[Boston] Island Creek Oyster Bar
Island Creek Oyster Bar (ICOB) situates in in the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square, just steps from “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark,” Fenway Park. ICOB is the place to go for fresh oysters and seafood from all over. The menu is printed just before service to present the freshest ingredients possible to its customers.
I was really excited to visit ICOB. It’s just outside of Kenmore Station. We arrived on a Thursday night and were surprised how busy the restaurant was.
The decor is slick and modern throughout and atmosphere is very energetic and yet totally relaxed. I liked the restaurant as soon as I stepped in. We were quickly seated in the back of the dining room. The front of the restaurant seemed more like a “lounge” area where diners sip their wine/cocktail, slurp oysters, and nibble on appetizer-portion sized food.
There is also a very impressive looking oyster bar in the front of the restaurant. The bar was filled with an amazing amount of oysters, with chefs busy shucking them and sending them out.
The oyster bar at ICOB offers a great selection of oysters, but the choices vary from night to night, depending on what comes in that day. We were actually overwhelmed by the selection! Thankfully, our server was very well versed in the oyster selection and helped us choose an array of oysters.
While we were waiting for our oysters, the complimentary bread arrived at our table. The sourdough bread was still warm and soft in the centre and crust was nice and flaky. What’s more amazing, was the butter. The butter at ICOB is mixed with honey, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. It tasted exquisite. It was sweet AND savoury! I seriously think all restaurants should make their butter that way.
There was also a caddy filled with dressings for the oysters, ranging from the standard red tabasco, green jalapeno sauce, horse radish, to sriracha sauce! Who would’ve thought of putting sriracha sauce on oysters?
When our oysters finally came to the table, it came in a nice big round plate on a bed of crushed ice. We ordered five kinds of oysters, and they were neatly lined up in in a clockwise fashion, so we would know what exactly we were eating. You would think that ALL oyster bars adopts this kind of consideration to their oyster presentation but unfortunately they don’t…
We started with the Island Creek oysters, locally farmed in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Island Creek oysters had a nice mild flavour, with an earthy sweet finish. It was not too briny but the texture is not as “meaty” as I liked. Island Creek was Charles’ favourite, as it was the biggest of all oysters that we ordered. He also enjoy the mild salty taste of Island Creek. The second oyster, Chatham, was also a local oyster, cultivated in Oyster Pond near Chatham, MA. Chatham oysters had an intense briny taste which neither of us liked, but I enjoyed the rich, firm meats and the sweet after taste. After Chatham, we tried Northern Cross. Northern Cross is cultivated in Virginia and it was my favourite oyster of the night. It had a nice plump meaty texture, with a mild sweet aroma, and a hint of creaminess. It was absolutely divine! We then tried the Hama Hama Oysters from Washington State. Hama Hama had fairly firm meats and a distinctive brininess. The last oyster, was Katama Bay oyster, cultivated in Katama Bay, MA. Katama Bay oyster was also known as “Sweet Petities,” had firm meats, with a briny hit, followed by a sweet, refreshing finish. It was my second favourite. I wish I could eat oysters every day!
After we devoured the oysters, our mains arrived. Charles ordered the deep fried clams and clam chowder. I went for the lobster rolls packed with close to 1 lb. of fresh lobster.
The fried clams were lightly breaded and the batter was so crispy. The clams inside were huge and tasted fresh. The clam chowder was a little disappointing. It was creamy but not rich in seafood flavour. It was cooked with house-cured bacon, and the bacon flavour unfortunately overpowers the seafood taste. It also did not contain too many pieces of clams (but each piece we found was fairly large). It was still good and Charles liked it. However, he liked it for the wrong reason: because it tasted like bacon.
My lobster roll was delicious. The lobster was tossed in a very light mayo dressing with diced crunchy celery. The lobster was very fresh and tasty. It was so effortless to eat lobster this way that I could just eat lobster all day! I was not a huge fan of the rosemary roll that came with though. I don’t think rosemary goes very well with lobster…
Overall, it was a very pleasant dining experience. The seafood was fresh and tasty. The service is solid and we loved the attention to detail with the oysters. Although we didn’t try that many items off the menu, we definitely enjoyed the vibe of this energetic, inviting, and chic place. ICOB will definitely be on our itinerary if we go back to Boston in the future.