As a friend of mine loves to say, “you’re a shucker for oysters,” after which she usually supplies a mock drum roll by tapping her hands on the table and smiling her toothy grin. And so it was recently at G & B Oyster Bar, the sister restaurant to its more famous sibling Coconuts snuggled next door on the Intracoastal near the Bahia Mar. The restaurant opened last January and has been on our must-visit list of eateries since that point. All the anticipation was rewarded with flavor and excitement when the evening finally arrived.
The oyster bar itself is an industrial affair in stainless steel surrounded by glass-tiled walls that give the place an artsy feel, and a perfect backdrop to the oyster shucker, whose hand and wrist action is a marvel in motion. There are seven kinds of oysters on display and all are imports, including Malpeques from the cold waters of Canada’s Prince Edward Island. They are a sweet, salty and bold in flavor—more akin to Long Island Blue Points than the local Gulf oysters, which are harvested from Florida’s Apalachicola Bay, but only served here fried.
The smaller but flavorful Kusshi (Japanese for “precious”) oysters are raised off the west coast of North America in a style that deepens their shells and gives them a dense and meaty texture. Both Malpeques and Kusshis arrive like tourists, fresh each day and very much alive, delivered by plane, not boat. This fact is reflected in the price–$2.50 to $3.50 per. It’s a premium you’ll soon be happy to pay when you savor the flavor.
There’s an amazing fresh seafood smell about G & B, which gets its name from Elliot Wolfe’s children Gates and Bennett. Wolfe owns the restaurant (as well as Coconuts) with partners Luc Limage and Merv Jonota, and the trio plays well off one another, each contributing special expertise. But it’s chef Steven Shockey who deserves much of the credit for the wonderful combination of unexpected items that round out the menu.
Case in point: A Lobster Cheese Steak ($16) that bears no resemblance to anything that originated in Phillie. This version of the original is served on a fat loaf of crusted bread that is overflowing with lobster, cheese, onions, peppers and bacon. While we passed on the G&B Hoppers ($9), the local name for frogs legs, we did observe them being eaten with the gusto of chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, and apparently just as finger-lickin’ good.
We can attest to the rich mixture of aromas and flavors that made up the Cioppino ($22), a dish that originated in the Italian and Portugese fisherman from the North Beach section of San Francisco. As translated at G & P’s, it’s a stew of shrimp, crab, clam, mussels and scallops simmered to elegance in a broth of tomato-fennel.
For those in the mood for Steamers ($13), the middle-neck clams served here are stacked high and dripping in a white wine broth. The staff claims that we missed the mood entirely by G & B’s inclusion of Alligator Ribs ($12) on the menu of an oyster bar. We’ll take their word that the Aji Amarillo-honey glaze is “to die.” It took less to convince us to sample the Grilled Oysters ($12), if only because they’re Elliot’s favorite. He’s smiling and so are we. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, we’re a “shucker for oysters” and this O bar as well.