The Diner Bar at The Grey

The Diner Bar at The Grey

Being a food writer, I’m often confronted with the question, “Which restaurant do you recommend?” As you can imagine, that question has never proffered a straightforward answer.

There are so many variables to consider before lending proper advice: price range, cuisine type, location, ambience, the list goes on. What I can tell you is that my list of contenders almost always includes the same cornerstone group of restaurants, the places I’ve visited multiple times and where I’ve always experienced a consistent dinner service.

The Diner Bar at The Grey has perpetually stayed on my shortlist of go-to’s. The reason is simple—The Diner Bar, which sits at at the front of the old Greyhound station that houses The Grey Restaurant, gives patrons a laidback taste of The Grey without the need for a reservation or a more formal dining experience.

Last year, when I sat down with owner John O. Morisano for an interview on The Grey’s latest venture, The Grey Market, he revealed to me that The Diner Bar would soon be changing its menu.

Although disappointed because I would be losing access to my favorite fried chicken sandwich in all of town, I was elated to have the opportunity to try even more delicious recipes from the mind of truly talented executive chef and Morisano’s business partner, Mashama Bailey.

For those who have had the chicken schnitzel sandwich over at the Diner Bar, do not fret—the new menu of the Diner Bar features Chicken Biscuits & Gravy. Now your list of favorite Savannah chicken biscuits can squeeze in a new contender.

The biscuit is textbook, delicate and fluffy, and includes whole grain mustard that is slathered on top. The idea is to cut through the richness of the oversized crispy chicken thigh that sits between the decadent Southern biscuit that would surely make your grandmother proud.
I asked Morisano about the change and his explanation expedited my grieving of the schnitzel.

He said, “When Mashama and I started The Grey the thing we said is, the thing we want to be known for is not being known for anything. We did not want to have that dish that people came for and you lived in fear of taking it off the menu. It is called the ‘riot dish.’ You take it off and it causes a riot.”

As a lover of all things food, his response excited me. Avoiding a stagnant menu not only keeps the kitchen engaged, but it excites the customers as well. Knowing you’ll receive a consistent experience with the team at The Grey means that you should feel comfortable letting go of your go-to menu item.

Morisano explained the second reason behind the change in menu at The Diner Bar. “The idea was to use ingredients that we have in-house, so that we can streamline the food we are making for the [The Grey] dining room with the food we are making in The Diner Bar.”

Originally The Diner Bar ran its food service with just the charcuterie station and a few other things. As time passed, and the restaurant group became more successful, the ability to expand the menu of The Diner Bar opened.

The Tartare Tartine, a beef tartar created with dry aged beef that is served with crusty house baked sourdough and pickled ginger, is the perfect dish to get a taste of The Grey without the need for a reserved table.

You will find a more refined version of the beef tartar on the dinner menu of The Grey, but as Morisano puts it “this is a down and dirty, slap-it-on-a-piece-of-toast version, and it is delicious.”

My favorite story told by Morisano is how new menu item the Big Dog, a chili, slaw, and mustard smothered beef
One of the new menu items, the Big Dog, named after a rather memorable incident in which a disappointed patron had a few choice words for Morisano, consists of chili, slaw, and a mustard smothered beef hot dog.

Morisano explained that Chef Bailey never considered adding a hotdog to the menu until she tasted the hotdog that sits at the base of this dish.

The Spicy Fried Oysters is a Lowcountry play on Nashville hot chicken.

“The hot oysters are the hottest thing that Mashama has ever had on a menu anywhere. It is a ridiculously delicious plate of food,” Morisano told me, and I am confident in his word on it.

The crispy fried oysters are served with milk bread to cut through the heat of Chef Bailey’s comeback sauce.

A few things have stayed the same at The Diner Bar. The Diner Bar offers raw oysters from all over the eastern American coast. The presentation is simple, a wedge of lemon and mignonette.

With such fresh, clean-flavored oysters the accompaniment does not have to be over the top. I recommend starting your meal with a dozen of each kind offered, especially considering Morisano told me that their raw oyster happy hour is back on the menu.

