Order this... Fresh take on favorite Food at Block Island Oyster Bar and Grill
If you’ve been to Block Island in the past 35 years, you probably have heard of or been to or eaten at a place touched by Kimberly. Her newest endeavor with husband Norman Ward and Chef Terry Smith is the Block Island Oyster Bar & Grill, entering its second year down by Champlin’s. The Oyster Bar opened last summer to rave reviews and buzz around the island — a “great place to meet and the miso cod is amazing,” along with contented sighs about magical “Gazpacho Bloody Marys.”
There isn’t a bad seat in the house at the Oyster Bar & Grill; no matter where you’re perched you’ll be looking at the Great Salt Pond in all its glory. A water recreation area jutting out from the shore below the restaurant teems with activity: paddle boarders learning to stand without falling, bumper boats nudging each other and families clamming along the shoreline. Boats motor in and out of the cut with engines low enough to power them in and out of moorings, though not loud enough to attract the attention of a mother duck and her babies swimming nearby. If you’re sitting at the bar outside, you’ll be under a lovely shade tent — which blankets the entire outdoor pet-friendly dining area — and you’ll have a view of not just the pond but also the adjacent pool and playground area. A giant jug of fermenting vegetables and vodka sits at the bar’s end; this is the base of the Gazpacho Bloody Mary bursting with onions, peppers, red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, scallions and bok choy. An indoor dining area showcases the same great view of the harbor while providing an enclosed place for diners to peruse photos by local photographer Lisa Sprague. Many diners come to the Oyster Bar directly from their boats, so you’ll see a lot of people dressed “nice but casual” — golf shirts and shorts for men, shift sundresses for women.
Chef Terry began our tasting with two plentiful platters of local oysters done two ways. Grilled oysters topped with crunchy parmesan cheese were as good as I remembered them when they debuted at the BIMI oyster fest a few years ago. Japanese Style oysters were a delightful twist on the traditional raw oyster with cocktail sauce. A light miso glaze and spicy red wakame seaweed brought fresh heat and flavor, which balanced nicely with the shellfish. A signature salad aptly named Strawberry Fields was served brimming with fresh strawberries, goat cheese, sun dried cranberries and a light balsamic glaze. Spiced pumpkin seeds added a lovely crunch to the salad, perfect for a summer lunch or with the new Crab Cake just added to the menu. A crisp Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc with a clean dry taste accompanied our final dish, the Lobster Pot Pie. As he did with the Japanese Oysters, Chef Terry took this traditional dish and spun it around, keeping the elements of a pot pie intact while transforming it into a light yet satisfying summer meal. Grilled corn, portobello mushrooms and a substantial amount of tender lobster meat are bathed in a roasted fennel Pernod cream sauce resting under a flaky, crispy disk of pastry crust. We loved the contrast of the crunch of the pie crust with the tender meat of the lobster, and the licorice notes of the fennel cut through the richness of the creamy sauce.
What everyone else is eating/drinking:
Kimberly and Chef Terry told us that “everyone has been loving the Lobster Pot Pie” and I found that to be true during two separate visits to the Oyster Bar. Mary and Matt from Sturbridge along with Matt’s brother, Marty Kibbe and his wife Gail from East Longmeadow, Mass., came to the Oyster Bar via their boat and both men had the Lobster Pot Pie. It was “very, very good.” Marty told me six of the guys he worked with are coming here next week and he is going to recommend that “they come here because the food is great and the view is awesome.” Gail and Mary each had the Strawberry Fields salad and New England Clam Chowder. Gail said the spiced pumpkin seeds in the salad were “spicy and good.” All commented that their server, Lizzie was “excellent” and “we will definitely come back here again.” A family from Sandy Hook, Conn., dined here last year and was excited to return. Chuck and Anna Christina, mom and dad to Cate and Grace, said that “we are usually really adventurous eaters and like to try new things, but we all ordered the exact same thing we had last year because it was so good.” They shared the Japanese Oysters; Cate pronounced her Blackened Chicken Mac and Cheese “as good as I remembered it,” and Grace and Anna Christina each enjoyed Seafood Cioppino “as good as it was last time.” Chuck had the Ahi Tuna Tacos and noted that the “jicama was really really good.” Sharon and Peter from Exeter, R.I. had also visited the Oyster Bar last year, and came back because “the food is outstanding — we’ve eaten all over this island and this is the only place where we can get something we can’t make at home.” They will be coming back twice more this summer and plan to bring their friends here when they return. The couple has their boat moored nearby and love that they can take their dinghy right to the dock and walk up to the restaurant, where Peter finished off the Lobster Pot Pie and Sharon enjoyed the same. They also ordered calamari which was “good, not overcooked at all, very tender and good flavor” and split a lemon berry mascarpone “so good” dessert.
The last women I spoke with summed up the Oyster Bar quite nicely. Gwen and her friend, who live on Block Island, were sitting at the bar having a glass of wine and the Parmesan Crusted Oysters. I asked them why they come here and they said “it’s just a nice place for visitors and locals. You can come here, get off your feet, and enjoy the view. I mean, look at this place.” We looked out at the boats, the sun starting to color the sky deep pink, a breeze lifting off the ocean, a boat sailing by. Good food, good wine, good view — whether you’re a boater, a local or a visitor — the Oyster Bar is not to be missed.