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Raw Oysters at Fulton's

Raw Oysters at Fulton's
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  • Raw Oysters at Fulton's

    Post #1 - December 6th, 2006, 4:56 pm
    Post #1 - December 6th, 2006, 4:56 pm Post #1 - December 6th, 2006, 4:56 pm
    I've long thought that the height of the culinary experience begins and ends with the combination of fine raw oysters and a gin martini (I am highly partial to Hendrick's Gin). I consider it to be a near religious experience. Both have an apparent simplicity in and of themselves but on closer inspection, each has components which are complex and pure. The raw oyster and the juniper are natural marvels.

    Several months ago, my friend (o'rdirv) told me about the marvelous oysters at Fulton's. I immediately tried it and had a swell time chatting it up with their highly enthusiastic oyster maven and executive chef, Mark Mavrantonis. That night, Mark gave o’rdirv what I since have referred to as his "oyster manifesto", a 20-ish page document describing what goes into procuring, storing, and eating the finest oysters available. After reading it, I knew without a doubt that this was one highly knowledgable guy when it comes to anything dealing with an oyster.

    In fact, not only is Mavrantonis incredibly serious about the high quality of his oysters but last I heard, he was part of a team that holds the World record for oyster shucking (something like 16,000 in 12 hours).

    After Mark presented us with a beautiful selection of both East and West coast varieties (Crassostrea Virginica & Crassostrea Gigas, respectively), the first thing that immediately struck me was his ability to retain most of the oyster's natural liquor due to his shucking expertise, something all too rare when it comes to the art of proper oyster shucking. These were gorgeous oysters; plump and vibrant looking; not a shriveled one in the bunch. I should note that the last time I was there (on a Monday, btw!) he wasn’t around and I felt that there was a significant downturn in terms of retention of liquor and a few oysters being overly manhandled as well as some not fully detached from their shells. The oysters themselves were still fantastic in flavor but enjoying the oyster’s liquor is the height of the experience for me. I know that Mark has gone to great lengths to train his staff about proper shucking techniques but I guess it’s not as easy as one might think. I would highly recommend calling ahead to make sure that he is around to do the job.

    Fulton’s is a place to be taken seriously by any true raw oyster fan, thanks largely to Mark Mavrantonis and his fanatical approach to procuring and properly serving the best oysters he can get his hands on.

    It is a bit more expensive than other places but the quality clearly warrants it since you’re easily getting the best oysters in town.

    This was easily one of the highlight dining experiences of the year.

    I can’t think of a better way to spend your money as a foodie.



    Fulton's on the River
    315 N La Salle Dr
    (312) 822-0100
    Last edited by PIGMON on December 7th, 2006, 6:15 am, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #2 - December 6th, 2006, 5:40 pm
    Post #2 - December 6th, 2006, 5:40 pm Post #2 - December 6th, 2006, 5:40 pm
    Definitely NOT threadjacking, at least not trying to. As a fellow lover of Hendrick's gin (and many others), I'm curious what ratio you request your martinis to be made? I always specify a 4-to-1 ratio, and it surprises the heck out of the bartenders. They seem to think I am ruining the drink by insisting on the addition of vermouth, and I often have to explain from whence the drink came, in terms of history. As a former bar manager in my youth, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that so many bartenders don't know that if you don't specify otherwise, a martini is always made with gin. And that a martini without vermouth is called "just gin" in a martini glass.
    ...Pedro
  • Post #3 - December 6th, 2006, 6:11 pm
    Post #3 - December 6th, 2006, 6:11 pm Post #3 - December 6th, 2006, 6:11 pm
    YoYoPedro wrote:Definitely NOT threadjacking, at least not trying to. As a fellow lover of Hendrick's gin (and many others), I'm curious what ratio you request your martinis to be made? I always specify a 4-to-1 ratio, and it surprises the heck out of the bartenders. They seem to think I am ruining the drink by insisting on the addition of vermouth, and I often have to explain from whence the drink came, in terms of history. As a former bar manager in my youth, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that so many bartenders don't know that if you don't specify otherwise, a martini is always made with gin. And that a martini without vermouth is called "just gin" in a martini glass.


