Oyster Club shines in Saveur Magazine

A Sweet Southern Side - Chef James Wayman puts an autumnal spin on a Carolina dish

Published: November 26, 2014


Oyster Club, Mystic, CT

“On a recent fall afternoon, I visited Mystic, Connecticut’s Oyster Club restaurant, where chef James Wayman prepares an eclectic menu using local ingredients and daily inspiration. On this particular visit, his sweet potato pudding caught my eye—an autumnal palette of golden orange purée strewn with the reds and browns of just-foraged porcini, golden chanterelle, and chestnut boletus mushrooms. I took a bite: The mushrooms delivered an earthy aroma and an array of subtle flavors ranging from savory to delicate and nutty. But the real treasure lay underneath—a remarkable pudding with the silky texture of crème brûlée, in which the taste of sweet potatoes mingled with that of bacon fat, caramelized white onions, fresh sage, and wild bay. It was nothing short of thrilling.

Curious about the origin of the dish, I sat down with Wayman to learn more. Raised on his grandparents’ farm in rural North Carolina, he grew up eating sweet potatoes prepared one way and one way only: his grandmother Rose Freedman’s Thanksgiving side of sweet potato slices coated in brown sugar and topped with marshmallows. Freedman was a “good, simple” cook whose go-to meal in the summer months was a savory corn pudding, a dish he still remembers with great affection. He spent years perfecting a fall version using sweet potatoes.

To construct the pudding’s complex flavors, Wayman begins by roasting Beauregard sweet potatoes until slivers of the caramelized flesh burst through cracks in the skins. He cooks white onions slowly over low heat to coax out their sweetness, in a mixture of bacon fat and butter seasoned with garlic, sage, wild bay, and cayenne. Once the onions are translucent, he adds cream and the roasted potatoes, bringing the mixture to a simmer and then gently cooking it for several minutes more. He places it into a blender, adding the egg yolks one by one to prevent curdling. Finally, he bakes the pudding in a bain-marie, a pan set into a larger pan filled with hot water; doing so prevents a crust from forming on the outside of the custard before it is fully cooked and firm. He serves the pudding warm from the oven, with mushrooms sautéed in garlic and butter.

I was happy to learn it is a dish easily recreated at home. In my own kitchen, I replaced his wild bay with a bay leaf, and settled for the best mushrooms I could find at my local market—shiitakes. The Beauregards were easy enough to find—they’re one of the most popular sweet potato varieties (though they’re often marked as “yams” in the grocery store). The result was just as good as I remembered, creamy and sweet with a luscious, smooth texture. It’s a dish I’ve made again and again, equally perfect for a simple dinner of roast chicken and broccoli as it is for the Thanksgiving table.”

Source: http://www.saveur.com/article/kitchen/james-waymans-sweet-potato-pudding


Oyster Club Heralded on Renowned “Crunchy Radish” Blog

A Very Crunchy Radish Wedding

Published: October 1, 2014


For our rehearsal dinner, we knew we wanted a setting that represented shoreline Connecticut and offered a classic New England atmosphere. We found that at Oyster Club- just rated by Travel and Leisure as one of the best oyster bars in America. We could not agree more. A causal fine dining spot with a fantastic raw bar and rustic charm, the menu changes daily based on what is caught or procured at the farmers’ market. It was here where we kicked off the weekend festivities with the most incredible minerally and plump local oysters, chowder with house made oyster crackers, pole caught local tuna, and plum crisp topped with fresh cream. Flowers were created by my amazing Man of Honor, Kevin Michael Ericson, and the incredible photographs you see here, were shot by the dear multi-talented Georgi Richardson of Maggie Marguerite. Guests who arrived on Friday met us in the Treehouse, the rooftop bar of the Oyster Club, where the revelry continued with the backdrop of bistro lights and Mystic river breeze.

