Were you ever that child who was awfully picky and refused to eat half of what was served on the dinner table? I was. During elementary school, I got so grossed out by my school-supplied lunch box, I would eat no more than several strands of the stir fry noodles before pushing the rest onto the side of the box to make it look like I ate more than I did, so that it could hopefully pass my teacher’s inspection before I toss it out.
But then I grew older, and started to get out of my comfort zones, acquiring the tastes that used to repulse my baby-self’s palette. I used to hate mushrooms, ginger, papaya, Chinese almond milk, brussel sprouts, doughtnuts. And I learned to like them over the years, in that order.
There remained one thing that no matter how adventurous I became as a foodie, I would recoil slightly whenever I see people order them – oysters. Especially raw ones. There was something about its slimy texture and bitter aftertaste that kept my guard up whenever I was offered one.
So how did I end up at GT Fish & Oysters, one of Chicago’s best seafood restaurants that specializes in oysters? My friend, Selina, and I originally planned to go there for Chicago Chef’s Week, where they offered a prix fixe dinner menu that did not include any raw oysters. But, allured by its reputation in Chicago’s restaurant scene, I thought, if there is one place I should try to befriend raw oysters, it’s here. So we ditched the Chef’s Week menu and basically splurged on everything else – drinks, oysters, appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Before I go into the tale of how GT changed my opinions on oysters, let’s talk about the restaurant itself. Classy and chic, but not overbearingly fancy, GT is an ideal place for almost any occasion. Parents in town? Check. Bringing a date? Check. Single and going with a friend? Mhm. Celebratory dinner? Yup. The restaurant’s vibe sits comfortably between casual and elegant, with buzzing conversations around you that is light enough to not drown out your conversations. There is a standing bar area in the middle that neatly sections off the restaurant. I love the combination of black, white and wooden decors, and the gigantic windows that let in a beautiful amount of natural light.
The service was swift and friendly. Right off the bat, we ordered half a dozen of raw oysters – Hang Town and Sunset Beach, three of each kind. (Oyster menus are subject to change daily.) I’m a newbie to oysters, so to be honest I don’t know much about the differences between different kinds of oysters. The Sunset Beach was from the West coast, which is pretty much what I know. The oysters came out sitting on top a beautiful plate of ice, served with GT cocktail sauce and ponzu mignonette sauce. I took in their color and irregular shapes, and watched suspiciously as Selina picked one up and happily slurped it down.
I started off with the smaller one, Hang Town. I spooned a small amount of cocktail sauce over it, and brought it into my mouth. It was like eating a solid blob of seawater – slightly salty, and very, very fresh. The taste was hard to nail down, but it reminded me of the time I went snorkeling in a coast in Costa Rica, and the way the air tasted and smelled beautifully like salt when I reached for the water surface and took out my mouthpiece. The cocktail sauce and lemon juice removed the offputting aftertaste of oysters that I’ve always detested, and just like that, the oyster was easily slid down my throat. The Sunset Beach tasted even better, with a tinge of sweetness to it and a juicer texture.
In short, raw oysters are really not bad.
I’m definitely now more convinced why people love raw oysters. I’ve been converted – or, kind of. Still on the verge but at least I liked it. Mentally adding “oysters” to my list of used-to-hate food. 😉
OKAY MOVING ON. Dishes in GT are meant to be shared, and we got four plates of entrees between the two of us. Food was served from cold to hot, in a perfect pace that made sure our table wasn’t overwhelmed with plates.
Tuna Poke (mango, cucumber, black sesame)
This was a show-stopper, even though the show had barely begun. The freshness of the raw tuna gave it a very smooth and light texture, its fresh flavors wonderfully complemented with just a hint of sesame oil and soy sauce. The thin slices of mango added a touch of sweetness to the dish. Despite the natural fat of the fish, we finished the dish with a clean and very refreshing palette.
Shrimp Bruschetta (avocado, toasted pistachio, grapefruit, cilantro)
Although these bruschettas were pleasing enough, they were probably the least impressive dish of the night. There was too much avocado cream on a piece of toast that was slightly too crunchy, but they were still tasty despite the slightly off textures.
Fish Taco (garlic marinade, chipotle aioli, pork chicharron)
I love how soft yet sturdy the corn tortillas were, and the fish was, again, very fresh. Unlike the usual fish tacos you get in Mexican restaurants, these fish fillets were coated with pork chicharron crumbs (I think?), instead of fried in batter. This interesting twist kept the fish’s flavors undisguised, and added an edge to the otherwise traditional dish. A dab of aioli sauce added a satisfying burst of umami.
Grilled Prawns (saffron rice, shellfish ragout, toulouse sausage)
Steaming and hot, this paella-like dish was spectacular both taste and appearance-wise. The saffron rice was cooked with the essence of fresh lobsters, giving it a rich and robust aroma. I love the combination of the soft grains with sausage and prawns. A perfectly-portioned and hearty dish to end the main courses.
Rhubarb Cheesecake (rhubarb compote, pistachio, strawberry, lemongrass ice cream, rhubarb-pepper granita)
This was, hands down, one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while. Sophisticated and well-executed, it’s a tiny plate of meticulous details. The texture was mindblowing – the cheesecake, crumbles, granita and strawberry melted together flawlessly on my tongue, cleaning our savory palette with a refreshing tartness. The lemongrass ice cream had a tiny amount of alcohol in it and was frostily delicious. The entire dessert felt like Spring was in my mouth. (But not in Chicago because it’s apparently APRIL and it’s still 50 degrees?????)
I usually regard cheesecake as a dessert that’s more on the heavy side, but this dessert dish had the perfect ratio of sweetness to tartness, the ice cream balancing the creaminess of the cheesecake. The portion was just enough for two girls with full stomachs to share. Props to the waiter for recommending this! GT has their own pastry chef, and so their dessert menu is extremely worth a try if you go there.
A dinner at GT Fish & Oyster was definitely a mini splurge, but a splurge well worth the buck. It was an amazing treat-yo’self meal and I definitely recommend this restaurant for almost any dining occasions.
P.S. Here is an interesting essay about oysters I came across when trying to Google how to describe the taste of oysters. (Lols)
GT Fish & Oyster
Address: 531 N. Wells St, Chicago, IL
Phone no.: 3129293501