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BTW, the raw bar selection is pitiful.

You have so much good in you. I wish some of the things you say didn't mask it with so much abrasiveness. :(

"Pitiful" is a needlessly cutting word in this instance. I see, on the menu, what appear to be unspecified (presumably varying with the market) oysters, misspelled Rappahannock and middleneck clams, Maine lobster, stone crab, and Taylor Bay scallops.

What does it take for you to think a raw bar is good?

In large part, I agree with your general point, but mainly because raw bar in this area is prohibitively expensive. We have oysters now that have broken the $4 barrier. Yes, the happy hour at Old Ebbitt, blah blah blah, but other than high-volume and high-turnover (and the importance of these cannot be overstated), Old Ebbitt's raw bar is one of the most overrated individual restaurant "things" in town. It's not bad, mind you, just ... overrated.

I would love for you, or someone else, to start and maintain a thread "ranking" or listing in some vague categories of quality, the best raw bars in the DC area. We probably have this thread somewhere, but I think when the craving hits, it's generally quite severe with rapid onset - it would be nice to have a fingertip guide.

Or maybe ... we should wait for Rich?

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"Pitiful" is a needlessly cutting word in this instance. I see, on the menu, what appear to be unspecified (presumably varying with the market) oysters, misspelled Rappahannock and middleneck clams, Maine lobster, stone crab, and Taylor Bay scallops.

What does it take for you to think a raw bar is good?

You're right. Pitiful is wrong, not the right choice of words. Compared to other DC restaurants, it's actually pretty good. However, the selection is disappointing to me. I wanted to see attached (but I'm not aware anywhere in DC has this, and maybe the market won't bear it).

post-4391-0-67327500-1355044756_thumb.jp

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You're right. Pitiful is wrong, not the right choice of words. Compared to other DC restaurants, it's actually pretty good. However, the selection is disappointing to me. I wanted to see attached (but I'm not aware anywhere in DC has this, and maybe the market won't bear it).

If that is your standard, have fun being disappointed the rest of your life! :huh:

Nice sippy cup. <_<

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You're right. Pitiful is wrong, not the right choice of words. Compared to other DC restaurants, it's actually pretty good. However, the selection is disappointing to me. I wanted to see attached (but I'm not aware anywhere in DC has this, and maybe the market won't bear it).

my gout just flared up from looking at this photo

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You're right. Pitiful is wrong, not the right choice of words. Compared to other DC restaurants, it's actually pretty good. However, the selection is disappointing to me. I wanted to see attached (but I'm not aware anywhere in DC has this, and maybe the market won't bear it).

If that is your standard, have fun being disappointed the rest of your life! :huh:

my gout just flared up from looking at this photo

Eric, you have got to remember in the future that "pitiful" and the photo you posted are at opposite ends of the culinary spectrum. Look, we *get it*. You dine well, and the vast majority of restaurants won't live up to your highest standards. You have *got* to write more consistently from post-to-post because your most acerbic words are devastating to restaurateurs that haven't done anything wrong (here I am again, standing up for restaurateurs that don't give a flip about me). If you actually had that plate of shellfish, then you had a Michelin star-quality dish because it doesn't get much better than that, and I don't care if you're the Queen of England.

I promise you I'm only saying this for reference: Last summer, I had *the* finest shellfish that 99.99999% of people would ever hope to even come within 100 miles of (it was in Bordeaux, at one of Eric Ziebold's pre-wedding parties, with Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz in attendance), and the endless quantities of shellfish, pulled straight from the sea, weren't any more "spectacular" looking (and certainly not more elaborately presented) than those in the photo you posted. Where in the hell did you get these? You either had this somewhere right by the ocean, or you paid one *hell* of a lot of money, and no, the DC market will absolutely not support that. "A five-dollar oyster at Fiola" is one thing, but it's one item only and it's easy to control the ordering.

Those black things at the bottom are periwinkles, btw, and they're actually not all *that* great - you pull the meat out with a little pin, and the amount of meat is smaller than the size of a pea. Whelks, on the other hand, may be my single favorite food item in the world, when lightly dipped in aioli. Last bite of food ever? Definitely! I can't tell whether or not the two items at 8:30 - 9:00 in the photo are whelks - if they are, they're fairly large, and don't look to be all *that* fresh (there's nothing dry about whelks, and whatever those things are look a little dry).

