and a seasonal mignonette, currently made with honeydew melon and lemon cucumber juices from the Santa Monica farmers market.


Nashville hot catfish and honey-glazed pork belly with herbs (Michele Stueven)

As with all of the fish and shellfish on the menu and raw program, it’s all meticulously sourced with the help of the Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture. The cornmeal-crusted Nashville hot catfish served with a spicy red sauce and fried dill pickles is so delicate and pristine, it doesn’t even need the breading.

“Our catfish is the cleanest because it’s farm-raised,” Monsour tells L.A. Weekly in the welcoming space designed by L.A.-based interior designer Lauren Waters. “They are traditionally bottom feeders in the wild, so you don’t really know what they’re eating. We know exactly what’s in the feed. In the wild there are often certain bacteria and algae that they’ll eat that creates that almost mildewy flavor. When they’re being fed a good clean diet, they don’t need to forage for those bacteria and algae to get their nutrients, which produces a much more delicious tasting and healthier catfish. You are what you eat.”

Other standouts include a refreshing take on deviled eggs, made with hickory smoked trout and topped with caviar, as well as a hot honey-glazed pork belly with Thai basil, and pineapple mint in red boat fish sauce. For toast lovers, the char-grilled mussels with Calabrian chili and market tomatoes on a thick crostini is something you won’t find anywhere else. The Caesar salad comes with Monterey Bay Spanish anchovies and the unexpected crunch of fried black-eyed peas.    And yes, there are beignets, served with both raspberry and warm tres leches sauce.


Charleston low country oysters (Michele Stueven)


Kassady Wiggins’ Mother of Pearl martini (Michele Stueven)


Monterey Bay Ogo Caesar salad and black-eyed peas (Michele Stueven)


































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