PLATing TO PERFECTION
People ask me all the time— how do I know what a top‑notch plate of oysters is supposed to look like? It’s all about the quality of the shuck, presentation, and if you’re lucky, creativity. Below are a handful of examples to demonstrate what you should expect in your oyster experience and ideas to elevate your next oyster night at home.
Take a look at how these oysters look as if the oyster meat is completely untouched. I like to call this, “simply taking the hat off,” and it means a star performance. Any stellar oyster plate begins with a clean shuck that honors the oyster’s original state. If oysters arrive to your table and the meat is severely punctured or minced, that’s the sign of a poor shucking experience. If you’re at a restaurant and want to order oysters, pop around to the raw bar and have a look at the shucker in action first. Oysters are expensive, so know what you deserve!
Eating with your eyes
Examine how your oysters are presented. Look for signs of spacing, grouping, and freshness. Grouping oysters by variety or providing a description of each shows an effort in helping you distinguish varieties. The ice or bedding should support the oysters evenly on the shell so you’re maintaining the oyster’s unique liquor content (in other words, an oyster should not be swimming in water before it arrives to your table). And lastly, keep an eye out for anything that looks too dry. Your oysters should always look glassy and smell of sea breeze.
Exploring flavors and pairings
Beyond the lemon, classic mignonette, horse radish and cocktail sauce, has the house provided anything unique to try with your oysters? It’s not a must-have and it may mean that they’re suggesting you approach them raw. But mixing up accoutrements can also be exciting. A top-notch spot for oysters might offer you a unique house mignonette, an adventurous wine list, or a dressed up oyster that provides a little more exploration for the palate, if you so choose.
A true oyster lover owns a few oyster plates at home! Oyster plates have historical significance around the world and were a canvas for artistic expression. Vintage dinner party, anyone?
love using a wooden base with salt to plate oysters for visual appeal. An easy way to build a tray is to spin your oysters out from the center. This offers both design and support in keeping your oysters horizontal, especially if you aren’t plating with ice.
You don’t ALWAYS need a dozen oysters, do you? How about an oyster, caviar, and chocolate instead? Oysters make for the perfect salty and sweet pairing. Enjoy getting adventurous with your plating and mixing up flavors.
Oysters are a canvas for flavor and color! Try different toppings, seasonal flowers, and anything else you have at your disposal. It’s almost therapeutic to dress a plate so ornately.
Texture and Interpretation
Ground control to Major Tom! Go on, get weird with it. Consider different textures that provide an earthy combination to the oyster’s rugged shell and soft interiors. Throw a few oysters on a charcuterie board and see what happens.