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...I see, on the menu, what appear to be unspecified (presumably varying with the market) oysters, misspelled Rappahannock and middleneck clams, Maine lobster, stone crab, and Taylor Bay scallops.

...

In large part, I agree with your general point, but mainly because raw bar in this area is prohibitively expensive. We have oysters now that have broken the $4 barrier. Yes, the happy hour at Old Ebbitt, blah blah blah, but other than high-volume and high-turnover (and the importance of these cannot be overstated), Old Ebbitt's raw bar is one of the most overrated individual restaurant "things" in town. It's not bad, mind you, just ... overrated.

I would love for you, or someone else, to start and maintain a thread "ranking" or listing in some vague categories of quality, the best raw bars in the DC area. We probably have this thread somewhere, but I think when the craving hits, it's generally quite severe with rapid onset - it would be nice to have a fingertip guide...

Agree with all the raw bar thoughts Don makes above. Like many others, I'm a huge (gargantuan even) fan of a great raw bar. We simply don't have the proximity to the right waters that the Pacific NW, New England, maybe the Keys and many spots across the globe do. That and we're a smaller market than Paris, NY, etc. All said, I'm deeply thankful that we do have options like Blacksalt, the oysters at Pearl Dive (say what you will about the rest of the menu but their oyster selection is one of the best we have and I've always found them to be fresh and well priced), Passionfish and even the Maine Ave markets. Wasn't Jeff Black talking about opening the mother of all raw bars out Virginia way somewhere? Not sure if that's still on the radar.

I am excited about Range; at least to try it. It's super ambitious and, I think reflects well on the area that a bet like it is being made.

I'm also curious--in a voyeuristic sort of way--to learn where Eric's photo was taken/provenance of that seafood.

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Wasn't Jeff Black talking about opening the mother of all raw bars out Virginia way somewhere? Not sure if that's still on the radar.

The deal fell through.

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Judging by the caption, I inferred he got it at au pied de cochon. what i can't figure out is if it's the restaurant in france or montreal.

i've been going over that picture like the Zapruder film. I'll let you know when I've got more.

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I think when we are comparing a D.C. raw bar selection and the plateau de fruits de mer (from Au Pieds du Cochon, according to the photo caption) that Ericabb is recalling with such passion, we are metaphorically comparing Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies and Proust's madeleines. One is high quality, serviceable, somewhat generic and the other is transcendant, a peak food experience. There are few places in the U.S. where such a varied and imaginitive melange of seafood can be found. The closest may be at Balthazar in NYC. Most people in the U.S., when heading for a raw bar, are looking for a place to slurp down some impeccably fresh oysters and clams. To have a local place like APDC or Balthazar would be wonderful, but support for that intense level of francophilism in DC is questionable. Maybe Michel Richard would consider it. He's probably the only one who could pull it off.

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If that is your standard, have fun being disappointed the rest of your life! :huh:

Nice sippy cup. <_<

This was 33€ at Le Bar á Huitres in Paris, 2008. It was way too much for one. Notice the enormous sea spider on the first pic.

post-14-0-40775900-1355080105_thumb.jpg

post-14-0-09906300-1355080290_thumb.jpg

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The deal fell through.

The deal fell through (and that sucks) but if a very intelligent, successful group dealing largely in seafood felt it was viable, the specific deal itself shouldn't stop someone from trying

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The deal fell through (and that sucks) but if a very intelligent, successful group dealing largely in seafood felt it was viable, the specific deal itself shouldn't stop someone from trying

I've read this three or four times, and can't quite figure out what you mean - I was with you up until the last comma.

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That was a *small* seafood platter at Au Pied du Cochon in Montreal for around $35 (IIRC, I can't even find it on their website menu). I was there the same night that 1000yregg had a tuna collar and the plateau des plateaux. That was probably the best seafood platter that I ever had, but Boulud does a good one at DBGB in NYC.

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I've read this three or four times, and can't quite figure out what you mean - I was with you up until the last comma.

