In light of my last post about finding certain foods or flavors repulsive, I wonder what percentage of the population finds raw oysters to be disgusting, slimy things that they would never dare put in their mouths? I can already think of one friend (yes you, Jenobi!). But overall, the success of raw bars like Oyster House in Philadelphia already tells me that the little guys can't be universally hated.
I had my first raw oyster in New Orleans a few years ago, and it took some time to get used to the strong ocean taste and soft, fleshy texture. But with a bit of lemon juice and increased exposure (my companions ordered dozen after dozen), I started to see what all the fuss was about. Apparently, people have been eating oysters since "prehistory", and Jonathan Swift is quoted as having said, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster".
At raw bars like Oyster House, they usually offer a few different varieties of oysters, differentiated by the region from where they were plucked. Wikipedia states: "Like fine wine, raw oysters have complex flavors that vary greatly among varieties and regions: sweet, salty, earthy, or even melon... Salinity, mineral, and nutrient variations in the water that nurtures them influence their flavor profile." When I went (first photo), the oysters were from Cape May, NJ. During my California trip, I had a Japanese-style preparation of raw Kumamoto oyster most likely from Washington State (photo above) at Shintaro Sushi. The Cape May had more of a salty, ocean taste whereas the Japanese preparation lessened that effect and brought out more of the sweetness. Really delicious either way, although in this case I think I preferred the Kumamoto oyster.
Side note: Oyster House has a nice happy hour special "A-Buck-A-Shuck" (M-F, 5-7pm, Sat, 9-11pm) where the oyster of the day is only $1 apiece and a select draft for $3. I had Cape May oysters and Kenzinger was on draft. Not a bad deal--the combination of fresh oysters and good beer is definitely a winner.
We also had these oyster shooters, which were really not for me. A raw oyster dunked in a liquor-filled shot glass. Blech! Already the look of it was a bit much... reminded me too much of a random organ half-floating in a mini-jar of formaldehyde. Downing it was quite a struggle.