It is all too easy to take the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station for granted. In fact, it is one of the great seafood restaurants of New York, great in every respect: beautiful to see with its vaulted tiled ceiling and counter-seat views of the oyster shuckers and pan roasters at work, and amazing in its menu, which is printed every day. It is not unusual to count several dozen kinds of raw oysters available, and an itemized “day’s catch” from around America and the world that would put most fish markets to shame. Anyone for whole smelts? How about black cod filet, Arctic char, wolf fish, weakfish, pink snapper, sturgeon steak, or seared hamachi (that’s yellowtail)? All were on the menu one day in June.
Every day, it is possible to eat totally classically. This kitchen makes fine fish ‘n’ chips, bouillabaisse, crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller, and fried clams. On a splurgy evening, there’s nothing better than its perfectly prepared Dover sole meuniere. If you want shrimp, you can have them grilled, fried in rice batter or coconut, cocktail-cool, or stewed.
Other than raw oysters, probably the best-known thing to eat at the Oyster Bar is one of its pan roasts, which are made up front in the open kitchen where the shuckers work. A pan roast is a buttery soup/stew of seafood, cream, pepper and spice. It is based on the shellfish of your choice and served in a broad bowl.
Whole meals can be very expensive, especially if you get lots of raw oysters, which can cost $3 or more apiece. Most entrees are $30 and up. But it is also possible to have a satisfying lunchtime pan roast or sandwich for around $20. There is a big wine list and a spectacular round-the-world beer list; and we think the Key lime pie served here for dessert is the best for miles around.