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Harbour, oyster shucking class

Have you ever watched the spectacle of shucking oysters in person and thought you could do that, or wanted to try? Well, Harbour Oyster Bar on Commercial Drive has you with their oyster shucking classes. The next one is this December 11th from 8-10pm, but as per their eventbrite page, all 16 in restaurant seats available for booking have sold out. So be sure to look out for the next one.

For those interested there is a 2 tickets minimum, so find a friend and bring them along. Classes are $125 per person and includes a take home keepsake and functional shucking knife. Plus the 6 oysters you will shuck and then eat, and their “Seafood Trio” set to graze on as you learn.

The classes coincide with their reserve happy hour from 9pm to close (outside of their generous 11-5pm regular happy hour), which gives you good reason to enjoy or drink or two from their bar as you shuck.

Case in point, our group would start off with a shot of whisky for the nerves.

Then follow this with a bottle of white wine for the table, seeing as we are working with and will be dining on seafood from their menu.

Looking for a cocktail? Then I recommend their savoury spicy Harbour Caesar that comes garnished with a skewer of shrimp, olive, and baby corn. Alberta Pure Vodka, Caesar mix, and Clamato in a rimmed class. You get a great mesquite flavour from it thanks to the spice rub rim. I just would have liked the consistency a little thicker for my tastes.

Our class began with an introduction to oysters, where we learned the difference between the Eastcoast and Westcoast varieties. For West Coast we had Fanny Bay oysters that could prove challenging, due to the nature of their snaking ridged shells that are prone to chipping, during the shucking process. Although the meat within is more creamy and more flavourful from these tangy shells.

And from the East Coast we had Irish points from Prince Edward Island. These oysters are more firm with a uniform edge to their shells, and it comes in a whole piece. It was said that these oysters are typically more briny in nature.

Once we were better acquainted with our shellfish we learned the tools needed to shuck and how to properly grip each. Using your hand towel as a comfortable and protective shield, should you mis-stab.

After private table tutoring by Mike, their in house shucker extraordinaire, and competition tested veteran, we were off to steady our hand and test our luck. Honestly once you know the steps and work your way through them, the process isn’t too hard.

You begin by locating the lip of the oyster and inserting the pointed tip of your shucking tool into it. Then gingerly, in a twisting of the wrist motion you use your shucker to drive a wedge between either sides of the shell. After you hear a pop, you scrape the top part of the shell to release the meat. Once cleared you remove the top shell and then using a scraping motion, slice the meat from the bottom half of the shell as well. Once loosened and free, you rearrange the meat in shell for a more aesthetic display.

I won’t go into too much more detail on it, and you can only take away so much from my description, so will encourage you to take the class for yourself.

A few of us ate as we went, but I was determined to shuck all of my 6 for a presentation worthy plate. Having done this for myself, I can honestly say there is no difference between Eastern and Western oysters in terms of shucking, and if you have a great coach like Mike, can make easy work out of it.

As mentioned above, each class comes with their Seafood Trio to nibble on as you work and drink. Although honestly you don’t have much room on the table, and if you are anything like me, will be too fully engaged in shucking to attempt to multitask.

The Cocktail shrimp were classic with a zest wasabi dip.

I found the Mussels and Clam Escabeche well seasoned and tasty. “Escabeche” is a term for marinated fish, meat or vegetables, cooked or pickled in an acidic sauce, and seasoned with paprika and citrus”, as per Wikipedia. It was like a ceviche, but cooked and much bolder in flavour from the pickling. This we had as is, but it would have been nice over a crostini or cracker.

By comparison the Tuna Tataki was light and lean. A thick slab of tuna flavoured in a fragrant miso ginger broth. This I found a little on the salty side and not all that complimentary with the other 2 elements of this trio.

Not part of the oyster shucking class, but worth trying, since you are already at Harbour and this is one of their happy hour specials. Their seafood boil bowls are a set price per person, depending on the featured seafood. We went with the lobster boil that included crustaceans from the other boil options, but minus crawfish. Fresh lobster, mussels, clams, prawn, corn, chorizo, potatoes, garlic bread, and a basket of fries.

It comes out of the kitchen in a bucket and gets poured out table side over a tray. From here you dawn one of their plastic lobster bibs and go hands in. Rifling through a hot pile of herbed buttered seafood and carbs. Delicious and the eating experience is worth it alone.

Available on the regular menu, we also tried their Shishito peppers, with the hope that 1 in 14 were indeed spicy and that someone at our table would bite into it. Sadly this was not the case, but I was a fan of them nonetheless. Charred Blistered shishito peppers served with a creamy and tangy lemon mayo for dipping into. Not quite crispy, not quite soft, they make a great bar snack.

The Steak tartare was tender and delicate, best over the crunchy crostini as a base. I would have liked some coarse salt to help perk up the natural flavouring of the beef. I found this dish well elevated for such a casual spot. Filet mignon, miso mayo, garlic, capers, crostini, and Parmesan.

The Lobster poutine is the one to order when looking for late night eats. Lobster, fries, jalapeño, corn, cheesy béchamel, cheese curds, and green onion.

Satisfyingly salty and greasy, the sweetness from the corn and lobster meat were stand outs, but the butter sauce was more of a highlight over the fries than the lobster itself.

Sadly, the Ahi Tune Poke Bowl with rice, onion, spicy mayo, pineapple, edamame, cucumber, pickled onion, radish, and avocado crema paled in comparison. It tasted exactly as it read, but salty with no seasonings or sauce over rice. It lacked a lot of the same punchy flavours and excitement as the other dishes had above.

In conclusion, there is plenty to bring you down to Commercial Drive’s oyster bar. If not for all the future oyster shucking classes, then for their Happy hour from 11 to 5pm or the reverse one from 9pm to close. Great seafood, solid drinks, and a rowdy fun time. Be mindful, they don’t accept reservations and it is busier on the weekends, so come often and early to secure your seat.

Harbour Oyster + Bar
1408 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9
(604) 251-6900

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