My Afternoon With 36 Oysters

And I didn't break a 20!

What does $13 get you in this town? Every week on Voracious, the Weekly's food blog, we send someone out to investigate. Where: Flying Fish, 2234 First Ave., 728-8595, BELLTOWN When: Mon.–Fri., 5–6 p.m. only (no matter what they tell you on the phone). Cost: 25 cents a pop times three dozen ($9) plus tax and tip equals $13. Official Tasting Notes: Two weeks ago I sidled up to the bar at Flying Fish, which was not as packed as I'd expected. Apparently, as the bartender noted, word has yet to get out about this deal. I'd been looking forward to the restaurant's oyster happy hour for months, waiting for the bivalves to be done spawning and good to eat. (For an explication of the gooey details of oyster hermaphroditism and the reasons many people do not consume oysters during months without an R, my dining companion recommended Mark Kurlansky's The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. Short answer: It's all about texture and food safety.) We were served up three dozen fat Totten Inlet Virginicas in large, round, ice-filled aluminum trays. As the bartender explained, Virginicas are an East Coast oyster that has been transplanted to the Pacific Northwest. Flying Fish offers traditional lemon wedges, horseradish sauce, and Tabasco with its oyster platters, as well as a sweet house-made cocktail sauce. They were fantastic: sweet, plump, the shells cupping a tiny mouthful of salty liquid, tinged with a delicate metallic flavor. These were big oysters, so if you're wary of size, you might call ahead to find out what type of oysters are on the menu that night, as it's all of one kind. These oysters demand to be bitten into—I know, some people are of the slurp-only stance, but really, you do have to bite the creature to taste its goodness. You'll no doubt want some cool refreshment to wash down these fatties. Trumer, the pilsner from Berkeley, Calif., on tap, was a lovely light beer (think high-end Bud). It paired nicely with a lemon-juice-anointed oyster. But three dozen between two of us was a bit much. Would I eat it again? Easily. Go early to grab a stool by the bar. Later in the season, the bartender told me, the crowd gets three-deep, and it's standing room only. He also mentioned that people have been known to lose their manners, ordering three dozen bivalves at a time and attempting to send back the small ones. The unofficial record of oyster consumption by a single person: something like six or eight dozen.

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