I don't speak knowledgeably but I don't think the Blacks group doubts the viability of the idea. Just don't think they liked the business deal. Smart seafood people backing out of a specific deal. Shouldn't scare anyone off IMHO

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This was 33€ at Le Bar á Huitres in Paris, 2008. It was way too much for one. Notice the enormous sea spider on the first pic.

Were there razor clams on that platter? Wow that looks good.

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I don't speak knowledgeably but I don't think the Blacks group doubts the viability of the idea. Just don't think they liked the business deal. Smart seafood people backing out of a specific deal. Shouldn't scare anyone off IMHO

Okay, I think you're saying that just because this specific deal fell through, that doesn't mean that it's a bad concept. Fair enough.

---

Did you ever see "What They Say / What They Mean" in the old Mad Magazines?

---

What They Say

"I can wholeheartedly say that there is no factual basis" to that claim, Cavanaugh said.

What They Mean

"I can wholeheartedly say that he won't be able to prove it in court," Cavanaugh said.

---

I don't mean to imply that people suck, but ... people suck.

The day I *ever* back off from a promise made with a simple handshake, I want you take me out into a back alley and shoot me.

---

I also love this comment at the bottom of the article:

Without knowing the details of both sides of the story I don't want to ascribe blame but this is a BIG loss for the area and for the development project. I doubt that a concept as interesting will take the empire's place.

Has anyone ever actually *looked* at the architecture that is metastasizing in Merrifield? I've got news for everyone:

this *entire development* is a "BIG loss for the area." Merrifield makes Clarendon and Columbia Heights look like Xanadu. If there is an uglier, more disorganized cluster of new development in the entire DC area, I'd love to know where it is.

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Were there razor clams on that platter? Wow that looks good.

Yes. Razor clams, clams, oysters, prawns, tiny crevettes gris, mussels, sea spider (a lot of work for little yield), crawfish, cockles. I was embarrassed when it came because it was so large. 33€ seemed cheap for Paris, so I wasn't expecting much. There are 4 or 5 of these restaurants around Paris. This one was near the Arc de Triomphe on Avenue de Wagram.

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Okay, I think you're saying that just because this specific deal fell through, that doesn't mean that it's a bad concept. Fair enough.

Exactly what I meant, Don. Thanks for trying to clarify.

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You're right. Pitiful is wrong, not the right choice of words. Compared to other DC restaurants, it's actually pretty good. However, the selection is disappointing to me. I wanted to see attached (but I'm not aware anywhere in DC has this, and maybe the market won't bear it).

Get thee to France, my friend. Both Paris and Nice (and likely othe places I havene't been) are chock-a-block with the raw bars of your wildest fantasies -- everything in your photo, plus sea urchins and violets.

PS: I say continue to call 'em as you see 'em.

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Get thee to France, my friend. Both Paris and Nice (and likely othe places I havene't been) are chock-a-block with the raw bars of your wildest fantasies -- everything in your photo, plus sea urchins and violets.

There were sea urchins in the photo, around 4 o'clock. I haven't been able to travel for food as much now that I've got 2 kids, the youngest being just shy of 11 months old. Unlike the first kid, who was a model infant and now a precocious periwinkle eating, clam sucking, crab feasting, and spicy fish fillet devouring 2.6 year old, the youngest has this bad habit of not sleeping through the night and maintains a mostly liquid diet. I would love to go back to Paris and Nice, but the flight to Montreal or the drive to NYC is much more manageable with my brood. We (i.e., you and I) should get together for a meal, maybe even at the Range.

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I had a Dozen Signature Oysters ($24) at BlackSalt last night: six of the Black Pearls, and six of the Old Black Salts.

Much has been written about the Black Restaurant Group getting its own brands of oysters, but I couldn't find anything, anywhere, about people that had actually tried the product; the only thing I could find after fifteen minutes of Googling, are three fairly substantive, but very "anticipatory" pieces which nevertheless provide valuable background information. They're all worth reading for reasons I'm about to disclose:

06/01/12 - "Jeff Black to sell his own signature oysters this fall" - Tim Carman, Washington Post All We Can Eat blog

08/22/12 - "Jeff Black's Signature Oysters Almost Here" - Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper Young And Hungry column

09/19/12 - "Shell Raiser" - Jessica Sidman, Washington City Paper Young and Hungry column

In particular, Tim Carman's piece provides important information about whether or not you might like the Black Pearls or Old Black Salts. The bold highlight is mine, and is essential reading:

Like [Jamie] Leeds, Jeff Black was intrigued by the prospect of having his own signature oyster, but only "if I could dictate the flavor profile," says the Houston native who grew up with the bivalves of the Gulf Coast. Black's preferred flavor profile, I think it's safe to say, smacks of someone who has made a living in the restaurant business: "I like a lot of salt," he says.

