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Voyages: Shuck Seafood and Raw Bar

Voyages: Shuck Seafood and Raw Bar

The last time I crossed paths with award-winning Chef Luis Clavel was when I first met him at his casual fine-dining restaurant, East of Grafton. This time, I have the luxury of enjoying a meal cooked by him at Shuck Seafood and Raw Bar. A short walk from the waterfront, Shuck can be found on the corner of Salter and Lower Water Street and makes for a great focal point in the farther edges of downtown Halifax.

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The newest project from RCR Hospitality Group focuses on an ever-changing menu of uber-fresh, sustainable seafood, and much of that philosophy is reflected in the restaurant’s interior, menu, and overall vibe. Most of the menu relies on the catch of the local suppliers that they work with and they are even recognized by the Vancouver Aquarium as being ocean-friendly.

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There are so many little details about this restaurant that truly make it what it is. There’s a focus on white wines that pair well with their seafood dishes, there’s a gorgeous raw bar that greets you the second you walk through the door, and in true Maritime style, there’s a pretty tempting power hour that’ll have you snacking and drinking the first chance you get after work hours come to a close.

The first thing I notice when I enter the restaurant is intimate lighting and an ultra homey cottage aesthetic that is fortified with authentic décor like light fixtures fashioned from French oyster baskets.

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Chef Luis greets me warmly and not soon after, we are discussing the dishes he’s prepared for me. Between twists of his knife as he expertly opens a sea urchin, he shows me pictures of his fishmonger’s haul from the morning.

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Knowing full well the capabilities of Chef Luis from my visit to East of Grafton, I’m beyond excited to dive into Shuck’s signature dishes. First up, a selection of local oysters consisting of Northern, Temptation, and Lucky Lime varieties. There are three accompanying sauces: a mignonette with cumin and orange zest, a house smoked chipotle and fennel hot sauce, and yuzu with spicy ginger. The oysters have a refreshing chill to them and are pleasantly creamy in texture while the sauces add plenty of sweet, smoky, and spicy notes into the fray.

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I’m told that the lobster bibimbap is a popular dish among the diners here at Shuck, so it’s no surprise that the dish is right in front of me next, ready for the taking. The centerpiece is a fried egg seasoned with umami and sesame seeds, and around it, a hurricane of wild rice, long grain rice, and a medley of 10 vegetables for added pops of colour. Shiitake, enoki, and white mushrooms; carrots; broccoli; celery; asparagus; and red onion are caramelized with sesame oil, ginger, and garlic, and come topped with lobster, truffle powder, and fresh cilantro. While it is certainly a mouthful of ingredients (and I mean that in the best way possible), the flavours still come through individually and I pick up on some nutty, buttery, and earthy notes. Have a go at this, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely with a full stomach until the end of the day. While you’ve definitely got some briny flavor coming from the lobster, the runny egg adds some beautiful contrast. I am not at all surprised why this is a dish that everyone wants a piece of.

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The last of my dishes is the herb + garlic bone-in 1/2 chicken and Chef Luis tells me with confidence that it is the best chicken I will ever have. Now I’ve had a lot of chicken in my life but this dish has me considering his claim seriously. The main attraction is cooked sous-vide and basted with a mushroom garlic broth before being grilled to perfection, and let me tell you, the dish smells like it tastes – it’s sweet, but not in a way you’d expect. Sitting atop a bed of bread pudding with caramelized onions and green beans wrapped in prosciutto, the whole ensemble comes served in a beautiful red enamel skillet. While the accompaniments are only considered sides to the chicken, the great mix of sweet and salty flavours would have me eating this by itself any day.

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This is the Starving Sailor’s second sampling of Chef Luis’s dishes and at a second restaurant too. Already having a feel for the high quality of service, atmosphere, and overall dining experience at RCR Hospitality Group establishments, I had high expectations going in and I am happy to report post-meal that I have more faith in these folks than ever before. Yes, the team and I have interviewed their staff extensively and done our best to approach our articles with objectivity and professionalism, but most importantly, we’ve come away with a whole new group of friends in Chef Luis Clavel and his staff, and that is something you cannot take for granted. Whether it’s East of Grafton, Bistro le Coq, Cut Steakhouse, or Shuck, RCR Hospitality Group really knows what they are doing, and they do it damn well.

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