Source: http://crunchyradish.com/lifestyle/2014/10/1/a-very-crunchy-radish-wedding-part-i

NPR’s “Food Schmooze” Visits Oyster Club

Travel & Leisure Mag Picks The Oyster Club in Mystic

Published: October 2, 2014

npr logo

We agree. If you’re after tasty, super-fresh oysters shucked the way they should be, head to the charming Oyster Club at 13 Water Street in Mystic, Connecticut.Accompanied by Food Schmooze regular Alex Province, and Matthew Bennett, Faith and the guys dove into a large platter of Noank oysters, washed down with a chilled bottle of Sancerre. (Also try the Ninigret Nectars and Watch Hill oysters from Rhode Island, and the ones from Fisher’s Island, N.Y.) Nice selection, and that’s why Travel & Leisure named the place one of the top oyster bars in America.We also enjoyed the homemade pasta, pan-roasted fluke, and Faith says the braised goat posole with hominy, cumin, pink beauty radishes and lime salsa is terrific. Alex and Matt keep a sailboat nearby. After many visits, they say the chef has a special way with braised meats.If you’re into quality farm-to-table ingredients, you’ll have a seaport good time at The Oyster Club.

Source: http://foodschmooze.org/travel-leisure-mag-picks-oyster-club-mystic/


Best Oyster Bars in America – Travel + Leisure Magazine

Travel + Leisure Magazine – Best Oyster Bars in America
Published: September 16, 2014

Oyster Club, Mystic, CT

Owner Daniel Meiser and chef James Wayman operate the Oyster Club out of a historic clapboard building. The duo procures seafood exclusively from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, yet they use it in eclectic, globally influenced dishes like steamed mussels with a coconut-lemongrass broth, lime, and cilantro. With a menu that changes daily, it’s enough to keep the regulars guessing. The shaded outdoor deck (known as The Treehouse) overlooks Mystic River and serves oysters shucked to order.

Source: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-oyster-bars-in-america/14

Oyster Club recognized as best upscale restaurant in Connecticut

Published: December 13, 2013 | Last Modified: December 18, 2013 12:42PM

By MICHAEL SOUZA Sun Staff Writer

MYSTIC — The Oyster Club on 13 Water St., open for just a shade over two years, has been named the best upscale restaurant in the state by the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

For co-owner and general manager Daniel Meiser, partial owner and executive chef James Wayman, and business partner Jason Steadman, the recognition is a testament to the passion and hard work of everyone involved. A little innovative thinking doesn’t hurt, either.

Their success was acknowledged at the annual Salute to Excellence Dinner, hosted by the association at Mohegan Sun on Dec. 3. Last year, Connecticut Magazine named the restaurant as having the best seafood in the state.

The restaurant has been open only since Sept. 28, 2011.

“We are still a relatively new restaurant, but what I think we’ve brought to the area, and to the state, is an enthusiasm for the products we work with and what we do with them,” Meiser said. “The meat from local farms, the seafood from local fishermen or the beers and the wine we serve. We take it very seriously. The way we cook is the way Americans ate before World War II, and is the same way people across the world eat today and always have.

“It’s shopping daily. It’s sourcing locally. It’s eating seasonally.”

The owners are proud of the results, the dining experience, the food and the building. Meiser said that Wayman and his team were magicians in the kitchen.

“What they put out there is amazing and people recognize that,” he said.

Wayman, 41, has been in the business his whole career. He gives his staff a lot of credit for their success because they share the same passion.

“You can’t do it alone,” he said.

The two say they are lucky to be located in Mystic because the farmers and fishermen here give them quality food to work with.

“They make it easier for us to let the food shine on the plate,” Wayman said.

After opening, the dining spot was very busy by the next spring, and the demand was too much for the restaurant’s seating capacity of about 60.

“We were turning away 70-100 people a night,” Meiser said.

Wayman and Meiser liked the view on the ledge in the rear of the building, overlooking the river, and imagined that a few picnic tables would be nice. Being industrious, they broke out the tape measure and envisioned what is now known as the Treehouse. The outdoor bar and deck tucked away in the trees with a view of the Mystic River became a reality thanks to some clever planning. Completed and used this year, there might be nothing like it along the entire coastline.

“It’s a different experience, maybe a little more casual and family friendly,” Meiser said.

Said Wayman: “It’s unique. It’s on a hill looking down at the river and we cook for you, basically right there.”

They are also planning to open a butcher shop and another restaurant (see related story, this page).

Local purveyors are a key to the business. Most of what they serve originates within 30 miles of Mystic. In the winter, for example, most of the fresh vegetables are grown in area greenhouses.