The cocktails rotate seasonally, but the care and attention placed into each luscious libation has not changed. No matter which cocktail list is available, you will find a happy hour prices until 6 p.m. and a weekly wildcard cocktail offering.

During my last visit I was able to try the Blush wildcard cocktail, a delicate refreshing pink adult beverage shaken with gin, Campari, vermouth, and lime. Past wildcard cocktails have included a spin on a negroni and a spin on the bijou.

Just like our last meeting, during this sit down Morisano filled me in on yet another changing menu. The Grey Market launched a new menu last week.

The first thing Morisano mentioned was the burger—“We are changing the burger around. We are messing with the ratio of beef to bun,” because as Morisano explained it, “What makes the perfect burger is the perfect ratio.”

Other notable new options at The Grey Market include their potato wedges turned into disco fries, lamb birmingham, a pan perdue, and a rotisserie chicken flatbread.

Also, I would be remiss to not mention Chef Bailey’s appearance on the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table” premiering Feb. 22.
You may want to make your reservations or belly up to the Diner Bar before then. Something tells me that it may get a little more difficult to get in after that.

Original article is here.

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Coyote Oyster Bar

Coyote Oyster Bar

Last week marked the end of a saga for El Coyote’s team—Brad Syfan, Chef Tony Seichrist, and Executive Chef Landon Thompson—with the opening of their latest storefront, Coyote Oyster Bar.

When the doors of El Coyote opened just this year, they promised not one, but two additional food concepts for Savannah to enjoy within the large industrial building. You will find the chic yet beautiful oyster bar at the very top of building overlooking the west end of Victory Drive.

I asked owner Brad Syfan, who is experienced in running local seafood restaurant the Wyld Dock Bar, why open another seafood spot?

“We love raw seafood and felt like doing something to showcase that passion, that was definitely something we definitely wanted to do,” Brad said.

Since the brand new restaurant is an oyster bar, you must try at least one type of oyster offered. For me, I ordered every mollusk on the menu.

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Six different varieties are available served raw and on the half shell. Two types, the May River and Helena Salt, come from South Carolina.
Both of these oysters stood up to their northern counterparts on the tray, and could easily put the South on the map for offering quality briny and fresh oysters.

A bit further north in Virginia, you will find the Blackberry Point Oysters. They are sourced from the waters of the Northwestern Prince Edward Island before arriving at your table in Savannah. They will stand out among the others you order, because they are characterized as being larger and plumper than most.

The menu currently also offers oysters from Massachusetts, the Nasketuckets, and Maine, the Moon Dancer. Both of these variations are a flavor house of clean salty juice that can be attributed to their cold origins.

Finally, the Beausoleil oysters are from the coldest waters of them all—Canada. The characteristics of these highly prized oysters are meaty in size yet clear in taste.

To be expected, the raw oysters are served with a mignonette, lemon, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. The tin of crackers, made by Auspicious Bakery, are delicious on their own and rich in flavor because of the addition of lard.

Before ordering my first course of raw oysters, I was sure to select a specialty cocktail that would work in harmony with the subtleties of oysters in the raw. The Forsyth Park Picnic was a homerun, and tasted almost as delicate as the saltwater delicacies.

White rum is infused with lime then paired with grapefruit and blanc vermouth. The final touch is a skewered Luxardo cherry, which was the heaviest flavor of the entire cocktail.

All twelve of the craft cocktails offered at Coyote Oyster Bar were created by Syfan himself. He told me the “twelve unique craft cocktails were made especially for the upstairs and priced so that everyone can come try a thoughtful, meticulously made drink.”

The Isle of Hope Afternoon is Syfan’s “riff on a Caipirinha,” he elaborated as I glanced through the lengthy cocktail list. The addition of aperol sets his version apart, and makes the overall flavor of the cocktail reminiscent of a those red snow cones many Savannahians enjoyed as kids at Seaweeds after a hot summer day on Tybee Beach.

Because my husband grew up on Bonaventure Road, he insisted on ordering the Bonaventure Fox. I would describe this cocktail as a twist on a classic Old Fashioned, the twist being the use of Japanese sake alongside rye bourbon and cherry.

