Blue Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant
526 Main St., Islip, 631-446-4233
SERVICE: Friendly, attentive
AMBIENCE: City style, suburban setting
ESSENTIALS: Open every day 11 to 2 a.m. Weekend reservations suggested; major credit cards accepted; tight dining room
Early on, enough oysters were harvested around Islip to pave the streets with their shells.
This spirited new restaurant, named for the briny-sweet star, could lead to a revival of the practice.
Shucking moves at a brisk pace in Blue Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant, a sharp destination on Main Street that delivers a contemporary look, an urban style and a lot of savory, splashy food.
Owner Lisa Piazza, a lifelong resident of Islip, has transformed the space, which used to be Bottoms Up, a sports bar. You’ll still be able to tune in to games courtesy of strategically placed TVs. But your attention is more likely to be on plate after plate as much as play by play. The menu itself has been trimmed and streamlined a couple of times since opening last month. But the staples and the additions keep the quality high.
That starts with something rare: a fine version of oysters Rockefeller, here capped with buttery chopped spinach, seasoned with a hint of Parmesan cheese, and boosted by just enough Pernod. Old John D. would deem it suitably rich as, it is said, did a customer at Antoine’s in New Orleans where the original was created.
You can continue dining contentedly southward with the soothing coastal mainstay of shrimp and grits, prepared with the reverence of a South Carolinian. The appetizer could double as a main course.
East and West Coast oysters are available daily on the half shell. Blue Points and the deep-cupped, mild and sweet Kumamotos from Washington State provide a savory contrast. Try a few of each, along with a local beer. A brew also complements the house’s sea-salt sprinkled pretzel, which, in an earlier life, arrived with stout-enriched cheese sauce plus mustard.
The house’s shrimp cocktail is ample and dependable. Tender baked clams currently sport a lemon-thyme accent, compared with their predecessors, which were sparked with chorizo, peppers and manchego cheese.
Mussels finished with white wine and garlic are plump and satisfying. The blue-claw crabcake with sauce rémoulade: more than respectable. Adroitly done New England-style clam chowder deserves your attention, creamy but not overly so.
Into this mix of openers comes an unexpected dish, dubbed “Arthur Ave. meatball,” crowned with whipped ricotta. And it’s both better and bigger than many that you’d find eating on that revered stretch of Belmont in the Bronx.
Montauk swordfish swims ahead of most main courses, moist, perfectly cross-hatched, cantilevered on honeyed, mashed sweet potatos, the lushness cut by cranberry chutney.
Lo mein “chips,” fried till crisp, rise in a tangle above a delicate tempura of cod, for an elevated offspring of fish and chips. Beer-battered fillet of cod makes an appearance on a brioche roll, spurred by malt vinegar and mayo. The more casual corner of Blue Oyster’s menu invites you with what’s described as a “lobster beignet Maine styled burger.” Consider it a shellfish burger — and a first-class one.
The house’s paella really is more like a casserole of saffron rice dominated by mussels, with some shrimp, chicken and chorizo in the mix. It’s free of the coveted socarrat, the toasty, crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the classic paella.
For diners who’ve been brought here against their will, or who’d just prefer to stay on land, Blue Oyster has several alternatives, including surf-and-turf of cooked-to-order filet mignon and a Maine lobster tail; Port-braised short rib with polenta; and curry roast chicken with coconut yellow rice. And there are 11 dishes for Sunday brunch.
Cheesecake heads a modest array of desserts. But there’s Coyle’s Ice Cream across the street to tempt you.
Or, if you’re still hungry, come full circle and have a few more Blue Points.