Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I Have to Tell You About These Oysters

It's not often that I write a second piece about a restaurant I've already covered, but the oysters we had at Imperial Palace a couple of weeks ago were so amazing that I felt they deserved a post of their own. We're already in the culinary fourth quarter, and I think the steamed oysters in the shell with X.O. sauce may well be the dish of the year. In addition, everything else we ate that night further convinced me that Imperial Palace may well be the best Cantonese restaurant in the New York area.

The oysters were the enormous ones I've only seen in Chinese restaurants. I don't know what they're called or where they're from, and I don't think I'd want to eat them raw, but they form the basis of some great Cantonese dishes. I've had them battered and fried, on a sizzling platter with black pepper sauce, steamed in the shell with black bean sauce, and in casseroles with ginger and scallion or roast pig. In fact, until this recent Imperial Palace oyster experience, my favorite Chinese oyster dish was the casserole with roast pig at midtown's Phoenix Garden.

These oysters at Imperial Palace were works of art. Each shell had a bath of savory X.O. sauce surrounding an oyster that was topped with a perfectly complimentary combination of minced crispy bacon and scallions. The sheer luxuriance of these beauteous bivalves, along with the supporting flavors, sent most of my fellow diners into paroxysms of ecstasy. As a matter of fact, I might not have thought to use the word "bath" in my description if Holly had not exclaimed, in her unbridled enthusiasm over this dish, "I want to bathe in this sauce!"

X.O. sauce, by the way, is a relatively recent addition to Chinese cuisine. It is named in homage to X.O. Cognac, which is an extremely popular drink among Chinese people (indeed, it is often consumed as a beverage during meals), but the sauce doesn't actually contain any Cognac. Developed in Hong Kong in the 1980s, it is a concentrated flavoring made of dried seafood cooked with chili, garlic, onions and oil.

Imperial Palace
136-13 37th Avenue, Flushing
Near the 7 train Main Street stop.


Blogger Jennie said...

Check out the website www.rawoysteralert.com. I was shocked to learn that several individuals die each year from the consumption of raw oysters that are contaminated with naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. Some gulf states have chosen to not take action in order to make raw oysters safe for ALL consumers.

Several years ago, the state of California made a requirement that all imported raw oysters must be pasteurized and since that requirement was put into place there have been NO FURTHER DEATHS in that state.

In order to affect change, consumers need to only accept oysters that are SAFE through post harvest processing or through being cooked. Consumer demand drives the market and the industry would be forced to provide oysters that did not lead to unnecessary deaths.

The website www.rawoysteralert.com has a wealth of information available and also explains how you can help in making the consumption of oysters safe for everyone.

11:20 AM  

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