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“The Oysters Wyld are something we’ve played with for a long time. They are simple but so delicious. Roasted oyster with fresh thyme, garlic, and bacon fat flash roasted and served hot,” Brad explained, but he forgot to mention the fresh lemon that is served with the dish as well.

Although topped with ultra savory and rich components, the delicate sea-flavored meat of the oyster sitting underneath its topping is not lost. The combination hinted at the flavor of a scampi but with a crunch on top, which was the best part of the entire dish. The texture of the topping was like that of a streusel you would find on top of a blueberry muffin but the taste was much more savory.

The menu has the largest selection of crudo that can be found around town. Crudo, a preparation of raw seafood dressed with oil and/or citrus, is one of those dishes that I order anytime I am lucky enough to find it on a menu. I devoured two of the three preparations, the Fluke and Hamachi. The final option was the Tuna Crudo.

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The Fluke Crudo was served with an arrangement of apricot, coconut milk, thai basil, and green chili. Taking your first bite, you will experience the silky, subtle characteristics of the raw white fish. Next the the slight tinge of pepper hits your tongue before being swept away by the sweet and creamy coconut milk.

The sweetness of the apricot works with the sweetness of the coconut milk, while the apricots tangy notes lift the dish up. The last sensation to coat your nose and palate are the floral notes of the fresh Thai basil.

The Hamachi Crudo is just as delicate as the Fluke Crudo, but the flavors are balanced by a completely different combination of ingredients. Hamachi is slightly fattier and a richer fish, but it still maintains all of the delicate characteristics of a white fish. The raw preparation is served with a topping red Serrano peppers, pickled pineapple, cilantro, and ginger.

The most surprising dish of all was the Salmon Tartare. I can almost guarantee that most local menus offer some version of salmon or tartare dish that you have tasted or seen before. This oyster bar’s Salmon Tartare is unlike any tartare or salmon I have sampled before, which is attributed to one ingredient—green apple.

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The pungency of the green apple hides any “fishy” qualities of the salmon, especially considering salmon can have a bit of an oily taste. What remains in the dish are all of the mild flavors that most love about the fish, tangy crisp apple, acidic lime juice, and fresh green cilantro.

The large crostinis, served on the side, add a bit more fattiness that some may want with how incredibly bright and light the dish is on its own.

Original article is here

Smoked Oyster Linguine Featuring a Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Smoked Oyster Linguine Featuring a Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Oysters in Savannah are as common as gnats in the summer. During the winter, most parties feature some sort of oyster roast, fried oysters, or another oyster dish. Personally, I love oysters almost any way you can cook them, and my love for oysters did not bloom until I moved to Savannah.

Most of the time, a party leaves behind a good many oysters that the hostess has nothing he/she can do with them. Well, that has all changed.

After our most recent party (that, of course, featured oysters), I found my self with a half of a bushel of oysters still alive. The challenge became how to utilize such a large amount of fresh oysters. Again, searching my pantry, I came up with a pasta that is reminiscent of a true carbonara, but a bit more refined.

Be warned, this pasta is extremely decadent and can go a long way. The addition of a sous vide egg yolk really sets it over the edge. I liked using two egg yolks per person.

My recommendation is to start the oysters first. With about 30 minutes left, begin the bacon, then the sous vide egg. Next shuck your oysters. Once finished with the oysters, start the water for the pasta.

Smoked Oysters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a Bushel of Fresh Oysters

Directions:

First soak the flavored wood chips you intend on using for at least one hour prior to cooking. When ready, heat your big green egg or smoker to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at the correct temperature and holding, add in a few wood chips. Be careful to watch the temperature of your smoker after adding in the wood chips because when they catch fire, the open flame can raise the temperature quickly, given the low temperature of 175 degrees. Layer your raw oysters in single layer on the grate. Close the lid, and let smoke for 2 hours at 175. If before your two hours is up the smoke slows down, feel free to add more wood.

Once two hours have passed, remove your oysters. Clean the meat from each oyster, remove the adductor muscle, and store the meat in a sealable container.

