I recently went to Shuck Oyster Bar with the full intention of writing a piece about the best bivalves to pair with one of my favorite beers, Tripel Karmeliet from Belgium’s Bosteels Brewery. It’s one of those beers that’s Champagne-like in quality and a slam dunk with really any oyster or seafood. After checking the menu to see what other beers were offered, I was completely flabbergasted to admit I didn’t know Shuck had a regular food menu…with apps, mains, and even dessert. Mind = blown.
Forehead slap complete and the bottle of beer ordered, I take a few minutes to pour over the menu…should I deny myself the simple pleasure of slurping back any one of the twenty-something fresh oysters flown in from their point of origin daily, or should I try something else? My stomach growled, “needfooood.”
What I know from having Tripel Karmeliet (pronounced: triple car-ma-leet) in the past: it’s explosively effervescent, bursting with notes of spiced apple, pear, clove, and hints of overripe mango. At 8.4 percent alcohol, the beer rides the line of being boozy without overwhelming the palate, yet has the uncanny ability to complement, contrast, and heighten any food experience. One thing’s for sure, the high level of carbonation is great for rich or fatty food as the bubbles scrub and cleanse your palate from bite to bite. ordered appropriately.
Decision made, “I’ll take an order of the Shrooms to start, and the Uni Pasta,” I say, and my tummy said, “thank youuuu.”
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as popping a nugget of steamy-hot fried mushrooms into your mouth, especially one with such a perfect crunch. Head chef Kristy Gunn’s deep-fry game is so on point that her beer-battered breading is done to a shell-like consistency. The crispness is reminiscent of something you’d experience at the OCFair, where fry masters spend eons perfecting their craft. The pairing? Deep-fried anything pairs with beer, and our Tripel Karmeliet makes the mushroom’s shine, bringing out some nice pepper notes in the beer.
Feeling light while shuckin’ and jivin’ to A Tribe Called Quest playing on the restaurant speakers, my first bite of the uni pasta had me stunned. I hadn’t thoroughly prepared myself for the richness of the squid ink noodles squirming in white butter sauce. Bite number two mixed with the harmless-looking uni had a tidal wave of sea flavor, nearly drowning my taste buds. Fear not, as the beer provided a much-needed life raft to balance things out.
All in all, I learned a few things: Shuck is more than just a simple oyster bar, and Tripel Karmeliet pairs with just about everything.
Shuck Oyster Bar at OC Mix: 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa // shuckoysterbar.com