RioMar Seafood Restaurant – Oyster Dinner

Introduction:

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to dine at RioMar for their one-night only oyster dinner. This oyster dinner was in honor of the opening of oyster season, which is November 1. I am a huge fan of oysters and was so excited to be able to attend this dinner.  For those wondering, yes, I did pay for my own meal, but I was invited to attend by the lovely PR people who work on RioMar’s behalf.  I received no incentives or anything free for this so truly, my opinions aren’t colored by anything except my experience.

I am hoping that RioMar makes this menu a yearly tradition.  It was the first time that they’ve done an all-oyster menu to celebrate oyster season, but I think based on the success they saw this year, that they are considering doing it again.  I sure hope they do.

Background:

For those of you not acquainted with RioMar, it is a Spanish-influenced seafood restaurant located in the heart of New Orleans’s Warehouse District.  It’s very close to the Convention Center and fairly close to downtown and the French Quarter.  Really just a short pedicab ride away, in fact.  Check out the end of this post for all the pertinent information needed to get there.

Dining Company:

I had the true privilege of dining with my friend Rene for this lovely oyster evening.  Rene and I don’t know each other well, but we do run in the same social circles.  I feel like I know her better after our delicious meal together.  Nothing like a few courses of oysters and a couple of cocktails to get better acquainted with someone.

The Cocktails:

Rene and I took our time that evening.  We started at the bar with each a cocktail and caught up on life and discussed the hot new places for dining.  I had a lovely gin and soda, as I am prone to imbibing in these days.  There’s something about gin that I just love. It was only fitting to start my oyster dinner that way too!

Once we moved over to the table, I had a Pimm’s Cup.  I just love Pimm’s Cups, and although I was so tempted to do the beverage pairing for this menu, I restrained myself.  At the time, I didn’t think 5 cocktails and a belly full of oysters would make a good evening. Next time, I’m going to be brave and do it!  I’m sure I could have handled it like a champ. Anyway, such is life.  I really enjoyed my Pimm’s Cup.  It was a good compliment to my meal.

The Meal:

Alrighty, on to my meal.  First let’s start by saying I love oysters. Like LOVE them.  I was so very excited to have a chance to have a full five-course oyster dinner.  And to make it even better, these weren’t just any oysters, they were P&J Oysters, New Orleans’s most beloved local purveyor of fine oysters.  I looked forward to this dinner for weeks. Weeks, I tell you. And frankly, it did not disappoint and did live up to every wild expectation I had for the meal.

As I said before, it was a five-course dinner featuring oysters.  Each course had three oysters apiece so we ended up having 15 oysters in all.  At first I was a little concerned that we might leave a little hungry.  However, fear not, we were perfectly satisfied when we left.

First Course – Raw Bar

We started dinner with three raw oysters on the half shell.  One was served with a very tasty satsuma mignonette sorbet on top, and we were provided two more pepper sauces for our remaining oysters.  The pepper sauces were tasty, but the sorbet was the winner.  It tasted like a frozen vinaigrette – tangy, tart and pleasant.  I could have eaten all three oysters topped with that lovely sorbet.

Raw Oysters - three ways

Second Course – Fried Oysters

This course consisted of lightly fried oysters served with sweet potato ñoqui (Spanish gnocchi), oven-dried grapes, a Valdeón cheese sauce and flash-fried sage leaves.  This was a very good dish.  The oysters were perfectly fried and the ñoqui was very soft and delightful.  I really liked the oven-dried grapes – not something I’d had before but totally matched with the dish.  The only improvement could have been more Valdeón.  I only caught the faintest taste of it in my dish.  This was my favorite dish of the evening.  LOVE fried oysters.

Fried Oysters with Blue Cheese sauce

Third Course – ‘Diablos Caballeros’

Diablos Caballeros translates loosely into “devil gentleman.”  Which means “spicy oysters,” somehow. Basically, these were oysters prepared in a spicy tomato and date sauce.  The dish also included Serrano ham, saffron and basil.  While this dish was tasty, the flavor of the oyster was over-powered.  The delicateness of the oyster was lost in the other more bold flavors of the dish.  This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it because I did very much.  It’s just that all those ingredients eclipsed the oyster flavor.  The tomato sauce was very tasty, and of course the Serrano was delicious.  The dates and basil were difficult to detect but again, this dish did taste very good overall.  I was happy to have tried it.

Diablos Caballeros Oysters

Fourth Course – Baked Oysters

This course consisted of oysters baked into a savory cream sauce with chanterelle mushrooms, crispy-fried kale and a side of focaccia bread for sauce-sopping.  Since this was a cream-based sauce, the oyster flavor was more pronounced.  The dish was very well-seasoned and just the perfect size.  The chanterelles were cooked perfectly and the focaccia was topped with sea salt and rosemary.  Delicious.

Baked Oysters with Focaccia and Kale

Fifth Course – Char-Grilled Oysters

Each oyster was prepared a different way so that we really had three more flavor combinations with this dish.  The first oyster was topped with an andouille-artichoke cream.  It was tasty and well-seasoned, but I didn’t detect any artichoke flavor. Our second oyster was topped with chorizo and spinach.  This was another creamy topping but was very robust in flavor. Excellent toppings overall.  The third and final oyster was served al Ajillo-style. This means it was topped with garlic, olive oil, lemon and parsley, but this was a little bland overall. The first two we tried definitely had more robust flavor profiles.  All in all, a good dish, but needs a little work on that al Ajillo-style selection.

Char-grilled oysters three ways

Conclusion:

Overall we had a fantastic meal and dining experience.  The meal was expertly prepared, and the service was very attentive.  My only main suggestion for next time is that each course be served with cocktail forks and spoons.  Oysters are so much easier to eat with a cocktail fork and many of these dishes had sauces that made spoons very necessary. Other than that technicality, we enjoyed ourselves very much.  The staff at RioMar did an excellent job of feeding us that night, and we truly enjoyed our dining experience.

Get There:

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