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A date with Irish oysters

Updated

By Dom Galeon
Images by Noel Pabalate

Oysters are an acquired taste.
Judging by appearances, they may even come across as not very appealing. But get over the looks and the intimidating shells, oysters are possibly among the best things to have come from the world’s oceans—among those that are edible, at least.

But they say that the most premium of all these oysters come from Ireland.

And among those, the so-called Gallagher’s Irish oysters are supposedly the finest.

If you’re looking to try these out, you don’t have to fly to Ireland anymore.

IMG_5061

All you need to do is drop by Margarita Forés’ Lusso at Greenbelt 5. Chef Gaita, as she’s known among her friends, was quite excited to have Gallagher’s Irish oysters served at one of her restaurants, thanks to a partnership with Daniel Koh and
Alaska Prime Seafood.

“Dan informed me that they were bringing in Gallagher’s oysters,” Chef Gaita says. “And I had come from a chef’s conference called Food on the Edge in Galway, Ireland two years ago, where the chefs presented their philosophies on their work and sustainability.

Chef Gaita Forés

Chef Gaita Forés

At the same time, as invited chefs, we got to try all the amazing ingredients of Ireland. Among the things that blew me away was the oysters from there. So when Dan told me they were bringing in oysters, I said we had to have them at Lusso.”

After securing the necessary permits from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, Alaska Prime Seafood was finally able to bring the Irish oysters in. As an aside, Dan explains that every shipment of oysters have to be approved by the FDA.

“There are lots of Irish oyster producers,” Dan says. “I think that this family—Gallagher—is the best of the bunch. Or at least in the top three.

Sure, the French have done a fantastic job of marketing their food, their Champagne, their oysters. But I found out that Irish oysters are fantastic.”

Dan says that he realized how the best oysters in the world originate from Ireland. “Once I got into the business, I found out that a lot of French oysters really start off as Irish oysters. French oyster companies buy en masse young Irish oysters, fly them to France, let them grow out in their pond a little bit, and then export them as French oysters.

So a lot of them are Irish oysters. But there’s a law in France that says, if you can keep any oyster in French waters for a month or more, you can export them as French. They become immigrants,” he adds, laughing.

For both Chef Gaita and Dan, the best way to enjoy oysters is to have them naked. And they’re not talking about you being naked, naturally.

“The best way to do it—especially the Irish oysters with their brine just as good as the oyster itself—it’s better to eat it just bland, just shucked and chilled,” says Chef Gaita.

“To eat an excellent oyster, you eat it nude or naked, with nothing on it,” Dan adds. “Nature has given that oyster every flavor you possibly need. To be honest with you, cocktail sauces—really sour and salty sauces— are designed to cover up the flavor of the oyster. So those are used for not-so-premium oysters, to cover up deficiencies. But, just like how the Japanese use soy sauce or wasabi just to accentuate the flavors of their premium fish, it’s the same thing with fine oysters. And you slurp the oyster down, brine and all.”

In Asia and in Europe, Dan adds, oysters are considered fancy. But not so in the US, where he grew up. “In America, at the turn of the century, oysters were the cheapest form of protein for city-dwellers in coastal cities like New York, Boston, and even in Washington DC. That was because before refrigeration, fresh pork, beef, and chicken were expensive. So hundreds of oyster vendors would go out to sea during low tide, pull up oysters, and then set up shop on the pier. Middle- class and poor Americans would come down to the pier to buy them. So there is that long tradition of eating oysters in the US but very rustically— you gulp them down, throw the shells on the ground.”

But whether you prefer to have your oysters daintily or gulped down rustically, head on over to Lusso at Greenbelt 5 to catch fresh Gallagher’s Irish oysters, best paired with Louis Roederer Champagne, which are now also available at Chef Gaita’s restaurant.

Lusso at Greenbelt 5, Legaspi Street, Makati City | (02) 756 5893

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