How to order and enjoy oysters in a restaurant

Oysters are a popular delicacy, yet, for many people the idea of ordering oysters at a restaurant is still quite scary, because they aren't sure what to order or how to eat them. There is a mystique surrounding oysters, and, unless you are familiar with eating them, it can be tempting to avoid the uncertainty and choose something more commonplace instead. It's a shame to avoid oysters since once you know how to appreciate them they do make a fantastic appetiser. Here is a guide that will explain everything you need to know before you order oysters in a restaurant.

How do oysters taste?

It is hard to define the taste of oysters because they do vary greatly in flavour. Oysters are greatly impacted by their surroundings so the flavour profile of the oyster, known as the "terroir", is dependent on factors as varied as the food of the oyster, the currents where the oyster was caught and nutrients that were in the water around the oyster. You may notice flavours as diverse as melon, butter or copper depending on where a particular oyster was caught.

Ordering your oysters

There are many different types of oysters and the size and taste will vary accordingly, so if you know what the oyster choices on the menu will be, it's a good idea to do some research in advance to see which you may prefer. If you can't research in advance, then it is perfectly acceptable to ask the waiter for a recommendation when it is time to order.

Examining your oysters

When your oysters arrive, they should be full of meat and have a fresh, sea-water scent. Expect them to be served in their own juice, which is known as the "liquor". If you happen to be served oysters which smell 'off' then don't be afraid to send them back.

Eating your oysters

Eating oysters is often considered a challenge but it doesn't have to be. If you aren't familiar with oysters, then it is always best to eat your first one without any condiments so you can savour the full flavour. Start by using your fork to make certain that the oyster meat has separated from the shell. Make sure that you chew the meat to extract all of the flavours from the oyster.

Once you know how the oyster tastes, you may eat the rest of the oysters with anything you like. Popular choices include lemon, horseradish, Tabasco or shallot sauce, but that is a matter of personal taste and something you can only learn by experience.