New England

The Westword Watch List: Lobster This Week

Blue Island is on a roll — a lobster roll. The Cherry Creek oyster bar and fish house just rolled out four different versions of the New England favorite to go with its classic original made with lemon mayonnaise and celery. There's a slightly austere model made with garlic-herb butter; a Tokyo roll amped up with ginger-lime mayo, sesame, togarashi and cucumber; a Mile High roll with chipotle aioli, avocado, bacon, Bibb lettuce and tomato; and the New Yorker, loaded with with celery, tomato, lemon mayo and bread-and-butter pickles. Even better is the price: At an attractive $15, you won't find a better lobster deal in town. But don't go for dinner; the deal is only good for weekday lunch and weekend brunch.

by Mark Antonation

 

Blue Island Oyster Bar Now Open In Cherry Creek

By Elizabeth Woessner | Online Editor

Serving up Coastal Comfort Food

The much anticipated Blue Island Oyster Bar {2625 East Second Avenue, Denver; 303.333.2462}, a new oyster-centric restaurant from Concept Restaurants—the group behind Humboldt :: Farm Fish Wine—is finally open in Cherry Creek. Inspired by the food found in small New England coastal towns, the 100-seat Blue Island Oyster Bar is a casual, unpretentious, “dock-to-dish” eatery, serving up affordable clam shack favorites.

Sean Huggard, Director of Operations at Concept Restaurants, sums the restaurant up as “a cross between what would happen if an oyster shack was taken over by a chef or a gastropub was taken over by an oysterman.” Here’s a peak at what you can expect to discover at the soon-to-be Cherry Creek favorite.

It’s All About the Oysters

Oysters are front and center here, as is reflected by the raw bar, the décor, the menu, and even the management team. Chris Quartuccio, owner of the renowned Blue Island Shellfish Farm off the coast of New York’s Long Island, is a financial partner and co-owner, making Blue Island Oyster Bar the first oyster farmer-owned Colorado restaurant.

Guests can sit at the oyster bar and interact with the shuckers while slurping down the earthy, toothsome East Coast Naked Cowboys, or the plump, sweet West Coast Shibumi oysters. Quartuccio is responsible for all of the restaurant’s oysters, which he meticulously sources from both coasts. Many of the oysters are exclusive to Blue Island Oyster Bar, flown in daily, and change with the season. In addition to raw oysters served with cocktail sauce and mignonette, guests can enjoy roasted oysters with garlic butter, Parmesan, and Ritz cracker crumbs, or cornflower-crusted fried oysters with Chef DJ Nagle’s housemade tartar sauce.

Inside Blue Island

Touches throughout the space harken to the New England oyster shack theme with modern, sophisticated flair. The entrance wall was designed to mimic the interior of an oyster shell and the restaurant boasts a full-wall nautical rendering of Long Island’s Great South Bay (if you look closely, you can see the submerged Blue Island Oyster baskets just off the coast of Sayville, NY).

The centerpiece of the restaurant is the oyster bar adorned with fresh oysters on ice displayed in traditional shucker’s baskets just waiting to be shucked and slurped. The enormous custom-made ceiling installation floats above the bar and resembles giant wooden oars. The far wall depicts underwater photographs of oyster divers collecting their treasures.

The Menu

Executive Chef DJ Nagle’s menu is inspired by the East Coast beachfront meals of his childhood. The Stuffies are giant clamshells packed with a seafood stuffing of scallops, clams, charred corn, and Linguica sausage—warning: order your own plate, you will not want to share.

The Fried New England Surf Clams are perfect for sharing and are served with Chef Nagle’s housemade tartar sauce. The Clam Pasta is as good a linguine and clams as you can find. Nagle tosses fresh pasta with a generous amount of chopped clams, crushed chile, garlic, white wine, butter, and fresh herbs.

Clamshack cooks throughout New England are known to use Ritz crackers in their crumb toppings and with good reason—they taste delicious. Nagle’s Baked Sea Scallops are served in an individual casserole and topped with a buttery Ritz cracker crumb crust.