    re: hijacking

    Hendrick's is a personal favorite. I drink it "up"...heh. It's gilding-the-lily to sully it with "additives" imo. I've even turned on "gin-haters" with gifts of Hendrick's. It's a gorgeous gin.
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #4 - December 6th, 2006, 6:41 pm
    Post #4 - December 6th, 2006, 6:41 pm Post #4 - December 6th, 2006, 6:41 pm
    I have no problem with people drinking their gin up. For that matter, I have no problem with people drinking pretty much anything they want any way they want it. My only issue is the hijacking of the term "martini" to refer to pretty much anything that comes in a traditional martini glass. But I suppose now I'm starting to sound like my father the curmudgeon...
    ...Pedro
  • Post #5 - December 6th, 2006, 8:11 pm
    Post #5 - December 6th, 2006, 8:11 pm Post #5 - December 6th, 2006, 8:11 pm
    Although I too love gin, allow me to re-focus us on Mark's fine Oysters. I am also in possession of his 'manifesto" and spent a good part of a rather slow night shortly after Fulton's opening listening to him expound of the virtues his lovely oysters. I've passed the word to as many as possible that this man knows his bivalves.

    Props to Mark for being so passionate about his oysters!
  • Post #6 - December 6th, 2006, 11:51 pm
    Post #6 - December 6th, 2006, 11:51 pm Post #6 - December 6th, 2006, 11:51 pm
    PIGMON wrote:In fact, not only is Mavrantonis incredibly serious about the high quality of his oysters but last I heard, he was part of a team that holds the World record for oyster shucking (something like 16,000 in 12 hours).


    It'd be interesting to know how many guys were on the team. I've been deep into Kurlansky's The Big Oyster, and as I recall the shucking record circa late 1800s was something like a little over 300 for a little over five minutes (which is, when you think about it, faster than most of us could simply pick up and put down an oyster).

    I am still heartbroken that I could not get to Grand Central, on your recommendation, to try their oysters (had to go see Jersey Boys...please, do not ask!).

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - December 7th, 2006, 7:27 am
    Post #7 - December 7th, 2006, 7:27 am Post #7 - December 7th, 2006, 7:27 am
    Nice description on oyster eating! I would like to add that, here in Spain where I´m currently residing, an oyster is not considered fresh if, when served and a few drops of lemon added, doen´t move. If this is the case, the oyster or clam is dead and simply refrigerated, not fresh.
    No matter what any body may think, you don´t feel it moving , when you eat it, and it doesn´t try to get out of you!!
    Also, have you ever tryed Citadelle gin?
  • Post #8 - December 8th, 2006, 11:33 am
    Post #8 - December 8th, 2006, 11:33 am Post #8 - December 8th, 2006, 11:33 am
    Image

    I've asked before why anyone would eat an oyster. Well, I know one answer: because Pigmon and Trixie-Pea say there's a world-class oyster dude shucking in Chicago. Another reason is, because there's a Mark Kurlansky book on the subject, as noted above. Despite my general indifference to oysterdom, I found myself irresistibly drawn to both reading the book and eating the world-class oysters last week.

    Image

    First the dude. Mark Mavrantonis speaks of oysters with the fervor of the happily obsessed, and that's even before you read his wonderful manifesto (which I'd love to post here in its entirety). We put ourselves in his hands and were greeted with a platter of oysters of nine different types, all, he said, from farms where he knows the people and has personally worked. The result was an experience I can only compare to my sushi epiphany, lo those many years ago now, at Katsu. Some were briny, bracing, bright; others were delicate, lemony, melony; some were creamy (ewww... but yum), others firm and fishy.

    Mark's the man. That's all there is to say.

    Image

    Yet some mystery remains. One reason I wanted to taste the oysters was because Kurlansky talks about natural history and political history but fairly little, actually, about the taste of the things. (One reason, of course, is because the now-rare New York harbor oyster is far too unsafe to eat. So he might as well be writing about cooked trilobite.) But as I read about the mounds and mounds of oysters eaten for daily sustenance by the square-headed Dutch burghers and the sharp, sly money-changers of the triangle trade and the stout robber barons of Diamond Jim Brady's day and so on, I have a hard time imagining that this evanescent, sushi-like experience was what they were looking for in a meal. Each of them seems so much more the type for hearty beef, dark ale, gamey game birds-- but not the ethereal haiku of the oyster and its liquor. Yet the evidence is irrefutable, the mounds of shells are still uncovered to this day; these doughty people ate oysters by the barrelfull, and liked few things better. The past is another country (hey, that's pretty good, I'll have to remember that one).

