Oysters are a food with one hell of a reputation. Since ancient times, they have been considered an aphrodisiac, a means of boosting human ardour and prowess in bedroom gymnastics. While there has been no true scientific information with which to back this up, it is a belief that remains with us in the 21st Century. Oysters, nevertheless, are highly nutritious bivalves, seeing how they are rich in such essential nutrients as zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, and Vitamins A and B12. Ideally, to get the most out of the nutritive value, oysters should be eaten raw in a manner that has not changed since the days of the Roman Empire: shucked straight out of their gnarly shells, a squeeze of fresh lemon drizzled over, and eaten with abandon with bread and beer.
Over the centuries, of course, the notion of eating oysters has changed with various culinary trends and local customs. That said, I personally find that the most appealing way of devouring oysters has to be if and when they’re prepared as oysters Rockefeller.
The name of the dish comes from the delighted exclamation of a diner who tried the dish at Antoine’s in New Orleans where it was first prepared by the proprietor’s son in 1899. A patron was so taken by how the oysters were smothered with spinach puree, sauce bechamel, and crispy breadcrumbs that he declared, “These oysters are as rich as Rockefeller”, alluding to legendary magnate John D. Rockefeller. As a result, the name stuck.
The best place, in my opinion, to have oysters Rockefeller in this part of the world is at any of the Via Mare chain of restaurants. Here, fresh oysters are smothered in a magnificently decadent sauce bechamel. The classic white sauce is further enriched by the addition of grated Cheddar cheese, crisp bacon bits, and finely-chopped spinach. It is a divine blend of flavours that does not drown out the minerally taste of the shellfish; indeed, it amps it up and you get a well-balanced mouthful of salty creaminess with the pleasantly ferrous tang of the oysters. An eight-piece serving of this classic dish will set you back just P 345.00 and they show up on an almost volcanically platter, resting on a bed of sea salt. It is perfect for sharing and, as above, is a fitting side dish or appetizer to a meal featuring such Filipino classics as beef tripe kare-kare and arroz ala Cubana, but I prefer to have these as an entree following Via Mare’s equally delectable Caesar Salad.
Cafe Via Mare: 2nd Floor – The Landmark Department Store, Ayala Center, Makati City
Via Mare Oyster Bar: Ground Floor – Greenbelt III, Ayala Center, Makati City