L.A.’s proximity to the aquatic breadbasket of the Pacific Ocean keeps our seafood restaurants stocked year-round, but many people consider winter the prime time to consume oysters. The briny aphrodisiacs are gracing menus across the city — often accompanied by truly excellent deals. Consider this a short list to the best shooters, drink pairings and deals available this winter.
L&E Oyster Bar
While both Atlantic and Pacific raw oysters are available nightly at this oyster-centric spot, the menu shines with bivalves of the grilled and fried variety. Oysters at L&E are grilled and served with South Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and crispy cipollini (aka wild onions), and the “Knife and Fork” fried oyster po’boy is accompanied by a bounty of shaved fennel, chicory, heirloom tomatoes, gribiche sauce and fries.
Tucked inside the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Vinoteca offers an impressive wine program, led by Italian wine director and assistant general manager Luca Bruno, that features classic Italian varietals in addition to California descendants. You would be wise to order a half-dozen Beausoleil or Kusshi oysters paired with a glass of Vermentino Italian wine. Kusshi oysters, named for the Japanese word for “ultimate,” are suspended and tumbled via a lengthy cultivation process in the Pacific Northwest, which creates an unusually deep cup. Beausoleil also are suspended as they grow, yielding a light, slightly sweet flavor with hints of brine and yeast that’s compulsively consumable. In other words, these oysters are the cream of the oceanic crop.
Freshly shucked oysters are $1 apiece at Herringbone's Oyster Hour, and are paired with mignonette, cocktail sauce and lemon. In addition to happy hour, oysters are available during lunch and dinner. Here's what really sets Oyster Hour apart: An impressively lengthy discounted appetizer and drink menu, and the fact that cocktails max out at $8. Here’s a recipe for a great evening: Sit on the gorgeous patio, sip a Matador — a deadly mix of bourbon, mezcal, Oloroso sherry, maple syrup and bitters — and let the bivalvia flow freely.
At Elysian, the patio is surrounded by dense bamboo, the cocktail menu is new and weekends bring the addition of oysters to the bar menu. The Fanny Bay oysters are small with hints of cucumber, while the Chunu are salty and slightly earthy — get two oysters for $5, or six for $14. Happy hour runs on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., with weekly specials on drinks and appetizers.
Faith & Flower
Faith & Flower’s well-stocked raw bar boasts albacore carpaccio, kanpachi ceviche and scallop ceviche in addition to a super fresh, daily oyster selection. The oysters are accompanied by G.P. Pink peppercorn and yuzukosho, a Japanese paste of citrusy yuzu, chilies and salt. Oysters are $1 a piece during social hour, which runs Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A daily selection of half a dozen oysters is available at brunch and lunch, and a full dozen is available at dinner. Pair them with an absinthe cocktail for a memorable evening.