Restaurant Review - Merchant's Oyster Bar

Merchant’s Oyster Bar (1590 Commercial)

Words & Pix: Stephanie

$15 half dozen oysters

This is the first time it happened: Coming home hungry from a $145 dinner! True, $30 was spent on liquor and dinner was shared by Henry & me.

While I appreciated the simplicity of the 2-page typed-up menu in a store-bought folder, I was puzzled by the style and plating of the food which seemed to be going a different direction. Drink list was decent, the organic “Scandal” lager was delightful, but the menu system was pretty confusing.  It offered 3 set-dinners:  $31 was a snack + 1st and 2nd course (Henry’s choice); $34 gave you the 1st & 2nd course + dessert and $39 was for all 4 courses; which was whatIchose. However, a few items demanded 1 or 2 or 3 dollars more. This “I deserve more” notion reminded me of some restaurants’ Dine Out menus stuck at a reluctant price bracket.

Beet cracker close-up

Dinner began at a good pace and the first three courses were impressive. $15 half-dozen raw oysters came with freshly-shaved horseradish and was divine, so we ordered another half-dozen.  The plate of 3 baked oysters belonged to Henry who had to pay $3 extra. His second course was a lovely Sun-choke creamy soup garnished with sun-choke chip and confit eggyolks. So far so good!

Crab & vermicelli

The first of my 4-course dinner started with a beautifully prepared beet cracker made in-house. But the joy of the cracker was interrupted by the arrival of the 2nd course - Dungeness crab and vermicelli salad ($3 extra). Said to season with coconut, the scarce crab meat, shy flavour and the stringy rice noodle did not do anything to my palate or my hunger.

Ling cod

Our two abstractly-plated;  empty looking mains arrived at the same time, short rib accompanied by few withered strands of baby carrots for Henry and Ling Cod with grilled diced potatoes for me. The 2” square rib and 1” X 2½” cod were dry, small, overcooked and bland. They consisted nothing really substantial to inform my tummy “you are fed”!  I was the luckier one - at least there was a bed of fresh pea shoots on my plate. Perhaps the chef decided to shrink the meat portion slightly for the sets, or we’re supposed to be filled up with beers and cocktails? Hm...were there breads or buns I could order?

Short rib

Dessert was quite creative and gratefully enjoyed because it helped fill up the space in my stomach a bit. The off-green 2 Kit-Kat size Mojito Pana Cotta on a rectangle plate was dressed interestingly, but the flavour was subtle yet refreshing.

Pana Cotta

When I pushed the empty dish away, I was thinking about where to go to ‘touch-up’ before heading home but decided against it when the bill came.