    So that was my oyster epiphany-- or as close as I am likely to come to one. Once we had had our nine types x 3, our shucker's two dozen, we came to seeking out dinner. We expected it to be anti-climax. We were as mistaken as we could be.

    While telling us of his adventures in the oyster-fields and oyster-bazaars, Mark had mentioned a recent trip to Alaska wrestling giant crabs-- he had the photos to prove it. What didn't sink in at first was that that meant there was fresh Alaskan king crab in the house. And that that was a big, big deal.

    Image

    Having had enough lousy foodservice frozen crab leg and Krab™ and so on in my life, I am rarely excited by the prospect of more. But going from those memories to this fresh crab was like expanding from a two-dimensional universe to a three, or four or five, dimension one. Sweet, nutty, meaty, fishy, crabby, freshwater stream deep in the woods with snow still melting into it-y... oh, and of course buttery. For $50 we got four or five huge legs, a feast for kings, providing not the usual skimpy meat dug dutifully out of claws but thick, abundant, sensory-overwhelming amounts of by far the best crab meat I've ever tasted. Oysters were interesting, Mark was very interesting... but the guy from Kansas was blown away by those crab legs.

    Image

    Thanks, P & T-P, for making me go there.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #9 - December 9th, 2006, 10:38 am
    Post #9 - December 9th, 2006, 10:38 am Post #9 - December 9th, 2006, 10:38 am
    YoYoPedro wrote:As a fellow lover of Hendrick's gin (and many others), I'm curious what ratio you request your martinis to be made? I always specify a 4-to-1 ratio, and it surprises the heck out of the bartenders. They seem to think I am ruining the drink by insisting on the addition of vermouth, and I often have to explain from whence the drink came, in terms of history. As a former bar manager in my youth, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that so many bartenders don't know that if you don't specify otherwise, a martini is always made with gin. And that a martini without vermouth is called "just gin" in a martini glass.


    Rafa wrote:...have you ever tryed Citadelle gin?


    My preference for Hendrick’s is largely due to the fact that they don’t overdo the botanicals. (Examples of botanicals used by various gin makers include such things as coriander seed, lemon, cucumber, cardamom, fennel, anise, caraway, orange peel, and even nutmeg.)
    Hendrick’s has a soft and delicate use of these non-juniper elements, with the dominant flavoring agent being cucumber. So many of the more “designer” or expensive gins out there, such as Citadelle, have far too aggressive amounts of botanicals and I find myself getting rapid palate fatigue, even after just one cocktail.
    As time goes on, my preference for gins with less floral elements become far more desirable. If a bar or restaurant doesn’t offer Hendrick’s, I’m more apt to order an English gin such a REGULAR Bombay or Beefeaters, Boodles, Plymouth, etc., where the taste of juniper is prevalent; especially with oysters. Many of the French or Dutch made gins are way too over-the-top in their use of botanicals.
    I don’t think that most of the premium, smoother gins made today (from anywhere) are designed to necessarily be enhanced by use of any vermouth whatsoever. Often times I suspect that adding vermouth to a today's “martini” is a tradition left over from a past era where a completely different style of gin was used. But that’s just a guess.
    So, like CG, I like my Hendrick’s, sans vermouth with a lemon twist served cool, but not slushy or broken. A smaller martini glass not only makes a more civilized cocktail, and therefore a more civilized PIGMON (whuh?), but you are never left with a little pool of warm gin at the bottom of your fishbowl. Part of the appeal of gin is the weight of it, and shaking a premium gin, is just rude—to the customer and the gin. Stirring a martini to chill it down a bit gives the gin more than enough dilution. I would also add that I don’t like using olives as a garnish with Hendrick's, because I think the olive’s oil works in direct competition with its cucumber-y, citric profile, not in tandem.
  • Post #10 - December 9th, 2006, 11:38 am
    Post #10 - December 9th, 2006, 11:38 am Post #10 - December 9th, 2006, 11:38 am
    PIGMON wrote:
    YoYoPedro wrote:As a fellow lover of Hendrick's gin (and many others), I'm curious what ratio you request your martinis to be made? I always specify a 4-to-1 ratio, and it surprises the heck out of the bartenders. They seem to think I am ruining the drink by insisting on the addition of vermouth, and I often have to explain from whence the drink came, in terms of history. As a former bar manager in my youth, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that so many bartenders don't know that if you don't specify otherwise, a martini is always made with gin. And that a martini without vermouth is called "just gin" in a martini glass.


