It makes a grand entrance like no other dish. As it parades through a dining room and is then placed in the middle of a table, elevated, customers stare with awe as if to say, “Who’s the lucky one who ordered that?” It’s the raw seafood platter—and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or any special date, than with decadent raw delicacies from the sea?
There are many odes to shellfish platters around the city, ranging from chilled oysters to dramatic three-tiered plateaus that contain quite a variety, usually oysters, mussels, clams, crab legs, and lobster. There’s the chilled raw seafood plate at Zenkichi, a modern Japanese brasserie, the seafood platter at Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Fish Shack, and Le Bernardin’s minimalist and sublime progressive tasting of Kumamoto oysters ”en gelée.” And while impeccably prepared seafood is of utmost importance, the appropriate dinner guest is indeed an integral aspect to enjoying a seafood platter, for this is an intimate dish.
As such, the shellfish plateaus at Lure are popular with couples, and chef Josh Capon says it’s a great choice to order while on a date. “They’re obviously very sexy,” he says. “It’s icy, it’s cold, it’s refreshing—and it’s a great dish to share because there’s a lot of activity around it: reaching, touching, dipping, and feeding each other. There’s no question about it. It’s fun.”
Laurence Edelman, chef at Mermaid Oyster Bar, agrees. “The platters look great, and they represent the sea,” he says. “But on Valentine’s Day, it’s all about the zinc.” Mermaid Oyster Bar’s grand platter features littleneck clams, cherrystones, chilled mussels, crab claws plus a mix of East and West Coast oysters.
Oysters, the indisputable highlight of any seafood platter, contain high levels of zinc, widely known as an aphrodisiac. “Yes, supposedly oysters have some aphrodisiac qualities,” says chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. “So they’re a good thing to order,” he laughs. “Plus, when you place oysters in the middle of the table, they have a certain drama to experience.”
The drama is definitely enticing: the ice, the height, the abundance. “The seafood platter is very visual,” says Ralpheal Abrahante, chef at seafood-based Greek restaurant Thalassa, “with all the colors and flavors, and the way it sits in the middle of the table.” Thalassa’s chilled shellfish piato, which includes Kumamoto oysters, head-on shrimp, Prince Edward Island mussels, and lobster, is “excellent for a date, because not only is raw seafood very healthy, but using your hands to eat is very sexy.”
Since, as Capon says, “a lot of people toast with a glass of Champagne when enjoying the seafood plateau, it’s a definitely a festive dish.” Yet, as Abrahante points out, “it’s also intimate and brings people together at the table. There’s nothing like raw seafood to stimulates all the senses.”
To read more about Tracey’s food adventures, visit The Busy Hedonist.
BLT Fish Shack
21 West 17th St
155 West 51st St
142 Mercer Street
Mermaid Oyster Bar
79 MacDougal St
179 Franklin St
77 North 6th St