Oysters are my happy food. Well that, and just about any shellfish. I stopped by for dinner at Berkeley’s seafood-themed Sea Salt restaurant one evening eager to try their oft-praised oysters, and ended up ordering much more.
The dimly lit and mellow restaurant was packed, and my dining companion and I had a hard time keeping ourselves from wanting to order just about everything on the menu. We started, of course, with the oysters.
Fried oysters with remoulade, to be exact. You know when fried oysters achieve that super-crispy crust on the outside and are oozing with steaming, creamy, hot-but-delicious lava on the inside? Yeah, that’s what we had here. A drizzle of lemon juice and a quick dip in the sauce, and these babies were gone in no time.
Next we tried the fried smelt with green goddess dressing.
I have a lot of recipes for smelt and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making them, but can never locate smelt at the market. I’m so glad we ordered this because it ended up being my favorite dish of the evening. The smelts were very savory and rich without being greasy, and the dressing added a textural contrast to an otherwise crispy, crunchy dish.
Our next dish was the Baia Nicchia Tomato Salad.
Baia Nicchia is a small farm and nursery in Sunol that grows primarily gourmet tomatoes. The ones we were served were meaty and sweet, and topped with fresh mozzarella, pickled onion, and cilantro. I loved the addition of the tart, vinegary onions.
Our mini lobster roll came next.
Served with house-made chips, pickles, and slaw, the lobster was fantastic but the portion was pretty small. We had one bite each before I polished off the pickles. (Did I mention I love pickled vegetables?)
The last dish of the meal was the grilled local squid.
Squid is so easy to overcook, which results in a rubbery texture, but not these. These squid were grilled to tender, smoky perfection and were served atop a white bean salad. A drizzle of basil almond pesto completed the dish, though I think the squid and beans were so delicious on their own they could have done without the pesto.
Sea Salt is a gem in a city that’s already chock-full of good restaurants. They have a daily $1 oyster happy hour too; I know what I’m going back for next time.