For my birthday dinner I had a simple request: 20 oysters and a gin gimlet. Pretty simple and even more so with Ironside’s daily oyster happy hour with $1 oysters. Although a couple places in San Diego have $1 oyster happy hours, they can be a bit crazy and the madness of waiting for a table at PB Fish Shop on Thursdays or being at the mercy of whatever oyster type some restaurant picks as their dollar oyster was not in the cards. Oyster types…matter. I keep a list of oyster types I really like (and really don’t like) on my phone. Which is half lame and half pretentious but always useful. Although wine descriptions often make absolutely no sense to me and I never really strongly taste the supposed cherry-cassis-mineral-buttery-chewy-earthy-pear-apricotness notes going on (still have no qualms about buying Two Buck Chuck), for oysters that sh*t is real. So it’s no surprise this Lucky Peach article on The New Rules of Oyster Tasting seriously resonated with me. Take this little gem:
“The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans taste different, and oysters draw most of their flavor from the waters they live in. The Atlantic is a pure, sharp brine, while the Pacific is sweeter and more kelpy, like miso soup.”
THIS IS SO TRUE.
“Most of the oysters consumed in North America are either the Eastern oyster (from the Eastern seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico) or the Pacific oyster (from British Columbia to Baja). The Eastern tastes like brine and broth with a sweet-corn finish. The Pacific tastes like cucumber or watermelon rind. Hugely different. Most people strongly prefer one or the other.”
In oysters (and in life) (and in rap music preferences with the exception of Drake) I am very much so west coast, best coast. Also the tidbit about British Columbia to Baja rings particularly true as my favorite oysters are Kusshis (from BC) and Kumiais (from Baja).
And very handily, the past couple times I’ve been to Ironside the happy hour oyster has been Kumiais. My first post on Ironside is yonder.
DRINKS: So I didn’t end up getting that gin gimlet because Ironside has such an extensive and awesome cocktail menu. This Eater article is old but has the gist of it. I believe this drink had gin, St. Germain, and cucumber. It was strong but smooth and went super well with the oysters. The bf went with his standard bourbon on the rocks.
Backtracking a little bit I have to say I love the space at Ironside. It has all the standard hipster restaurant accoutrements including subway tiles, reclaimed wood, exposed ceilings, and succulents but the nautical details make it all feel quite unique. The skylight and super high ceilings flood the whole space with light and I appreciate the existence of not one or two but three different bar areas with open seating.
The one and only happy hour specials are the dollar oysters. This is ok because this is all you need. And in the end I chickened out and got 16 instead of 20. Although I could’ve done 20. But I decided to allocate some room for my favorite oyster tentacle in town. The oysters as mentioned before were Kumiai and they come on crushed ice with a wedge of lime, mignonette sauce, horseradish, a creamy cocktail sauce and Tabasco. If you serve your oysters not on ice and don’t have mignonette you will make me sad.
Yup had to make room for the Charred Octopus. It’s served with a chorizo and olive sauce and it is to die for. Perfectly grilled octopus with salty chorizo and briny olive and a creamy aioli. I strongly believe that even people who are not fond of seafood at all would appreciate a perfectly charred octopus tentacle…So much so I am always force feeding octopus to people, to mostly successful results.
Although I am a big dessert person, I particularly love that Ironside does cocktails as desserts so well. My favorite is the Ron Cortado with aged rum, fernet, espresso, steamed milk and a brûléed condensed milk foam. But this time I decided to try their Affogato which has espresso with chocolate sorbet. An interesting deviation from the standard scoop of vanilla gelato and not the most visually appealing but it was a pretty great way to end a meal, rich from the deep dark chocolate and espresso flavours but lighter due to it being sorbet.
All in all a lovely meal. It’s a bit pricey but when is good seafood not. If you come here mostly for the oysters (which you should) and you can make your way down sometime between 3-6 pm you might even be getting a pretty decent deal. But I would have to insist you save room for a strong cocktail and perhaps a tentacle or two.