    Rafa wrote:...have you ever tryed Citadelle gin?


    My preference for Hendrick’s is largely due to the fact that they don’t overdo the botanicals. (Examples of botanicals used by various gin makers include such things as coriander seed, lemon, cucumber, cardamom, fennel, anise, caraway, orange peel, and even nutmeg.)
    Hendrick’s has a soft and delicate use of these non-juniper elements, with the dominant flavoring agent being cucumber. So many of the more “designer” or expensive gins out there, such as Citadelle, have far too aggressive amounts of botanicals and I find myself getting rapid palate fatigue, even after just one cocktail.
    As time goes on, my preference for gins with less floral elements become far more desirable. If a bar or restaurant doesn’t offer Hendrick’s, I’m more apt to order an English gin such a REGULAR Bombay or Beefeaters, Boodles, Plymouth, etc., where the taste of juniper is prevalent; especially with oysters. Many of the French or Dutch made gins are way too over-the-top in their use of botanicals.
    I don’t think that most of the premium, smoother gins made today (from anywhere) are designed to necessarily be enhanced by use of any vermouth whatsoever. Often times I suspect that adding vermouth to a today's “martini” is a tradition left over from a past era where a completely different style of gin was used. But that’s just a guess.
    So, like CG, I like my Hendrick’s, sans vermouth with a lemon twist served cool, but not slushy or broken. A smaller martini glass not only makes a more civilized cocktail, and therefore a more civilized PIGMON (whuh?), but you are never left with a little pool of warm gin at the bottom of your fishbowl. Part of the appeal of gin is the weight of it, and shaking a premium gin, is just rude—to the customer and the gin. Stirring a martini to chill it down a bit gives the gin more than enough dilution. I would also add that I don’t like using olives as a garnish with Hendrick's, because I think the olive’s oil works in direct competition with its cucumber-y, citric profile, not in tandem.


    great, thoughtful response

    I'd just like to add that if I can't get Hendrick's, then, I too, do Boodles(just saying the name, even).

    also, I am very irritated by pics of luscious oysters mounded in two dimensions somewhere distant in both time and space
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #11 - December 10th, 2006, 11:44 am
    Post #11 - December 10th, 2006, 11:44 am Post #11 - December 10th, 2006, 11:44 am
    PIGMON wrote:
    YoYoPedro wrote:As a fellow lover of Hendrick's gin (and many others), I'm curious what ratio you request your martinis to be made? I always specify a 4-to-1 ratio, and it surprises the heck out of the bartenders. They seem to think I am ruining the drink by insisting on the addition of vermouth, and I often have to explain from whence the drink came, in terms of history. As a former bar manager in my youth, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that so many bartenders don't know that if you don't specify otherwise, a martini is always made with gin. And that a martini without vermouth is called "just gin" in a martini glass.


    Rafa wrote:...have you ever tryed Citadelle gin?


