Food & Drink
The best oysters in Canada
WE’VE BEEN CULTIVATING these rough-shelled delicacies since the most decadent centuries of the Roman Empire, and plucking them from the wild for many thousands of years longer. Love them for their unadulterated-ocean taste and slurpable raw texture, revel in the legend of their aphrodisiac powers (thanks again, Romans), but find an establishment that sources the freshest “choice-grade” varieties and shucks them right — it’s worth it. These days, many of the world’s best oysters are being raised off Canadian coasts, so we asked the experts at Ottawa’s The Whalesbone Restaurants (thewhalesbone.com) — who know this luxurious shellfish better than just about anyone — to lead us to some real pearls.
1 SALT BAY | Eel Lake Oyster Farm, Salt Bay, N.S.
“Merroir” (ocean terroir) is what differentiates oysters across a region. This plump bay-grown variety is a touch saltier than the same farm’s tidal-lake cultivated Ruisseau oyster, but shares its beloved buttery flavour and distinct “grassy” finish.
2 CONWAY PEARL | Five Star Shellfish, Conway Narrows, P.E.I.
The Conway Pearl’s deep shell holds a satisfying amount of lip-smacking oyster liquor, a must if you want to properly enjoy the balanced and savoury tones of the creamy bite itself.
3 CASCUMPEC | Cascumpec Bay Oyster Co., Foxley River, P.E.I.
The pristine, nutrient-rich waters of P.E.I.’S Cascumpec Bay produce a rounded cocoa-brown shell, lovely glistening meat and a bracingly salty flavour that finishes sweet.
4 VALLEY PEARL | Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, P.E.I.
Because Valley Pearls are wild bottom-cultured, they develop an earthy, sweet mushroom tone that adds complexity to their classic clean Malpeque character.
5 ST-SIMON | L’étang Ruisseau Bar Ltée., Shippagan, N.B.
Grown near the east end of warm Chaleur Bay, these dynamic oysters start off crisp and briny, but go down buttery sweet.
6 BLACK PEARL | Outlandish Shellfish Guild, Quadra Island, B.C.
Pacific waters freshened with cold mountain runoff create small but deep shells and a velvety meat that’s light on brine and finishes with refreshing notes of melon and cucumber.