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February 24, 2009

Flex Mussels Serves Oysters with Integrity

The perfect oyster.
Photo: Alison Brod PR

by Katherine Kims   

After reading Kevin Doyle's piece about sustainable fishing, I wondered how oysters end up on my plate. And how do I determine if they're genuine?

Oyster fisherman and three-time oyster-shucking champion John Bil advised me to inspect an oyster's quality by its smell (like the sea), color (not cloudy) and meatiness (not too thin, not too plump, with no liquid). In restaurants, he suggests working from what you know--"I like Fanny bays, what can you recommend?"--to seek the freshest product.

These most prized of mollusks are very much subject to nature: the water's temperature, tide, frost, nutrients, and bottom all influence taste, size, and shape. Because it can be difficult to get exactly what they want, restaurants often claim to sell Kumamotos, for example, when they are actually some other small West Coast breed or worse--they serve oysters a bit past their peaks. Fortunately, as of November, New York City has an outpost for oysters served with integrity: shellfish expert Bil now works at Flex Mussels. Started in Prince Edward Island in 2005, Flex was launched as an 18-seat shack and became so popular that it is now a full-sized restaurant on the Upper East Side.

Further reading:
* San Francisco's Swan Oyster Depot: Our west coast favorite for fresh oyster slurping
* Dirt Candy chef Amada Cohen likes Oyster Boy in Toronto
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


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