The Chef and Shucker—Blue Island Oyster Bar’s version of a charcuterie plate—is a two-tiered dish perfect for sharing with four Blue Island No. 9 oysters, four Long Island Little Neck clams, seafood salad, peel and eat shrimp, artisanal cheese, garlic salami, tuna poke, salmon rillettes, and grilled ciabatta.

Coastal Libations

No one wants to sit by the ocean eating clam shack comfort food without something wet and cold to quench their thirst. The bar team at Blue Island Oyster Bar has put together a simple yet refined beverage program of seven specialty cocktails, nine beers—two of which are brewed exclusively for Blue Island—and a well-curated wine list.

The Diver’s Punch is a deceptively light, beach-pounder of Monopolowa Dry gin, Exotica tequila, and muddled blueberries, fresh lime, and bitters. The Fall Mule is made with St. George spice pear liqueur, Monopolowa vodka, vanilla, ginger, and lemon.

Both of these cocktails are included in the seven $5 cocktail offerings during happy hour, which runs Monday through Friday, 3-6pm. Happy hour also features $4 draft beers, and $6 or $7 wines. Happy hour bites range from $2 for a Blue Island No. 9 oyster to $8 for a Knuckle Sandwich, made with lobster knuckles, of course.

 

 

Surf's Up at Blue Island Oyster Bar Tomorrow

BY MARK ANTONATION

Oyster bars and raw oyster service have become trendy in Denver restaurants, but Blue Island Oyster Bar, which opens tomorrow in Cherry Creek North, is taking shellfish obsession to a new level. The new seafood house next door to the Cherry Cricket is partnering with the Blue Island Shellfish Farm on Long Island, New York, and will offer several proprietary oyster varieties that the company will ship to Denver daily, with mollusks often pulled from Altantic coast waters in the morning that are ready to be shucked for dinner service.

Blue Island Shellfish Farm owner Chris Quartuccio partnered with Denver's Concept Restaurants (owners of HumboldtStout Street Social and Ignite Burgers & Lounge, among others) because he was looking for an experienced restaurant management team in a new market for his oysters and clams. At Concept, he found like-minded East Coasters in director of operations Sean Huggard and chef DJ Nagle. He'll provide farmed and wild-caught oysters for the group while Nagle will oversee the kitchen and menu of classic New York and New England fare.

Some of the oysters, like kumamotos, will have names familiar to shellfish aficionados, while others  — shibumi, Blue Island No. 9 and Naked Cowboy — are new to the Denver market and will be exclusive to the restaurant. The Naked Cowboy variety was actually named for the famed Manhattan street musician, and comes with its own branded hot sauce that was developed specifically to complement the flavors of the oyster.

Oyster buyer and head shucker Cory Egan will manage the prominent raw bar; oysters will be displayed on ice in steel diver baskets set on the bar counter. A Chef & Shucker tower will combine shrimp, clams and oysters served on ice topped with a wooden board of salmon rillette, tuna poke, sausage, artisan cheese and grilled ciabatta. A la carte raw bar offerings will cover caviar, ceviche, crudo and lobster.

Nagle's menu features seafood-shack favorites: clam chowder served with clam cakes; fish and chips made with cracker-crusted cod; clam "stuffies" overflowing with a breadcrumb, corn and linguica sausage mixture; and fried clam strips. "It's just stuff that I like to cook," the Long Island native explains. As a kid, Nagle says, he used to fish off the pier in Sayville, New York that now serves as the headquarters of Quartuccio's seafood company.

Modern dishes include tuna poke, black cod skewers served over Asian noodles with miso sabayon, and charred octopus with chorizo vinaigrette. 

The decor captures the feel of a New England seafood house with updated Cherry Creek influences. Weathered chairs and bar stools contrast with a sleek and clean-lined oyster bar while dim, architectural light fixtures shed a rippling, underwater glow against mural-sized maps and photos. 

The bar program will include seven house cocktails; Diver's IPA and Blue Island Blonde on tap (both made for the eatery by Boulder Beer); and an in-depth wine list that should please the Cherry Creek crowd. Happy hour will be offered from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.

Blue Island Oyster Bar opens at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, September 22, and will be open seven days a week. Closing hours are flexible for now until Blue Island settles into the flow of the neighborhood. Keep reading for a look at Cherry Creek's latest catch.