May 23, 2013 | Short Order

Some Like It Raw

Lauren Bloomberg

 


Baked oysters come atop a bed of seaweed.

          The Lobster Place fish market is one of the largest vendors in Manhattan’s popular Chelsea Market. I’ve purchased everything from the ordinary (salmon) to hard-to-find ingredients like snails and sea urchin. The products are always top-notch as if they’ve been plucked from the ocean just a few minutes before. Perhaps they have. The place is magical. Cull & Pistol, the newly opened restaurant next door, has been sprinkled with the same batch of pixie dust.

          There are multiple seating arrangement options in this hole-in-the-market to choose from. Unless you’re in need of a seat back, opt for a view of the raw bar from a stool at the front over a traditional table. This way you can ogle the dizzying array of oysters. Those bivalves are what you’re going to want to order so really pay attention to all of the options. Then pick up the golf pencil a lovely waitress provided you with and raw bar order form to check off how many Nassawadox Salts, Katamas and Hammersleys you’re going to consume. Circle the “Royal” option for a tower overflowing with shrimp, oysters, clams, crab and lobster. Fancy.

 
The lobster roll comes with enough fries to share.

           Though you’ll certainly want to feast on the assortment of raw sea creatures, save a little room for the better-than-necessary food that the kitchen puts out. Our waitress recommended the fish tacos on the Friday we visited but it’s the lobster roll that you should spring for. The $24 roll is one of the top I’ve tried in the city. The toasted, buttered bun showcased huge chunks of meat that weren’t overly dressed. Perfectly cooked mussels come to the table sitting in a shallow pool of tomato-based broth with fennel chunks to fork up and addictive pan con tomate, the Spanish toast rubbed with tomatoes, to soften in the sauce.

          However, it’s the baked oyster appetizer that steals the show. Three briny specimen are baked under a veil of St. Andre cheese. They’re topped with a thin square of smokey speck and a pencil eraser-sized chunk of lemon. What would normally be another inventive rendition of baked oysters is made memorable by that nub of acid. It cuts through the dish making the oyster more oyster-y, the cheese richer and fattier, the pork…you get the point.

          There’s no dessert menu but the restaurant will send you a small cup of creamsicle gelato from one of the other vendors in the market. I forgot to ask which one. I was too busy plotting which shops I’d stop at next to fill my bag with goodies to take home.

 

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