Restaurant Review: Grand Central Oyster Bar

Filed under creepy boyfriend obsession, it's fun to be fat, living in new york is neat, narcissism, restaurant ramblings

I don’t like seafood. I don’t like that it’s been swimming around in a cesspool of its own feces, and I don’t like that it tastes like it. But when your boyfriend wants to gulp an entire plate of raw ocean animalia, you don’t argue; you make him take you to the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

The restaurant is underground, cavernous, monstrous, with huge arced ceilings tiled and lined with lights. It feels more like you’re at an expensive wedding reception than on a private date. It’s not really dim enough to be romantic, the tablecloths are a very small-town-diner red-checker, you can hear the slurps of the couple dining right next to you, and the clatter of silverware echoes off the walls. But for some reason, you feel really great being there. Really 1920s flapper-girl-in-a-string-of-pearls. You expect fat cats in suits and top hats to walk through the door any moment. But the unpretentious, jolly kind of fat cats.

The menu is amazing. If you like seafood. In a different life, I would’ve dove right into that caviar sandwich (because what isn’t good on bread?), and a jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail sounds like an alcoholic’s delight. Kamran was intent on our trying the bloody mary oyster shooter and splitting the bivalve platter, but since I can barely stomach the word “bivalve”, we settled on some New England clam chowder. Which was totally delicious, even before I added three bags of oyster crackers to it. It wasn’t fishy at all, and the clam didn’t have the rubbery consistency I expected.

I had planned to play it legit and order the half chicken, but Kamran convinced me that if anyone was going to do fish right, it was “America’s most historic and celebrated seafood restaurant”. So I ordered one of the specials, a sturgeon splashed with rum sauce and golden raisins, hoping that the rum would get me drunk enough that I’d forget I was eating the ocean. It came with some nice buttery vegetables to help clear my palate between bites to keep me from freaking out and this REALLY AWESOME RICE. I don’t have any idea what was in it, but it was a cheesy little ball of hearty warm nothing-else-I’ve-ever-tasted. And hey, the fish wasn’t bad, either. When I asked the waiter if he thought sturgeon was okay for a seafood-hater, he told me that it’s so mild there’s a dish called sturgeon cordon bleu. And he was right for the most part; the ends of the hunk were much thinner and were a little bit browned, and they were actually what I might call “delicious”. The middle was thick and moist, and although it didn’t really taste any different from the ends, the fact that I could see all of the meaty layers freaked me out, so I had to leave a bit of it behind. Still, I was obviously proud of myself:

When I finished, Kamran said that

a) it’s good I have no idea what a sturgeon looks like, or I would’ve been too scared to eat it, and

b) he, a seafood fanatic, wasn’t sure he would’ve had the guts to try it. YES!

And speaking of guts, Kamran ordered the medley of shellfish and ended up being a little overwhelmed by the huge plate of oysters and clams arranged from smallest to largest, mussels, and giant shrimp.

He had been really excited about eating clams after having stealing a really good one from his sister’s plate the last time we were at Balthazar, but the clams on this plate weren’t cooked, and his stomach wasn’t quite prepared for that after a childhood incident involving bad clams that made him sick. The oysters were a suckin’


swishin’ good time, though, and he liked everything else on the plate so much that he had a hard time deciding what to save for last. Although he did spend the rest of the night feeling like slimy things were swimming around in his stomach, so I felt vindicated.

Overall, I’d say the food must be pretty great if the anti-seafood-est person alive was able to handle it with a smile, and the atmosphere was neat if not dark and romantic, and it was the sort of experience that you feel like you can only get in New York. And that’s what it’s all about.

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  1. gooroo says:

    Excellent review. I hate fishy tasting fish, but I could get along with fish that tastes like something else – except now I can’t because I keep thinking about “swimming around in a cesspool of its own feces” so thanks a lot.

    • plumpdumpling says:

      My problem is that I really loooooooove tartar sauce. I’d be happy to eat fish (battered and fried, of course) all the time if it meant smothering it in the stuff, but none of these fancy-schmancy places Kamran takes me to would hear of it.

  2. Sarah says:

    I don’t think I’d have ordered sturgeon, so well done you!

    I am completely creeped out by the word bivalve. Two of the kids in my 4th grade computer class wrote a story called “Robo Bivalves.”

    • plumpdumpling says:

      It was mostly the rum and raisins that convinced me, but I also really like the name sturgeon. It sounds commanding, as if it would be wearing a monocle and rapier in the sea and using a British accent.

      Your kids are so clever! That almost makes me not hate them. Was it any good?

  3. imperfectionist says:

    I actually saved this to my computer, it’s so perfect. It rivals the look on Bob Barr’s face after he’s told that the cheese in his mouth is made from Borat’s wife’s breast milk.

    • plumpdumpling says:

      That face describes exactly how Kamran and I feel every day, just having to face life. You can imagine how inflated his ego is over this comment.

      For a while at my work, there was a baby bottle in the refrigerator, and we were SO CLOSE to collecting donations for a food challenge in which someone had to drink it, but then one of the guys stepped up and said that it was cow’s milk that he’d just brought for his coffee in a baby bottle for convenience.

      Breast milk just totally doesn’t freak me out, though, as long as it’s from a cleanly woman. And breast milk CHEESE? What could be more natural?