    My preference for Hendrick’s is largely due to the fact that they don’t overdo the botanicals. (Examples of botanicals used by various gin makers include such things as coriander seed, lemon, cucumber, cardamom, fennel, anise, caraway, orange peel, and even nutmeg.)
    Hendrick’s has a soft and delicate use of these non-juniper elements, with the dominant flavoring agent being cucumber. So many of the more “designer” or expensive gins out there, such as Citadelle, have far too aggressive amounts of botanicals and I find myself getting rapid palate fatigue, even after just one cocktail.
    As time goes on, my preference for gins with less floral elements become far more desirable. If a bar or restaurant doesn’t offer Hendrick’s, I’m more apt to order an English gin such a REGULAR Bombay or Beefeaters, Boodles, Plymouth, etc., where the taste of juniper is prevalent; especially with oysters. Many of the French or Dutch made gins are way too over-the-top in their use of botanicals.
    I don’t think that most of the premium, smoother gins made today (from anywhere) are designed to necessarily be enhanced by use of any vermouth whatsoever. Often times I suspect that adding vermouth to a today's “martini” is a tradition left over from a past era where a completely different style of gin was used. But that’s just a guess.
    So, like CG, I like my Hendrick’s, sans vermouth with a lemon twist served cool, but not slushy or broken. A smaller martini glass not only makes a more civilized cocktail, and therefore a more civilized PIGMON (whuh?), but you are never left with a little pool of warm gin at the bottom of your fishbowl. Part of the appeal of gin is the weight of it, and shaking a premium gin, is just rude—to the customer and the gin. Stirring a martini to chill it down a bit gives the gin more than enough dilution. I would also add that I don’t like using olives as a garnish with Hendrick's, because I think the olive’s oil works in direct competition with its cucumber-y, citric profile, not in tandem.


    To each their own. I'm in complete agreement that Boodles or the ORIGINAL Bombay are fine substitutes when Hendrick's is not to be found. But I still like the vermouth, I think it adds another dimension to the cocktail, as well as making it a martini. Interestingly, the Hendrick's website specifies a 2-1 gin-vermouth ratio for a Hendrick's martini. To my taste that's a little too much vermouth. I sometimes like them a little dirty, and always with an olive or three, preferably blue cheese or anchovy stuffed. And ALWAYS shaken until there is a little slush on the top of the drink. I've sent 'em back if they are not served cold enough, but I'm careful to specify that I like 'em "shaken until there's a layer of slush on top." There shouldn't be any warm drink left if served cold enough and consumed fast enough. Not to say that you should chug it, just keep a measured pace on it from start to beautiful finish. Vive la difference. But I'd still say that the drink you describe would better be called, "Hendrick's, up, stirred, with a twist."

    Never tried Citadelle, as I like my Hendrick's and Bombay too much just the way they are.

    On a side note, I once read, I believe in an old issue of Esquire, that the original Bombay was a more expensive gin to make than Bombay Sapphire, and that it [Sapphire] was a very successful marketing effort by the Bombay gin people. The trick was to upscale and premium-ize the new brand, and sell it for more money, thus increasing the margin exponentially.
    ...Pedro
  • Post #12 - December 10th, 2006, 3:50 pm
    Post #12 - December 10th, 2006, 3:50 pm Post #12 - December 10th, 2006, 3:50 pm
    hating to veer off topic when the specified(oysters and their mavens) certainly deserve the attention lavished above,

    but...

    fyi:

    The Pump Room offers specially-prepared anchovy-stuffed olives upon request for those desiring to kick-it-up-a-knotch...erm...

    they's good

    perhaps this thread-within-a-thread can be shipped over to Something to Drink
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #13 - December 10th, 2006, 9:08 pm
    Post #13 - December 10th, 2006, 9:08 pm Post #13 - December 10th, 2006, 9:08 pm
    Not that I'm easily influenced or anything but here's my last night's agenda:

    Cocktails at the new Pops for Champagne location at State & Ohio where I enjoyed a delicious Hendricks’s martini. Then over to Fulton’s on the River for oysters and fresh King Crab.

    Fulton’s didn’t disappoint. The oysters and crab were as good as ever and the service at the bar, where we dined, sucked as usual.
  • Post #14 - December 12th, 2006, 4:52 pm
    Post #14 - December 12th, 2006, 4:52 pm Post #14 - December 12th, 2006, 4:52 pm
    Anything in addition to oysters and fresh crab that shouldn't be missed?
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #15 - December 12th, 2006, 5:20 pm
    Post #15 - December 12th, 2006, 5:20 pm Post #15 - December 12th, 2006, 5:20 pm
    Fulton’s didn’t disappoint. The oysters and crab were as good as ever and the service at the bar, where we dined, sucked as usual.[/quote]


