Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Greenwood Fish Market World Oyster Festival 2015

This month, the World Oyster Festival returns to Greenwood Fish Market. Up to 24 varieties of fresh oysters are available for the taking. We paid a visit to this Bukit Timah establishment to experience this year’s iteration for ourselves.

Quick guide to oyster appreciation
A fundamental mistake made by beginners is to discard the ‘liquor’ (clear watery liquid) found in the bottom shell. One is meant to sip on this before slipping the oyster meat into mouth (with a finger or fork) while slurping up the remainder of the liquor. The liquor comes from filtered seawater and contains a whole range of flavours that are essential to the oyster tasting experience.

Oysters have multiple layers of flavour that transition from start to finish. What begins as brackish makes way for a hint of metallic before finishing with a fruity sweetness. As such, it is recommended that you do the oyster justice by tasting it ‘naked’- without any condiments. If you must, a light squeeze of lemon would suffice. Drowning an oyster in hot sauce is a no-no.

Eating oysters is one of those rare occasions when you are encouraged to use your hands. The only utensil you use is a fork and you NEVER use it to puncture the oyster meat. If the fork is employed at all, it is only to nudge the meat loose from the shell before slurping it down your mouth. Remember to chew the oyster, relish its texture, be it dense or creamy.

Needless to say, you will never use a knife as cutting the flesh will only ruin the taste and texture that come from enjoying fresh oysters.

On this occasion we tried 18 varieties of oysters, here are the more notable ones we enjoyed.

Beginners should start here. A mainstay among aficionados and palatable to the uninitiated as well. These are deep cupped oysters with protuberant shells that lend themselves to a mellow sweetness. Originally from Kyushu, Japan, they were brought to the United States in the 1940s and are now farmed in places like California.

Golden mantle
Oysters have often been described as metallic in taste. If you want a pleasant way to understand this notion, then the Golden Mantle is your choice. It had less liquor than the others but its creamy texture made up for it.

Mary point
If you love oysters and have the palette for more robust flavours, the Mary Point oysters should be on your list. They start you off with an intense brininess and the distinct taste of seawater. The Mary Point is an acquired taste and we cannot recommend it to beginners. Still, if you wish to experience an unambiguously full bodied oyster, the Mary Point can be toned down with some of the house-condiment, a tart dipping sauce with raspberry vinegar and sugar.

Fine De Claire
These come from the largest oyster producing region in the world- Marennes Oléron in France. They came in oak shells with streaks of algae and white. Though the flesh was slightly more petite, the intense brine flavour packed a punch but relented towards the end and finished with a soy sauce-like familiarity. 

NZ Pacifics
These were fresh and easy on the tongue. If there was ever an oyster for a quiet evening, our choice would be the NZ Pacifics. Beginners would take to it quite easily and connoisseurs will enjoy it as a welcome step back from heavy hitters like The Belons or Mary Point.

These were simply-put, veritable behemoths. They are among the largest oysters we’ve ever had (alongside the Barron Points). “True” Belons come from the Belon region in France. When sourced elsewhere, such as Maine, they are known as Flats. These scallop like clams came with a salty start and a hazelnut finish with hint of copper. Not for the faint of heart.

Belons are flat and wide

Barron Points are equally substantial

Named after the Russian Tsars and their well known appetites for fine foods like caviar and oysters, these are flat oysters from Cancale in Northwestern France. Overall clean tasting with a hint of iodine. Firm and meaty, these are must haves on your plate.

Wine pairing
Although we encourage that oysters be tasted naked, they go exceptionally well with wines. We paired our selection with white varietals from, you guessed it, Oyster Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand. Choose from a Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Chardonnay 2013 and sparkling Cuvée Brut, all perfect accompaniments to an evening of slurping oysters.

Dining In
Above the doorway hung a sign that read, in bold print, “oyster tasting! $2 each, anytime (eat here only)”. But beyond the oysters, the Fish Market brings in up to eight tonnes of seafood each month, including salmon that is smoked in-house and a retinue of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

Decor wise, the Fish Market was unembellished. White walls clad by subway tiles create a bright and cheery atmosphere with nary a cheesy nautical reference save the few pencilled illustrations of salmon, crab and flounder. No life rings or bells to be sounded. Just tastefully chosen pieces of functional furniture well suited to the cosy space. 

The restaurant section of the Greenwood Fish Market serves up to 15 fresh fish options daily. More conservative diners may peruse the pasta menu for the usual offerings.

Valet service by insured and licensed drivers is available if you’re driving. The World Oyster festival is happening from now until 27th July.  

Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro
34 Greenwood Ave, Singapore 289236

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