Enjoy a full plate of fresh oysters at Bar Cecil.
PHOTO COURTESY BAR CECIL
With a history of cultivation for consumption that dates to Roman times, impressive levels of nourishing vitamin B12, and a potential to produce pearls, it’s no wonder oysters have their own holiday. There are over 100 varieties of true oysters — oysters classified as Ostreidae that are safe for human consumption. And we’re ready to celebrate (er, devour) them for National Oyster Day, Aug. 5.
If you consider the succulent fare off limits in the summer, you can think again. That old rule of thumb about only consuming the sharp-edged shellfish during months with an “r” in their names — in other words, not during the hottest stretch of the year — no longer holds true. Almost all commercially available oysters are cultivated on sustainable open-water aquaculture farms that are rigorously regulated; fresh oysters are flown in regularly to restaurants from the best saltwater locales. In a fun bit of local lore, entrepreneur Walter H. Morgan, who opened the La Quinta Hotel (now La Quinta Resort & Club) in 1926 that would give the city of La Quinta its name, was heir to an oyster company fortune. Who knows what the city might be called without the influence of oysters!
If you’ve got a penchant for briny bivalve mollusks, you can indulge in them year-round, and on National Oyster Day, at these local spots. Sadly, pearl producing oysters are not true oysters, so there’s no chance of finding a pearl while you celebrate. But you can perfectly pair the dish with bubbles, sparkling wine, or a gin martini.
Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, Palm Desert
Pacifica doesn’t just serve oysters, they celebrate Oyster Fest every week, Monday to Thursday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Enjoy $2 oysters on the half shell, plus $14 glasses of sparkling wine from Roederer Estate and $9 appetizers. They also feature baked oysters on the half shell by the half-dozen with sautéed spinach and lemon-Parmesan gratinée on the dinner menu.
Bar Cecil, Palm Springs
Hand-picked by the fish monger and mostly from the Pacific Northwest, Bar Cecil’s oysters change from time to time to ensure the freshest offerings. Their summer oysters are Kumiai oysters from Baja Mexico with a dollop of Regiis Ova caviar on top. Other favorites of chef/partner Gabriel Woo are Raspberry Point and Beausoleil oysters. This chic eatery often books out well in advance, but walk-ins are welcome at the bar — a perfect spot to enjoy fare commonly served from behind the pine since the 19th century.
Agua Chilie Oysters from Tac/Quila.
PHOTO COURTESY TAC/QUILA
Tac/Quila, Palm Springs
For a spicy Mexican take on oysters, check out Tac/Quila’s Agua Chilie Oysters. Sourced from the eastern coast of Vancouver Island’s Fanny Bay, these oysters are on the sweeter side with light brine. Chef David Arreguin adds raw diced shrimp, fresh squeezed lime juice, sliced chiltepin peppers, and a housemade secret oyster sauce. These pair great with the restaurant’s craft margaritas!
Nobu, Indian Wells
Known for fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, Nobu has created one of the most recognized Japanese restaurant chains in the world. On the menu at their Indian Wells location are oysters with wasabi salsa, sure to be a memorable part of an always-decadent dining experience.
La Quinta Cliffhouse, La Quinta
Perched on the mountainside in the heart of the desert, La Quinta Cliffhouse is a longtime local gem for fresh seafood. Their oysters on the half shell with cucumber mignonette come with cocktail sauce and horseradish for a classic and tasty take on the favorite mollusk in their inviting and vibrant dining room or rocky patio.
Le Sel Oysters (pop-ups and private parties)
Kevin Carlow’s new oyster bar pop-up centers around his love for shellfish. Aside from oysters, they also shuck clams, prepare dishes with seasonal organic produce, and make homemade pickles and smoked trout paté. All the offerings are made from scratch with fine oyster varieties from the East Coast flown in overnight for each event. “I truly believe shucking should be done in front of a crowd, with jokes and flair,” Carlow says. Expect an entertaining pop-up or two this summer (keep an eye on their Instagram for updates) and email [email protected] for private party inquiries.
Ruben & Ozzy’s Oyster Bar & Grill, Palm Springs
Another favorite locale for oysters is Ruben & Ozzy’s Oyster Bar & Grill, serving up everything from oyster shooters to a grilled New Orleans–style variation topped with garlic, special sauce, and Jack cheese. But you’ll have to wait until the restaurant reopens in September to visit.