Wayman, a native North Carolinian, was previously executive chef at River Tavern in Chester for seven years, where he built a reputation for local food. Meiser, 35, grew up in Manchester. He operated several restaurants, including the Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, and after helping to start the restaurant at the Ocean House in Westerly, he fell in love with the area and remained.

Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said the Oyster Club was nominated in the upscale restaurant category and a committee of board members narrowed the nominees to five finalists. The nominees were posted on the association’s website and people voted for their favorites over about a two week period.

“Voting was open to the public and we received over 8,000 votes on our website,” Griffin said.

Source : http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/state/3137145-129/oyster-club-recognized-as-best-upscale-restaurant-in-connecticut.html

Oyster Club partners opening new restaurant, butcher shop

Published: December 13, 2013 | Last Modified: December 13, 2013 11:32PM

By MICHAEL SOUZA Sun Staff Writer

MYSTIC — A new restaurant and butcher shop are opening in the downtown area, courtesy of Daniel Meiser, general manager of The Oyster Club, and its executive chef, James Wayman. Both are partial owners of the club and the new ventures.

The pair are hoping that a restaurant at 14 Holmes St., the Engine Room, will be open in time for Christmas. They are also working on bringing a butcher shop and wine bar to 15 Water St., in the first floor of the former Emporium.

“It will be called the Engine Room because that space was originally the J.W. Lathrop Marine Engine Company,” Meiser said of the property at 14 Holmes St. “From 1897 through World War II, they built some of the finest marine motors in America.”

One such engine will be there on display, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

The interior has been stripped to its origins, showing the restored brick walls and polished concrete floors, thick wooden beams and reclaimed lumber. It will also have a fully open kitchen. The renovations were designed by Field and Co., a custom home builder and general contractor based in Mystic.

“People that have been there before, when it was Riverwalk or Trader Jack’s, will not recognize it,” Meiser said. “We gutted the inside leaving just the four walls and ceiling.”

Wayman said, “It will have 16 beers on draft and a bourbon bar. The food will be locally sourced American comfort food classics, such as the hamburger. There will be a choice of five different burgers and appetizers, and we will be staying open for late-night.”

There will also be some Southern cuisine, like fried chicken, brisket, hushpuppies and braised greens — staples of Wayman’s native North Carolina.

“Southern cuisine is uniquely American, so it will one of several things that are highlighted,” Meiser said.

As if that weren’t enough to keep them busy, the two are also planning to lease the first floor of the former Emporium and open a butcher shop. The building is owned by the Mystic Arts Center, which purchased the property earlier this year. It is now being renovated.

“We wanted to bring something new to the area, something that hasn’t been seen in this immediate area for maybe 50 years,” Meiser said. “It would be great for the locals, something to catch people’s attention. To have a restaurant like this and have a butcher shop next door that’s cutting its own meat and making its own hams, in the food world, that’s national attention.”

According to Meiser, an art gallery and artists’ residence will occupy the second and third floors. The first floor will house the butcher shop and the basement will become a wine bar. The space has been cleaned, cleared and the floor jackhammered, adding about one foot of headroom.

“The stonewalls look great and the building itself is beautiful. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in Mystic,” Meiser said.

“We’re very excited to be there,” added Wayman.

Source : http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/latestnews/3137168-129/oyster-club-partners-opening-new-restaurant-butcher-shop.html

Best Restaurants 2013: Experts’ Picks

Max Fish, Glastonbury
Oyster Club, Mystic
The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton
Waterhouse Oyster Bar & Bistro, Branford
The Whelk, Westport 
Ibiza, New Haven
Max Oyster Bar, West Hartford
Elm Street Oyster House, Greenwich
Carmen Anthony Fishhouse, Wethersfield
S&P Oyster Co., Mystic
Jasper White’s Summer Shack, Uncasville


THE WHELK, WESTPORT: “These restaurants–The Whelk and Oyster Club–buy local, sustainable fish, and that’s very important to me. Of course, the chefs at these restaurants also know how to cook fish perfectly.” -Elizabeth Keyser

source: http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/February-2013/Best-Restaurants-2013-Experts-Picks/index.php?cparticle=3&siarticle=2#artanc