(Photos: Soutthida Tanovan)
I was wrong about oysters. Really wrong. Like when you’re wrong about tequila. There are good oysters (and tequilas) out there. But the trick is finding the right place and realizing that you get what you pay for. At EaT, you can actually get both in one spot: good tequila and good oysters.
EaT successfully attempts to take a little slice of New Orleans and Portlands it up. What do I mean by this (and wait, Portland is a verb now)? Portland does food a certain way. It includes three main components: fresh, local and delicious. Situated in a newly constructed area on N. Williams avenue—one of Portland’s numerous bicycle highways—amongst other classy restaurants and retail shops, EaT is a classy, yet casual place to explore the bounties of the sea. It will set you back a few bucks, analogous to going out for sushi, but as a treat, it is a place I will return to explore a rotating variety of fresh shellfish. Happy hour looks to be a decent deal ($1 oysters) and a way to taste my way around the coasts of Oregon and Washington in an unexpected way.
Upon sitting down, we were perplexed by the myriad of menus: cocktail, wine, lunch, brunch… I think they had a menu for menus as well. But the main thing to be concerned with here is mostly on the wall: the listing of fresh oysters by the dozen ($25), the hand-drawn graffiti authored by a variety of guests memorializing birthdays and anniversaries, and the huge bar full of delicious, scrumptious liquor. The main attractions come from various bays throughout Oregon and Washington: Netarts, Petites, Hama Hama, Sweetwater, Tilla Sweet, Sea Cow, Kumamoto… there are varieties that I never even knew about from places I haven’t even heard of. With my two companions, we ordered a dozen oysters ($25) and accompanying “safe” brunch options, in case this wasn’t as to my liking.
In the past, my experience with oysters was typical: oysters in a shot glass with lemon and cocktail sauce. The oyster is large, a bit snotty in texture, a little much to shoot, fishy and sandy. They’re generally so bad that you’re expected to just swallow them whole instead of enjoying the flavor and eating them, I don’t know, like regular food, where you chew it and savor it. At EaT, they don’t even have cocktail sauce. Instead, they bring you fresh-grated horseradish, which you add to ketchup, homemade vinegar-based hot sauce (with the chilies floating in it) and a drop or two of fresh lemon straight from the wedge.
Being inexperienced at oyster-munching (well at least this kind), I will have difficulty explaining these morsels to you. I ladled up a little of this on-the-fly cocktail sauce onto these ice cold morsels, and slowly tiny-forked them onto my tongue. This was nothing like the sandy, slimy mess that I had experienced before. Clean, somewhat sweet, benign—the Hama Hama was a different size and shape than the Netarts, the Sweetwater was a smaller and slightly more ocean-like than the others. I could get used to this. Wash it down with a Bloody Mary, and you have a great breakfast pairing.
Other than by the dozen, they also have oyster shooters. But not like the cocktail sauce laden variety mentioned before: no, these are dropped in a small, stemmed glass of booze. Chili-infused vodka, lemon, some have a bit of red sauce and pepper lingering on the bottom. Bourbon, tequila, beer… all of these could be yours for $3.
We finished the rest of our meal with the aforementioned “safe” Cajun breakfast items. In true aphrodisiac style, we shared a bowl of turtle soup (but this is American turtle, not endangered, Chinese turtle) for $5. It was the consistency of a chili, without beans. The turtle was very dark meat, much like beef. The overall texture was thick and meaty, without being fatty or spicy like one would expect from an actual chili.
The softshell crab Po’ Boy ($12) was cornmeal-encrusted and deep fried. The crab came on a hoagie, open-faced with pickles, tomato and Cajun-style mayonnaise. An excellent value and an excellent dish in its own right with the perfectly cooked shoestring fries (dipped in homemade cocktail sauce!). The Eggs Sardou ($14) weren’t the best I have ever had, but they were good. Poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, atop artichoke heart are sort of a win however you dice it.
EaT offers an extensive shot list of bourbons, whiskeys, scotches and rye whiskeys ranging from $6-$12. I recommend the Woodford Reserve, as it is a comparative steal at $8. Classic New Orleans staples, such as the Sazerac, Hurricane or Gin Fizz, were all available on the cocktail menu for $8. For brunch, my wife had the make-your-own Bloody Mary for $8. At the bar, they include more homemade Bloody Mary mix (tomato juice, pepper, some other spices) and a ton of pickled veggies, such as carrots, okra, pearl onions and green beans. All made a great snack to accompany the salt-rimmed deliciousness of your first morning vodka. I have to admit, when she went back for seconds, I had to partake.
Even though the service was a bit latent in getting us our check, and live jazz during breakfast isn’t my thing, EaT is authentically Portland-NOLA. It mixes these two culinary centers together in a fresh, new way and there is plenty to explore whenever you decide to go