    What was the service at the bar like? Whaa haapened?
  • Post #16 - December 12th, 2006, 7:07 pm
    Post #16 - December 12th, 2006, 7:07 pm Post #16 - December 12th, 2006, 7:07 pm
    The only other thing we had besides oysters, martinis and crab legs was a dish of thin slices of seared tuna with assorted dips (wasabi mayo, etc.) It was fine, but feel free to read whatever you want into the fact that nobody mentioned it until two weeks later.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #17 - December 21st, 2006, 9:19 am
    Post #17 - December 21st, 2006, 9:19 am Post #17 - December 21st, 2006, 9:19 am
    Must post a warning on Fulton's. I'm sure you all had great oysters-but I'm also sure that last night I did not. Had Moonstones, Kumamotos, and Nooka Sounds-almost none had liquor, absolutely none were detached properly, some had bits of shell, and none were very good aside from all that. Have had way better at Shaw's, Mon Ami, & even McCormick & Shmitt's.
    Granted, we didn't ask to see the chef, but this passion of his obviously ebbs and flows, and/or is not being projected.
    I realize that nobody from the forum recommended anything else except for crab, but I feel obligated to bitch about a few other things, so that others don't fall prey. The deviled eggs with osetra and truffle oil were underseasoned, with a miniscule amount of caviar-5 pieces for 12.95.
    The clam chowder was almost devoid of clams and salty. Fries were not hot enough but passible. Steak tartar consisted of chopped beef the size and texture of gummy bears. Room is boring and service was below average.
    Sounds like this is a place to go if you strike up something with the chef, he shucks the oysters himself, and you avoid all else. (Didn't try the crab-had to cut the losses.)
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #18 - December 21st, 2006, 9:50 am
    Post #18 - December 21st, 2006, 9:50 am Post #18 - December 21st, 2006, 9:50 am
    coot,
    Sorry you had a bad event.

    Any problems I've had with Fulton's centered on service. It's as if they are trying to a bad bar/wait staff. We had disastrous evening there last year and while putting our coats on near the host stand, were asked by two guys in suits how our evening went. It turns out one of them was a V.P. of Ops for Levy Group. We wound up being invited back for a "mulligan" on the house. Everything from apps to entrees and dessert, wine, after dinner cocktails, etc. was comped. They wanted us to replicate our prior evening.

    Of course, the service was stellar because our waiter was aware why we were there.

    Other visits have been bad service events. Bar service has been shameful. Forgotten drink orders, slow service when only a few are at the bar, not providing a proper “set-up” for bar dining. Last visit, we were brought our white wine and it was room temp. We asked for an ice bucket and instead it was put in one of those sleeves you put already chilled wine in to maintain a cool temp. When I pointed out to the bartender, she crammed a few ice cubes down the side of it. We practically had to beg her to stop trying to pour us more wine until it chilled (somewhat).

    The dining room never seems too busy.

    I wonder if they will make it a second year.
  • Post #19 - December 21st, 2006, 10:18 am
    Post #19 - December 21st, 2006, 10:18 am Post #19 - December 21st, 2006, 10:18 am
    DM,

    Thanks for the sympathy. Our service wasn't nearly as bad as what you describe at the bar. As far as I'm concerned the place doesn't deserve to last through the month based on my food experience and your service experiences.
    It seems to me that service is lacking more and more throughout the city.
    Somewhere around 1 in 10 experiences are pleasant, and most often major gaffs are apparent. Either management is not training properly or the servers are ignoring training-or both. (It certainly cannot be that I'm developing a curmudgeony coating with age.)
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #20 - January 11th, 2007, 7:15 pm
    Post #20 - January 11th, 2007, 7:15 pm Post #20 - January 11th, 2007, 7:15 pm
    Just as Ed Gein's life work keeps inspiring new artists, that one meal at Fulton's-- which spawned, directly or indirectly, posts here, at Chowhound, and at Chicagoist-- has now produced a newsprint pearl in the form of Mike Sula's cover story on Mark Mavrantonis, in this week's issue of the Reader.