Sous Vide Egg Yolk

Ingredients:

  • 8 Egg Yolks
  • Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat your sous vide machine to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently place your egg yolks in a sealable, heat proof container. Slowly pour over enough olive oil to fully submerge the egg yolks. Cover container, and gently place into the warm water. Sous-vide for at least one hour. The eggs yolks can sit in the sous vide for up to an additional hour before over cooking.

Smoked Oyster Linguine

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices of thick cut bacon
  • Smoked Oysters, see above
  • 1 Box of Linguine
  • 3 Cups of Fresh Spinach
  • 6 tablespoons of my Parmesan Parsley Butter (find it here)
  • 1 Lemon
  • 8 Sous Vided Egg Yolks
  • 2 Cups of Grated Parmesan

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a two sheet pans with foil or parchment paper. Layer your bacon on each pan in a single layer. Bake for about one hour, until the bacon is the color you prefer. Drain on paper towels, then crumble.

While the bacon cooks, prep and cook your egg yolks.

Once you have the egg yolks going, start a large pot of salted and oiled water over medium heat.

Get your oysters cleaned and ready.

Once your pot of water is at a boil, throw in your pasta. It should take about 9 minutes to cook the pasta al dente.

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat. Throw in your butter and let melt. Then add the spinach. Cook your spinach for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Once wilted, add it the zest of your lemon, plus the fresh juice. Stir in your parmesan, bacon, and oysters.

By this time your pasta should be ready, so drain the noodles and add to the sauce.

Serve the pasta immediately in individual bowls, topping each with 2 egg yolks and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan.

Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Smoked Oysters Two Ways

Since the holidays are officially over, my friends and I are looking for excuse to continue having celebrations. Last year, by happenstance, we threw together an oyster smoking and Christmas Tree burning party. I can’t decide if this was due to receiving a Big Green Egg as a Christmas present making my husband and I anxious to cook every meal on it or because my friends and I ‘s had nothing to do with our leftover Christmas trees. Nevertheless, the first party was a hit. I threw together a menu with almost everything done on the egg, including smoked bread, oysters, and sea bass.

This year my friends were sure to ask that we have another party with he same oysters, but instead of preparing the entire menu I asked everyone to bring over something we could throw on the egg. The result was perfect, first course was smoked bread to rip and dunk in truffle white cheddar spread and top with prosciutto. Next, my friend, Maria, prepared a traditional Caesar with romaine we lightly grilled, then topped with homemade dressing and fresh cracked black pepper. Finally, we had smoked oysters two ways. These babies are quick and easy. Together we all quickly shucked the fresh oysters, then I topped them with the butters, threw them on the grill for three minutes, then passed around the tray. Each oyster flavor stands up on its own. The chipotle butter is balanced with sweet honey, firefly chipotle, and bitter whiskey. The Parmesan brings needed relief from the heat with the savory taste of garlic and herbs.

Once our bellies were full, we gathered around the fire pit in my backyard and picked off each tree one at a time. It is amazing the hours of fun burning dry christmas trees results in. I am not going to lie, we coordinated each tree burning with a related song. Nelly’s Its Getting Hot in Here, Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Lil Wayne’s Fireman were just some of the our brilliant picks.

Chipotle Bourbon Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of chipotle sauce
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Parmesan Parsley Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick of softened butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

In a small food processor, combine all ingredients until fully combined. Transfer into small Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready to use

Smoked Oysters Two Ways:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bushels of cleaned fresh local oysters
  • Wood Chips
  • Chipotle Bourbon Butter
  • Parmesan Parsley Butter

Directions:

An hour or two prior to cooking, soak your wood chips in a bowl of water to prevent burning too quickly. Once ready to cook, get your smoker, grill, or big green egg to a semi-high heat; I cooked these at about 400 degrees farienhiet. While smoker is heating, start shucking your oysters making sure to keep all the briny juice in. Organize your oysters on a large tray, and top each one with a teaspoon of your desired butter. Set aside until your smoker is ready.

Once the smoker is at desired temperature, add you wood chips. Give the chips a minute or two to begin smoking. Place your oysters in single layer on the smoker, and cook for three minutes until the butter is bubbly; you should be able to shut the lid for a minute or two. Remove, place back on tray, and serve immediately.