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Bivalvepalooza: Oysters play big on Anthony’s menu in March

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on March 2, 2010 at 4:55 pm | No Comments »
March 2, 2010 4:55 pm
Anthony's Oyster Festival continues through March. PIctured here is the oyster sampler, which comes with Olympia, Pacific, kumamoto or other oysters, depending on what's fresh daily.

Olympias are the tiny ones. Pacifics are the jagged, oval ones. The kumamotos are shallow and fluted. I love delving into oysters identification and investigating the briny, tangy nuance of their flesh and liquor.

Through March, Anthony’s restaurants are digging deep into West Coast oysters. A month-long oyster menu offers a daily selection of fresh oysters on the half shell and more than a dozen entrees with oysters as the starring bivalve.

I stopped in at the Point Defiance Anthony’s. Here’s what I ate …

Oyster purists will appreciate the daily fresh selection. A menu describes the origin of the oysters – all but a few oysters hail from the Puget Sound region, and only one California oyster appears on the menu- and the menu gives guidance in the form of tasting notes. We ordered the sampler ($14.95), and were brought eight chilly, fresh oysters, perfectly shucked with shells full of the tasty liquor. They came served with cocktail sauce and a ginger-red wine vinegar mignonette. We tasted ours smallest to largest, which turned out to be a great strategy. The tiny Olympias were crisp and light, the larger kumamoto was buttery and with a pronounced tart finish. I didn’t use the accompanying sauces. For my palate, the raw oysters were treat enough.

For the rest of the menu, oysters come cooked in the form of tacos ($8.95), a burger ($9.95), hangtown fry ($11.95) and pan-fried ($12.95) at lunch. At dinner, they come seared ($14.95), baked ($18.95) and steak and oysters ($19.95). There’s even an oyster sorbet on the menu. But, alas, it’s a joke listing on the menu. Sort of a silly one. If I were in the Anthony’s kitchen, I probably would have come up with some kind of oyster dessert. Anything can be turned into dessert with the right flavor combination – even oysters (you may think I’ve lost my mind, but I’m not this crazy).

The hangtown fry ($11.95) on the lunch menu read and tasted like breakfast, save for the golden thin-cut fries on the side instead of hash browns. A runny open-faced omelet was laced with spinach, diced tomatoes, gooey Tillamook cheddar cheese and thick pieces of alder smoked bacon. But I wanted more bivalve infiltration in the dish. Perched atop the dish were four plump oysters, breaded in panko and fried. The oyster juice spilled onto the omelet, giving it a briny flavor, but I wish the oysters had been better incorporated into the omelet. It just felt like an omelet with some oysters plopped on top.

The pan-fried oysters ($12.95) yielded briny little morsels, also coated in panko and fried, but we were disappointed that it seemed the kitchen used the smallest oysters for the entrée. I’m much more a fan of oysters with more surface area. If you fry oysters, they lose the delicate flavor; and if they’re small, the breading overwhelms the oyster. I wanted bigger, plumper oysters.

On a return visit, I’d give the oyster tacos ($8.95) a try for lunch. They’re described as seared oysters finished with a salsa mayo, cabbage and roasted corn salsa in warm Santa Fe tortillas. For dinner, I’d go for the steak & oysters ($19.95), a Double R Ranch signature top sirloin char-grilled with panfried Willapa Bay oysters on the side. Sounds like meaty oyster heaven.

Other highlights for the March oyster fest at Anthony’s:

Lounge Oysters: Shooters and slurps are offered in the bar. The “90 Proof” oyster shooter ($2.95) is made with Stoli Citros and bloody mary mix. The shells ‘n shot sampler ($12.95) give a half dozen oysters with a shot of Stoli. On Friday nights, at 6 p.m. in the lounge, hands-free slurping contests will yield prizes to the fastest slurper (you’ll get gift certificates for your effort).

Wine pairings: Ask for the oyster pairing wine list. If I hadn’t been dining in the middle of my work day (Hi boss! Nothing to see here! Move along now!), I’d have ordered up a glass of Big Fire pinot gris ($7.95 by the glass). At happy hour, the wines are discounted to $5 (from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. nightly)

Anthony’s Restaurants
Website: http://www.anthonys.com/
Point Defiance: 5910 North Waterfront Drive, Tacoma; 253-752-9700
Gig Harbor: 8827 Harborview Drive N.; 253-853-6353
Olympia: 704 Columbia St. N.W., Olympia; 360-357-9700

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