You don't have to travel to Manhattan to get a taste of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. The Brooklyn version in Park Slope will do just fine. The restaurant is spread out among three separate dining areas. One room offers counter service similar to what you'll find at Grand Central. Another has a bar with a more loungy feel. There is also a formal dining room. In fact, you will find all of the elements of the original in a stylish new setting, including lit archways that capture the feel of Grand Central. The waiters also have fun, somewhat quirky personalities, which is quite refreshing. But it's not all smooth sailing.
- First, the restaurant is on a dimly lit street with no signage to speak of. I had to drive around the block twice before figuring out the location. Invest in a sign. If people can't find you they probably won't.
- Second, it was just about 10 o'clock on a Friday evening and the dining room was nearly empty. The hostess, who was very nice, seemed to be pacing back and forth. If she wanted out why would I want in?
- And third, the menu. While it is big on appetizers and oysters, it could use a few more main courses. I counted under a dozen at the new spot, compared with more than forty at the Manhattan location. Now, I know you can't do that many, but a catfish filet or broiled sole would be nice. And if you're a vegetarian you're pretty much stuck with grilled veggies over fettucine.
I'm no Robert Irvine but after eating at hundreds of restaurants even I can spot potential pitfalls. Fix them. Fast!
On the flipside, the freshness of the fish is unmatched. Oysters, perfectly chilled, were pristine with a wonderful briny flavor. The crab cake was plump and overflowing with crab. Fried oysters arrived golden brown, succulent and packed full of goodness. I only wish that there were a few more stuffed inside our little basket. A lobster roll piled high with chunks of sweet lobster was just as good as the one at Red Hook Lobster Pound, if not better. Wild striped bass was moist and flaky although I wasn't too jazzed by the sweet chili Thai sauce. Grilled scallops were cooked perfectly but the yellow squash with it was undercooked and bitter. New England clam chowder is excellent as usual, but please ditch the tin cup in the center of the bowl. It's cumbersome and really unnecessary.
Add in a few draft beers (There's also an extensive wine list.) and the tab for three rang in at just under 200 bucks. Despite some kinks I would return to Grand Central Oyster Bar in a heartbeat. And you should too. Brooklyn is a tastier place for it!