Seeking shelter from the snowy streets of Philadelphia earlier this week, I found myself bellied up to the oyster bar at Oyster House on Sansom Street near Rittenhouse Square. I had been (trying) to sell wine all day, to restaurants in and around the city that have seen more than their share of slow business due to the relentless storms hitting the northeast this winter. Despite the increasingly icy sidewalks, and wet, sleet-like flakes tumbling from the night sky, Oyster House was filled with customers and bustling with activity.
I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of which types of oysters I enjoy, and which types I don’t. I usually tell myself I am going to take notes so that I remember, but that never happens. Maybe this is similar to how you approach wine? At any rate, what I have learned is that I generally like east coast, smaller, salty, briny oysters, which is very useful in ordering and getting what I like. (See, you can try this approach with wine!).
My server helped guide me to Wellfleet (from Cape Cod, MA), Old Barney Salt (Barnegat Bay, NJ), and East Beach Blonde (Charlestown, Rhode Island) oysters and he was spot on. My favorites were the East Beach Blondes, which were crisp, fresh, smooth, and salty. Oyster House changes the list often, sometimes even twice a day, so the opportunity to try new types of oysters is boundless. These beauties didn’t need much but a squeeze of fresh lemon, but the mignonette sauce was so perfect I couldn’t help but add some before slurping away. Expertly handled by the skilled shuckers behind the bar, these oysters were completely free in their shells. I sipped a lively cremant (French sparkling wine) from Burgundy, which was the ideal accompaniment.
All of the other fresh, chilled seafood behind the oyster bar looked very tempting, but just thinking about my frosty slog back to the hotel after dinner, led me to order the smoked fish chowder. Cream be damned, this was exactly what I needed. The chowder had just enough smoke and spice to balance out the cream. The balancing act was complete with a glass of minerally Chablis from Domaine Servin. I scraped the bowl clean and then made my way safely back to the hotel, with a happy belly, and not-so-appropriate footwear.
Oyster House will absolutely become one of my go-to restaurants when I’m in Philly. If you’re looking for an easygoing atmosphere with some of the freshest seafood in town, you should check it out too.
1516 Sansom St. (Center City)
Philadelphia, PA 19102