Enjoy Oyster Season at Chicago’s Best Restaurants
The cooler months of September through April are traditionally considered “oyster season,” and though it’s hundreds of miles from the nearest oyster-bearing body of water, Chicago has a lot of places to enjoy the bivalve.
In the old days, oysters would be shipped, unrefrigerated, in barrels filled with sawdust, along canals and rail, from New York to Chicago. Even though, amazingly, the oyster would last months in that unrefrigerated condition, modern air travel has increased the number and variety of oysters from all over the world that can be shipped to Chicago overnight. It’s a wonderful time to be an oyster lover.
Here are seven of Chicago’s best restaurants, each one perfect for enjoying the best that oyster season has to offer.
Momotaro. Momotaro, one of the most elegant seafood-forward restaurants in Chicago, does a wonderful job of dressing up your oyster. The Momotaro Oyster is festooned with Calvisius caviar, cucumber, tosazu jelly and wasabi, one of the most miraculous bites of oyster you could hope to have. We like oysters straight-up, with mignonette or cocktail sauce, but we have to admire the wonderful combinations of flavors in the Momotaro Oyster.
Shaw’s Crab House. Because Shaw’s Crab House is one of the busiest seafood restaurants in Chicago, it moves a lot of oysters every day, ensuring that you will always get a fresh selection of the very best. With a wide range of East and West Coast oysters (several of each), all Shaw’s oysters are shucked to order, and are mighty fine with a frosty gin martini in either the main dining room or the Blue Crab Lounge.
Le Bouchon. At a brasserie in Paris or a bouchon in Lyon, you can expect to be offered a range of different oysters, usually served commando style, with just a few, if any, condiments. At Le Bouchon, they know that Chicagoans sometimes prefer their oysters to be a little fancier, and so you get Beausoleil oysters with finger limes, Thai basil and passion fruit sorbet, a special way to start dinner. Thursdays, oysters are offered for a buck a piece at the bar – nothing fancy, but a perfect complement to your happy hour.
Nomi Kitchen. You may not be aware of it, but Nomi Kitchen has one of the finest sushi bars in the city…with what are also undoubtedly some of the city’s best views (by far the best for a sushi bar). Here, the oysters are presented with Japanese restraint and sophistication, raw, from the East and West Coasts, presented without fanfare, some of the best oysters you will find in the city of Chicago.
Oriole. Mesmerized by the quality and inventiveness of the offerings at Oriole, Chicago Magazine named the restaurant #2 on its listing of Chicago’s top restaurants. The magazine gushed about the oysters, particularly “a Beausoleil oyster soaking in a meaty jamón mangalica consommé with finger limes alongside a lobe of that same miraculous jamón accompanied by black walnuts, egg yolk, and quince.” You want it, you know you do.
Sushi Dokku. To start off dinner at Sushi Dokku, you can get your oysters raw, dressed or fried. If you’re looking for more chef-y intervention with your oysters, have an oyster shooter (or two) with ponzu, quail egg, tobiko and wasabi, a mouth-perking way to begin a meal or cleanse the palate between courses.
BLVD. At BLVD, they focus on the raw oyster, dressing it up only with golden balsamic mignonette and house-made cocktail sauce. If you want to fancy it all up even more, make a selection from BLVD’s stupendous champagne collection, the perfect and classic accompaniment to oysters. There are few rooms more deluxe than the dining rooms at BLVD, the perfect setting for an elegantly simple dinner of bubbly and bivalves.