Happy Hour at Essex: My First Raw Oyster

Essex Restaurant, known for excellent 1/2 off happy hour drinks and $1 oysters, is a top ten destination for happy hour in NYC.  Not a new kid on the block, it’s been going 10 years strong.  2013 Diner’s Choice Award winner and a great reputation were more than enough of a sell…and perfect for a “ladies evening out.”

When my friend invited me to one of NYC’s most raved about happy hours,  I expected  a small, bar set-up clamoring with young professionals ready to be loud and loose from inexpensive drinks and price-friendly oysters…not a restaurant.

On entry the space flourishes into an open and inviting loft-style arrangement with sweeping high ceilings.  Interesting works of art adorn the walls:  a warm, artsy layout creates chic atmosphere that refrains from crossing the line into cheeky and overbearing. You’re pleasantly greeted by very friendly staff with attitude and style to match the ambience.

I see a chill crowd seated at tables, some at the bar and others in the upstairs level.  High ceilings stretching far up, giving it the feel of a cool, restaurant loft.   Every seat in the house appears a choice selection.  Since my dinner mates arrived before I did, seating selection was understandably narrowed down to “here’s your seat.” I pull up a chair.

So.  Oysters.  Yah, those creatures that live in shells in the ocean that you’re supposed to eat raw.  I glance at the plate and think – am I really supposed to put that in my mouth??  It looks like, well you don’t want to know I think it looks like.  You might never eat another oyster again.   After a little cajoling I dive in, dashing a bit of lemon and cocktail sauce on my tasty aphrodisiac.  The seafood connoisseur sitting next to me swears I violated a major rule of oyster eating.  Apparently one should want to savor every last bit of ocean-y goodness, unmasked.  No thanks.

With that said, the tender oyster is fresh and outstandingly delicious. It swirls in a bed of sea-saltiness creating an aromatic mouthful of zest with a slightly chewy texture.  The initial grimace on my face transforms to an elated smile.  Did I like it?  Why Watson yes.  Did I eat another one?  No Sherlock, did not.  But for seafood lovers these oysters are a must.  If for no other reason, I clearly understand the reputation of Essex.

My girls and I take it easy on the alcohol with two rounds of Bellinis (sparkling wine mixed with peach puree)…very full-bodied and crisp. And half-price.  A nice compliment to the oysters.  I also can’t tolerate anything stronger since my tolerance was compromised from the previous evening’s festivities. I digress…

DAYBOAT SCALLOPS OVER RISOTTO – parmesan | autumn vegetables | basil 22

MANCHEGO MACARONI & CHEESE – edamame, haricot vert & citrus salad 13

As friends should do, we share items from each of our plates. The result – a delightfully satisfying dinner….and we get lucky with a table full of eye-candy immediately across from us.  Dessert anyone??