There are few things to eat that are better tasting and simpler than an oyster. Complete with its own sauce, seasoning and serving dish, an oyster on the half shell is a nature-ready bite of food; any dash of lemon, mignonette or other sauce is arguably unnecessary. Once plentiful and cheap, oysters were once seen in a far different light than the sheen of high-class romance they are so often associated with now. For this edition of Squid Ink's food fight, we're pairing up the quintessential French oyster bar experience of Anisette Brasserie with a glimpse of the oyster's low-brow past in the cheap, down-to-earth shell slurping that can be found at El Puerto Escondido in Inglewood.
With its glass-fronted raw bar display and the adjacent long, zinc-topped bar, Anisette beautifully replicates the trappings of a classic Parisian brasserie. And just as in Paris, where wooden crates of oysters can be found outside just about every eating establishment in the cooler months, a dedicated shucker close at hand, Anisette hits the mark on its oysters as well. We had a choice between Kumomotos, Fanny Bays and Hama Hamas, with a selection of all three showing a wonderful range of flavor and texture, from sweet to briny, soft to meaty. Paired with a mineral-y glass of Sancerre, a platter of oysters at Anisette makes the 3rd Street Promenade seem worlds away.
At the LAX-adjacent El Puerto Escondido–a 24-hour, aquamarine-walled neon-lit temple of Mexican seafood–oysters can be had on the half shell, looking just like they might if served on a zinc bar, sans mignonette. But with a tub of Corona or Sol or Dos Equis with lime, dashes of Tapatio hot sauce and corridos blasting out of jukebox, the mollusks quickly become the perfect raucous party food. These are oysters without pedigree, not carrying the name of any particular bay or stretch of coast–which will seem of little consequence after tasting their briny flesh and liquor. On Thursdays, a dozen costs a mere $6.99 and the everyday price certainly won't break the bank. There are also Happy Oysters to be had–half shells topped with diced shrimp and pico de gallo, served with wedges of lime.
And the victor of this food fight? It's not really a matter of better or worse between these two, but the different contexts, decors, make for drastically different oyster-eating experiences. Needing a snack after a late night of out on the West Side? El Puerto Escondido is the perfect destination. Hot date, lunch with an agent or just seriously wishing you could hop a plane overseas? Oysters at Anisette should do the trick.
El Puerto Escondido, 915 W Arbor Vitae St., Inglewood, (310) 670-1014
Anisette Brasserie, 225 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, (310) 395-3200