B & G Oysters is one of those places that took off on Day One or at least that's how I remember it. We've had lunch there for years, not years and years, but enough to know that every oyster's hand-picked and polished. You watch chefs pry and fry your oysters, baste salmon, jimmy clams, beer-batter fish, pan-fry fluke, hack your hake and steam mussels. It's like being in someone else's kitchen where you're close enough to inhale but far enough away not to get involved with dishes.
Summers we're partial to oysters, choosing one of each from everywhere. Winters we're into soup and entrées. Like other places with "oyster" in the name, it's fine to pass on raw; that's what the open kitchen's for. This brunch every seat is taken. After a short wait we decide it's not too early for a sparkler. Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, a chardonnay pinot noir blend, pairs with the spice bomb clam chowder and I get all the floating lardons. Our server, Mark, explains the chowder's not roux-based so clams lead. My Saturday's improving by the minute with chefs who know their way around a cast iron skillet.
The salmon's seated on sweet and sour pepperade. In the plating, the chef goes all out because he's caught us snapping photos. The meal's purist goes for the fried clam roll and cole slaw. Because we're partial to oysters, it's been so long since we had clams that we forget how they bring ocean right to your plate.
The purist is also fond of their fried calamari which she would have all the time except we know we must eat other things. Mark tells us the fries are seasoned with parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon all of which makes them vanish. Next time we'll try the regular BLT or the lobster BLT although it's hard to imagine even lobster could improve a bacon sandwich.
Dessert: oh my goodness, it's ganache with candied lemon peel, pecan brittle, smoked caramel and honey whipped cream. We had it in January and sadly it's not on today's menu. Try the apple tart or ginger cake or chocolate mousse until ganache comes around again. Truly we'd be hard-pressed to find another sweet we like better. But if you're a chef trying out new desserts, we're up to taste tests and can be at your place in a New York minute.
There's a lot of history in the South End when it comes to how things have changed. Twenty-five years ago there were nearly no places to eat. (I remember the St. Cloud on Tremont just across the street. It was the first cool place where jeans were fine.) I discovered beer. Beer out is better than beer at home. Out, they bring a glass that's been frozen for days. If only I could remember to do that.
We like the warmth and informality of the open kitchen, the smart servers, and that it's okay to come by yourself. Their menu rotates and some things we mention here may be on hiatus. Don't go without a reservation; you can make them two months in advance. Come spring, you'll love their subterranean patio. Street parking can be challenging but it's a reasonable walk from Back Bay station.
B & G is one of eight in Barbara Lynch's current roster. The James Beard Foundation announced Lynch is one of this year's nominees to its Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America honoring culinary professionals who "display remarkable talent and achievement."
B & G Oysters
550 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
617. 423. 0550
Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. You can read about her food adventures at Corporate Edge.
by Chef Mark Shoup