  4. ael88 says:

    The last time I ate fish, I was at a friend’s house on Good Friday when I was 11. They were only serving seafood, and I didn’t want to be rude. My palms were sweating, and it took so much effort to eat the first bite. The Mum must have noticed, because she said I didn’t have to eat it if I didn’t want to.

    I have such a fear of seafood. I wouldn’t have been able to walk through the restaurant doors. I feel queasy just looking at that chunk on your plate, imagining its juicy, scaly, rubbery texture. Grooooooooss.

    • plumpdumpling says:

      What’s wrong with us? My parents hate fish but strangely loved peel-and-eat shrimp when I was growing up. PEEL-AND-EAT SHRIMP. It sounds so grotesque. So there was never any fish for dinner at my house, and I just grew up with a strange feeling about the flavor of the ocean. If I ever have kids, I’m mixing that stuff into their baby food just so they taste it from the very beginning.

      It wasn’t rubbery, I swear. Maybe if Kamran gets me to eat enough seafood, I’ll turn the tables and force a bunch of it on you when you get here.

  5. Tracey says:

    Yeah, I don’t think you can really call yourself “the anti-seafood-est person alive” anymore. You and your willingness to try new things.

    You wouldn’t even have gotten me to try the clam chowder, and I would have ordered the chicken for sure.

    • plumpdumpling says:

      I hope you understand what you’re getting into by visiting me next month. Kamran and I are already scheming ways to trick you into coming to the conveyor belt sushi place EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

      It’s really much easier to try fish when Kamran’s the one paying for it. I figure that if he’s spending the money and doesn’t really care if I totally hate my dish, I might as well eat what he wants me to.

      • Tracey says:

        Not gonna happen. Especially since I plan to eat at Serendipity EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, along with lots of hot dog vendor lunches and latenight pizza-place trips.

        Completely unrelated: Do I have to be a WordPress user of some sort in order to have a user icon? It’s so sad to see the empty silhouette by my (and everyone else’s) comments.

        • plumpdumpling says:

          Oh, Tracey, that would make me pleased as punch. Kamran is evidently going to be in California during your stay, which means that I don’t even have to feel guilty about it as he watches me disapproving from his corner of the table with a salad.

          The user icon comes from, which allows you to upload a photo that’s then linked from your e-mail address. So in order to have your icon show up, you’d have to input your e-mail address here every time. Which I guess isn’t a big deal if Firefox remembers it. I enabled the plug-in for it just to see how it would look, and I kind of like that I can differentiate my comments from everyone else’s, but it looks stupid to have everyone else’s blank. I was thinking of uploading a blank white square as the default icon for users who don’t have a Gravatar so it just looks like nothing; what do you think?

          • Tracey says:

            Wait. He’s going to be out of town? He is deliberately trying to avoid me?! I was looking forward to some Kamran-time. Just for this, he’s required to come to my wedding, now.

            I may have to do the Gravatar thing. (I don’t see myself ever getting around to doing it, though.) I don’t think the silhouettes are so bad. I was just curious.

            • plumpdumpling says:

              At first, I was like, “Man, now Tracey and Kamran are NEVER going to get to be friends!” But then I started thinking about how if your brother AND Kamran were with us, we’d totally ignore them the entire time and force them to talk to each other while we giggle about non-boy subjects.

              Here’s the icon I made for you: Baaaaaaaaaby Bowie. Now you HAVE to get a Gravatar.

  6. Emily says:

    This reminds me of a story, which I shall tell you now:

    My father has lived all over the world, and therefore has some pretty amazing story. His all-time best seafood story was from when he lived in Seoul. The company that brought him to Seoul took him out to a huge welcome dinner at a really fancy, rich-person restaurant in the snazzy part of downtown Seoul. The first dish that was brought to the table was a gigantic platter of raw baby octopus. My father was both horrified and disgusted, but not wanting to be rude to his hosts, he followed suit, grabbed one with his chop sticks, brought it to his mouth…where it promptly splayed its tentacles across his face and sucked on as tight as its poor little baby octopus tentacles could. The poor little guy was fighting for his life, because ALL THE BABY OCTOPUS ON THAT PLATTER WERE STILL ALIVE. Everyone at the table laughed at my father the stupid American and explained that he had to crush the brains when he picked up the octopus and slurp it down while its little baby neurons were still firing.

    Did I say it was his best seafood story? Tricked you! I actually meant it was the most awful seafood story I’ve ever heard. They might be from Seoul, but I just refuse to believe that people who will let a highly intelligent (not to mention endangered) animal slowly suffocate on a cold platter before partially crushing its skull and then eating it HAVE a soul.

    • plumpdumpling says:

      I love anything described as snazzy. And this story in general. I hate to think that the cleverness of the last paragraph is wasted on just me, though; you need to submit this to PETA or someone who can make you famous.

      Was your dad willing to do the crushing and the slurping? Because it’s one thing to eat fish parts that have no eyes or fins or mouths attached to them, but I can’t imagine having to kill the thing myself.

  7. Tracey says:

    Testing the new Gravatar!

    • plumpdumpling says:

      Too bad it’s so tiny. Maybe I should’ve zoomed in on the crotchular area.

      • Tracey says:

        Yes! I didn’t think about being a new commenter just because of the new address. Feel free to delete some of those extra comments I left.

        And I think it looks awesome. Thanks, baby!

  8. Tracey says:

    It disappeared. Are you moderating comments now or something?

    Testing it again!


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