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March 25th, 2009 LIZ CRAIN | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Venus On The Halfshell

EaT’s oysters are divine.

     
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RAW DEAL: EaT co-owner Ethan Powell preps an iced platter of fresh oysters.
IMAGE: chrisryanphoto.com

Finally, a restaurant name that’s also a command you should gladly follow. Semantics aside, the New Orleans-inspired menu of North Williams Avenue’s EaT Oyster Bar is racked with fried, stewed and spiced Cajun fare like shrimp étouffée ($10), surf or turf po’ boys ($9-$10) and fried pickles ($5). The real deal, however, is farm-direct raw oysters for lunch and dinner six days a week.

Owners Tobias Hogan and Ethan Powell don’t mess around with middlemen. They’ve got oyster deliveries throughout the week from Oregon Oyster Farms, Hama Hama Oysters, Taylor Shellfish Farms, Chelsea Farms and others. And that makes EaT’s briny bites as fresh as it gets in Portland.

Step inside and check out the chalkboard by the bar for the day’s raw selection. There are usually a handful of oysters on ice available for $7/half dozen and $13/dozen (there’s several $10/$19 options as well). EaT’s oysters are mainly from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, with the occasional East Coast bivalve representing.

The space is mainly concrete, warmed by a mahogany back bar stocked with a prime selection of bourbon, whiskey and absinthe. Furniture is tastefully mismatched and tables are topped with bagged saltines and hot sauces, from Louisiana and Crystal to a housemade, chile-infused vinegar.

The po’ boys are killer and arrive in a plastic basket with a pile of super-thin golden, salty fries. Choose from oyster, shrimp, catfish or debris (shredded roast beef). The catfish po’ boy ($9), layered with breaded catfish, dill-pickle chips, tomato and shredded cabbage on a mustardy-mayo-slathered hoagie bun, is worth a trip on its own.

Southern-raised and French Culinary Institute-trained chef and co-owner Powell has a light touch with the house gumbo ($12), a bowl of oysters, buttery prawns, fresh okra, bits of tasso and negligible crab. The rice is perfectly cooked, as is the seafood, but the roux could be darker and punchier. It’s a little tame for N’awlins fare.

The Bienville oysters (three $7/six $12) are a salty slice of heaven. Topped with a puree of mushroom, white wine and béchamel, these rich baked oysters are hard to share.

Beer is poured in 10-ounce frosty mugs ($2.75) from old-school kegerators behind the bar. There’s a decent short wine list and a fun selection of rotating grower champagnes ($40 split, $55 bottles) rather than major champagne producers. If you want something light on the palate but with a boozy punch, go for the house gin fizz ($8). The frothy blend of Aviation gin, fresh lemon and lime juice and egg whites is bubbly on top and perfect with a bit o’ oyster brine, of course.


EAT: EaT Oyster Bar, 3808 N Williams Ave., 281-1222, eatoysterbar.com. Lunch and dinner 11:30 am-10 pm Sunday-Monday and Wednesday, 11:30 am-midnight Thursday-Saturday. $-$$.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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