    It's a nice story that elaborates on Mavrantonis' journey from the Army to oyster epiphany. Equally if not more cool is that at the Reader's blog, you get to read the rant-- er, Manifesto-- on oysters which he passed out to us that night. I can think of few more educational ways to spend $50 and a few hours than by reading it, going into Fulton's, telling him that you read it and putting your oyster-eating fate in his shuckers' hands.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #21 - February 3rd, 2007, 8:33 am
    Post #21 - February 3rd, 2007, 8:33 am Post #21 - February 3rd, 2007, 8:33 am
    Had the pleasure of watching Mark shuck a few dozen for us last night, and each of the ones I had were marvelously different, some deep and brooding, others light and sparkly, all expertly presented.

    About half way through the shucking process, Mark whipped out a syringe which he filled tableside with a mixture of vodka and mignonette. He lightly injected the mixture into the abductor of several medium-sized oysters. The flavor proved to be very slight, and it was fun to see Mark (who confessed he'd had a Novocain shot earlier that day and so had needles on the brain) do something like the molecular gastronomy thing. Trixie Pea thought that injection into the abductor kept the oyster from collapsing from the pin prick, though Pigmon seemed to scoff; me, I was glad to eat them any way they came and felt that this sauce was perhaps only the slightest insult to these glorious beings. I can't imagine why anyone would use the proffered cocktail sauce or horseradish on these beauties; eating them was an uplifting experience.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #22 - February 3rd, 2007, 10:10 am
    Post #22 - February 3rd, 2007, 10:10 am Post #22 - February 3rd, 2007, 10:10 am
    I sat at the bar this week for lunch and had half a dozen perfectly pristine Sunset Beach oysters. Without a doubt, the best I've had in Chicago. A small squirt of lemon was all that was needed. Using the cocktail sauce would have been a sin.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #23 - February 3rd, 2007, 2:22 pm
    Post #23 - February 3rd, 2007, 2:22 pm Post #23 - February 3rd, 2007, 2:22 pm
    We've been to Fulton's a few times since M'th'su's piece in the Reader, and we haven't once been disappointed in the oysters. The $1 oyster Happy Hour makes it easier on the wallet, but the menu for $1 oysters (four to six to choose from) excludes some that are on the regular menu.

    We, too, were treated a bar-side manifesto-ing by Mark when we went in early (right at opening) on a Saturday afternoon.

    Along with the oysters (the Calm Cove are amazing this week) I've sampled several of the soups and the crab legs. The crab legs we had were not good--stringy, weird texture that my co-eater said was a sign of the legs being cooked, dunked in cold water and refrigerated a wee too long. The pea soup was good. The clam chowder was okay. The gumbo, God-awful. The bits of meat in the gumbo were okay, but the roux was more like a really, really bad, mealy, flavorless gravy. I'm curious about the sliders...maybe next time.

    The service at the bar was fine when empty, but on Thursday, the first time I've seen a crowd in the bar area, there were terminal waits for drinks and ordering. They poured the wrong (cheaper) glass of wine, but charged for the more expensive. The dining area has never been more than 1/4 full on any of the occasions we were there.

    I'm on the fence about whether I like Shaw's better, simply because of the liveliness of the oyster bar area. Granted, the live music nights are far, far too loud, but we avoid those nights and go there often enough to know the bar staff. They're not Oyster Whisperers, though. Mark's enthusiasm and knowledge makes for a better 'experience'. It would be nice if they'd let him come out and shuck for his fans whenever he's requested.

    As for the Hendriks...I'll have to disagree completely. The heavy cucumber-y taste kills it. North Shore's gin, which they don't have at Fulton's, is more my style.
  • Post #24 - February 3rd, 2007, 4:59 pm
    Post #24 - February 3rd, 2007, 4:59 pm Post #24 - February 3rd, 2007, 4:59 pm
    crrush wrote:As for the Hendriks...I'll have to disagree completely. The heavy cucumber-y taste kills it.

    Yea, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Personally I think that the cucumber taste of the Hendricks (which I don't think is all that intense) combined with a lemon twist, is the perfect complement to the natural cucumber/melon taste in the gigas or West Coast oyster.

    Though, recently I've just been drinking the regular Bombay gin with my oysters, and that works just fine too.
  • Post #25 - February 3rd, 2007, 5:31 pm
    Post #25 - February 3rd, 2007, 5:31 pm Post #25 - February 3rd, 2007, 5:31 pm
    I agree on the Hendricks, it's a great gin, and served with a paper thin sliced cucumber is a nice touch. It's a perfect match for oysters, although as a beer guy, there's many beers that match well too (stouts for example.)

