Caraquets, Colville Bays, and Lambertinis at Joe Beef

Dec 21, 2010

Master of Oysters John Bil, Chef Frederic Morin, and Owner David McMillan

Joe Beef has dominated every list of “Where to Eat Oysters in Montreal” since it opened in 2005, because it manages to source really tasty and often unusual oysters, and especially because it usually sources them straight from the growers, meaning the oysters haven’t been sitting around a distributor’s walk-in for a week or three. Joe Beef also keeps its oyster supply small and keeps moving them, bringing in new ones all the time. That makes a difference. Oysters that taste a little tired elsewhere often taste vibrant here. That was the case this weekend, when I enjoyed the finest Caraquets I’ve had. My previous Caraquets, wild oysters from New Brunswick, had been tasty but small and thin; these were robust and meaty, with a yummy, salty, baked pretzel quality. A little yeasty, a little toasty…not entirely unlike Champagne. John Bil, Joe Beef’s oyster guru (and a lot more), estimated that these Caraquets were ten years old. Unbelievable! That explained the body, which you get only with a slow-grown oyster.

Joe Beef, as usual, had Colville Bays on hand. These are always rich and layered, as I’ve written before.

The third oyster in the triumvirate was a Pacific one from BC that I hadn’t encountered before: Lambertinis. This is one of the cleanest tasting Pacifics I’ve had, not unlike a Hog Island Sweetwater, only less briny. The light, crisp flavor and balanced salt make it an extremely friendly match for wines. So friendly that a second glass became necessary. And then a third. And then…

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