Superior Shucking at Ocean Prime New York City
It’s been quite a while since my own days serving pizza in an Italian Restaurant in Staten Island, or working front of house at a chain Mexican venue in the mall. When I was suddenly thrust back into the kitchen experience at Ocean Prime to meet with Executive Chef Eugenio Reyes and to learn how to shuck the perfect oyster. To my surprise, I found myself somewhat frightened and exhilarated all at once.
Walking through the heat of a busy kitchen just about to hit their rush period is a feeling like no other. In the back corner was Chef Reyes, one of the kindest executive chefs I’ve ever met, not to mention cool under pressure. He whipped out a bucket of East and West Coast oysters that come from their purveyor Samuels Seafood. “Every day we offer one East Coast oyster and one West Coast,” explained Reyes.
Once our basic pleasantries were exchanged, we got right down to it. He washed the oyster, placed it delicately on the table, and took out the shucking knife, before covering his hands with gloves for protection. He gently nudged the shell open in what felt like one maneuver (perhaps two) and then expertly cut along the vein of the oyster to allow for easy consumption. He prepared the ice platter, the seaweed decoration and placed the oysters on the outside rim of the platter.
Next it was my turn. What took him under one minute to do, was exactly the opposite for me. I was supplied with a much heavier- duty glove, reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s famous one, and dug right into my beautiful oyster. I wanted to be excellent; at oyster shucking aficionado, but alas, Reyes had to talk me through each and every move as if I was performing heart surgery. To everyone’s true delight, I was able to shuck and clean one very excellent oyster.
Reyes has had quite the life before his time in New York at the helm of Ocean Prime, a local midtown happy hour hot spot for the New York finance crowd. Mexico City-born and raised, he came to the United States with no knowledge of the English language. He took odd jobs in kitchens, doing everything from dish-washing to salad prep, where he slowly learned words that were printed on kitchen orders. Fast forward to, many years later, and he’s opening the Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills and is now in New York City.
The bar crowd is a key component to Ocean Prime’s business and hungry drinkers often love to pair their beverages with dozens of oysters. For an elevated experience, ask for the general manager and sommelier, Kevin Flannery, for some wine pairing suggestions. He is more than delighted to pair the oysters with a variety of their wines including the William Fevre Chablis Domaine
From the back of house, to front of house, the seafood experience at Ocean Prime excels on a multitude of levels. For the oyster lovers out there, a stop by this midtown hot spot is a no-brainer and of course a palette pleasing treat.