Now, it's time for a disclaimer about my personal preferences regarding raw oysters. In a nutshell (or an oyster shell): I prefer the small, mild, sweet, custardy oysters of the Pacific Northwest to the large, aggressive, briny, rubbery oysters of the Atlantic Northeast. For example (click on my "Old Ebbitt" link above for details), last week, I had 18 raw oysters at Old Ebbitt Grill: 6 of them were Harpswell Flats from Harpswell, Maine, and 12 of them were Kusshis from Vancouver, British Columbia. The two could not have been more different. Despite Old Ebbitt's menu describing, somewhat correctly, the Harpswell Flats as being "sweet," they were still fairly briny, and had enormous, flat shells that quite honestly I would have guessed were scallop shells - that's how big they were. The Kusshis, on the other hand, were tiny, and very deep. Also described as being "sweet," they were, and they were also custardy, mild, and for my palate preference, as good as any oyster I've had in America. I went so far as to tweet, in my excited state, that Kusshis would be the next Kumamoto on the east coast.

That last paragraph is extremely important background information for what I'm about to say. I detest what I consider to be overly briny oysters, and I also have developed a strong preference for oysters coming from cold waters. In general, I'm still waiting to have my first shucked Virginia Oyster - ever - that knocks my socks off, be it from a low-salinity creek, or a high-salinity ocean current. Now, before you start cursing me, let me add that I *love* that local oysters from the Chesapeake, the Rappahannock, etc., are being cultivated and produced for local consumption. *Love* it! There's no bigger locavore, farm-to-table, terroir-is-everything, pull-for-the-little guy person in the world than I am. But I think our local oysters are not shucking oysters; they're cooking oysters. Does that make them "bad?" No. But look how people eat them: with cocktail sauce, with Tabasco sauce. There's a reason for that, and that reason is the same reason you dump hot sauce on a burrito.

So it is with this long preface that I can say, in all honesty, that I did not like either the Black Pearls, or the Old Black Salts. And I'll even go a step further and say that I had great difficulty telling the two apart, even when they were upside down on the plate right before my eyes. That they're served with a mouthful of what is essentially sea water compounds the problem for me. We have warm water, high salinity, semi-tough oysters whose one positive attribute for my palate is that they're not super-big. Actually, scratch that: I have a saying that I thought of a few years ago: "The bigger, the blacker the blotch, the badder the bivalve." Get a dozen oysters sometime, and make a mental note of the ones that are blotchy at the attachment versus the ones that are clean and white inside. Invariably, you will get a cleaner, more pure flavor with the oysters devoid of blotching. Both the Black Pearls and Old Black Salts were very clean in this regard. Yes, there's a little black spot, but nothing I would call a "blotch."

Okay, all this having been said, if you like this style of oyster (ultra-briny, medium-large, medium-tough, and served with a considerable portion of briny seawater in the shell) - and quite frankly, most people around here seem to - then you'll probably enjoy both of these. I'm not trying to convince anyone here of the "superiority" of a Kumamoto or a Kusshi, but I will say that when I eat those, I generally eat them by themselves, or with just a drop of lemon juice or vinaigrette; I would never douse them with cocktail or Tabasco sauce. With local oysters, I pretty much have to sauce them to death in order to finish them, and so it was last night.

Very much a stylistic preference, and not a comment on "quality." Boy, I've got to say, I put a lot of careful thought and effort into this post - I hope you find it balanced, and more importantly, useful.

And by the way, for BlackSalt's happy hour, a dozen of these are only $12. I had forgotten all about this special. Rest assured, with a deal such as this, plus their wonderful bread basket (whoever baked the bread last night is first-rate), and their dangerously addicting Chili Margarita ($12), I'll soon be "Back in Black."

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