The Bus Boys: Oyster House a Pearl

Oyster Housephoto-2
1516 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 567-7683
Rating: 4 / 5
Price: $$$
Good for Groups: Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly: No
Ambiance: Casual

As we sit here, discussing what exactly we should tell you about the Oyster House, we slowly begin to realize the difficulties which occur to food critics. When you recall a great place like this one, you slowly start having cravings; when you finally discover what you want to write about, you wish you could step back in time and relive that marvel of a meal.

On a bustling Friday, we stepped foot into this Samson seafood restaurant and suddenly felt separated from the rest of Philadelphia. Couples were seated on bar stools, groups at long tables towards the back, and everyone regardless of where they fell into space was enjoying themselves. The lights were dim, and the waiters and busboys were pacing the floor in order to accommodate everyone they could. All around the walls were carefully decorated porcelain oyster plates that made you believe you were in a gallery that fed you.

The tables were low and wooden, kept simple so that all your attention would focus on the food in front of you. This also made it simple to talk to everyone since we went with a large group of eight. The centerpiece is a large glass goblet cup with many oyster crackers. We were all confused as to whether or not they were meant to be eaten, but we did anyways. No surprise there. The staff was very amiable and explained every dish with patience. While the service was not optimal due to the large crowd brought in for Restaurant Week, the food was worth it.

This would be an ideal spot for a date. It is casual, but trendy and impressive. The ambiance is also  perfect for avoiding long, awkward pauses in conversation as you will have something to point at and comment on at anytime or crackers to bite on in case you need a moment.

The restaurant week menu for the Oyster House was love at first sight, only partially because we were all seafood lovers. As our eyes scanned the possibilities for each course, decisions were hard to make. I finally settled on the following: four oysters on a ½ shell, clam casino, lobster roll, and chocolate bread pudding.

The four oysters definitely lived up to its expectations. And, judging by the title of the restaurant, our expectations were pretty sky high. With a dollop of cocktail sauce and a hint of horseradish, each slurp of the shell was a taste of the ocean. You could really feel the freshness of the oyster meat filling your mouth with each chew. Once you swallowed, you couldn’t wait for the next one. We all had to exercise immense self control as we wanted the four to last as long as possible.

The next dish, clam casino, was a delightful surprise. It consisted of four small clams sprinkled with bits of crunchy bacon and flecks of red pepper presented on a bed of coarse rock salt. With my past experience with cooked clam, I had my reservations regarding how chewy the clams would be. Undercooked, clams have an undesirable, mushy texture; overcooked, you will be chewing for days. These clams were steamed to perfection. On top of that, the bacon and red pepper perfectly complimented the hint of saltiness hidden on each shell.

My favorite, by far, had to be the lobster roll, which I considered to be the main course. If we were ever worried whether or not we could get full, this course made sure we would. This dish consisted of succulent pieces of lobster wedged between a soft, warm roll. Too often, lobster rolls lose their special lobster flavor when drowned in mayo. In this dish, however, each piece of lobster was only lightly tossed with it, allowing all components to complete each other. As an added bonus, a side of hot, crispy fries came with it as well.

Finally, the bread pudding emerged as the perfect sweet ending. My only other past experience with this dessert stemmed from Sharples, so this was a real eye opener. Oyster House presented us with a chocolate bread pudding drizzled with a sweet ginger sauce. There were also small pieces of ginger mixed into the bread. Each bite was delectable. Even as our stomachs were on the verge of exploding, the moist sweetness compelled us to keep scooping it in. We continued to do so until every last piece disappeared from our bowl.

For this week, we switched topics. Angela critiqued the food portion while Gaby critiqued  the ambience/space.

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