    I have to disagree with Fulton's. Tasty as they were, there were chips of shell in just about every oyster, poorly detached and almost no liquor in mine. I was severly disappointed at the level of service, and after waiting a ridiculously long time for drinks and oysters, was primed to find fault with them, especially at that price. Of course, had I not heard of Mark's fanatacism, I would have just enjoyed them, with the understanding that we're in the midwest, and it's rare to find a world class shucker here.

    I'll try them again but only if Mark is there.
  • Post #26 - February 5th, 2007, 10:06 am
    Post #26 - February 5th, 2007, 10:06 am Post #26 - February 5th, 2007, 10:06 am
    Kiplog,
    Sorry to hear about your bad time, but glad that someone had an experience that mirrored mine(see way above). For awhile I thought I must have been hallucinating during my visit to Fulton's. We may not have any "world class shuckers", but I have not encountered any of these problems at Shaw's Blue Crab Room.
    It just seems ironic that I've been served what has to be the most mangled oysters I've ever had at a place with the most oyster-obsessed chef I've ever heard of.
    Having said this, I can't resist the urge to go back and "follow the guidelines" of sitting at the bar and having Mark shuck some bivalves.
    I love animals...they're delicious!
  • Post #27 - February 11th, 2007, 6:19 am
    Post #27 - February 11th, 2007, 6:19 am Post #27 - February 11th, 2007, 6:19 am
    LTH,

    Went to Fulton's with a group Friday for drinks and oysters and was less than enamored. Service was disorganized and inattentive, martinis slightly watery and the oysters, which if they had been perfection all would have been forgiven, in no way befitted an Oyster Whisperer, who I understand had left sometime after we arrived around 6.

    Our first round of 4-dozen had a few gems, briny, meaty, perfectly shucked glorious examples of the art with one startling example of an off oyster whose taste, even though I immediately deposited the offending bivalve in a napkin, stayed with me well though the next day.

    While there is no disagreement on my part Fulton's has an incredible oyster selection available our server had absolutely no idea which oyster was which making it impossible to followup on favorites. Add to this a second round of oysters that was inexpertly shucked, the adductor muscle was not fully released on a few and more than one had a bit of shell grit in with the oyster, and I am hard pressed to find a reason to revisit.

    The company was enjoyable and, where I may have found Fulton's lacking, an incredible meal at Xni-Pec more than made up for any culinary shortcomings earlier in the evening.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #28 - April 4th, 2007, 5:33 am
    Post #28 - April 4th, 2007, 5:33 am Post #28 - April 4th, 2007, 5:33 am
    On The Food Chain, Mike Sula reports:

    The Oyster Whisperer walks

    Fulton's on the River executive chef and shellfish savant Mark Mavrantonis reports that Saturday was his last day at the gargantuan Levy Restaurants-managed steak and seafood house.

    ...
    Joe G.

    "Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
  • Post #29 - April 4th, 2007, 9:34 am
    Post #29 - April 4th, 2007, 9:34 am Post #29 - April 4th, 2007, 9:34 am
    That's very unfortunate to hear about Mark. IMHO, his presence was the ONLY thing which made the restaurant worth the visit. Our service experiences never rose above mediocre (once being almost laughable, with a waiter who would not leave the table, and who ultimately brought us a check that overcharged by $80). Other than the oysters--always great when Mark was there--everything else we've had was bleh or truly scary (the steak tartare done in a julienne style--a nightmare from hell).
    See, I'm an idea man, Chuck. I got ideas coming at me all day. Hey, I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish and FEED 'em mayonnaise!

    -Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift
  • Post #30 - April 4th, 2007, 9:46 am
    Post #30 - April 4th, 2007, 9:46 am Post #30 - April 4th, 2007, 9:46 am
    I guess I feel that this is a very positive move, just from my one experience at Fulton's. It was clear to me that whoever was at the culinary helm was not into it at all. Sounds like he would be better off where he could focus on oysters only, which according to himself and those who had great oysters shucked by him, is his passion. Hopefully he's headed in that direction.
    I love animals...they're delicious!

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