It is a rite of passage for every West Coast resident and visitor to eat at least one raw oyster. Briny and bracing, oysters—like grapes grown for wine—carry a distinct flavour depending on where they were grown. Some oysters are sweeter, some saltier. They may have a slightly metallic aftertaste, or leave lingering hints of melon, cucumber, or herbs. Above all else, oysters taste like the ocean. “If you don’t love life you can’t enjoy an oyster,” observed American writer Eleanor Clark. “There is a shock of freshness to it, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes.” Never mind my personal opinion that raw oysters are best left to scavenging seagulls. Luckily for Victoria’s seafood restaurants and oyster bars, my tastebuds are in the minority!

If you enjoy a good fresh slurp of oyster, there is a new downtown restaurant you won’t want to miss. The Oyster Bar at 614 Humboldt Street part of the new Humboldt Valley shopping district—is an offshoot of the long-popular Pescatores Seafood & Grill and oysters are its specialty.

Oyster on the half shell are $2.50 each for “superior” oyster varieties (or $25 per dozen), and $2.25 each for “premium” oysters ($22 per dozen). All fresh oysters are served with a selection of condiments, from classic cocktail sauce to hot pepper sauce to fresh grated horseradish. Every day between 4:00 and 5:30 p.m., The Oyster Bar offers a Buck-a-Shuck feature special, selling one variety of oyster for $1 apiece. If you prefer, you can also have your oysters in a stew, coated and fried, or baked with decadent sauces like bacon-and-leek cream, spinach-cream and hollandaise, or a brandy-and-shallot cream (all dishes $9).
The Oyster Bar’s Fresh Oyster Selection Superior • $2.50 ea • $25/dozen
  • Kusshi: very buttery texture, rich and salty with a sweet, mildly fruity finish
  • Kumamoto: very salty and sweet, often with a cucumber or melon finish
  • Shigoku:  a light clean taste of cucumber and salt, with a finish of water chestnut and Jerusalem artichoke
  • Black Pearl: very mild with a hint of brininess and a soft cucumber finish
  • Effingham: plump, tender, briny, lettuce-like finish
  • Village Bay: medium salinity and brine, with a clean finish
  • Malpeque: easy to eat, perfect balance of sweetness, brine, and pickly liveliness
Premium • $2.25 ea • $22/dozen
  • Fanny Bay: very salty and sweet, often with a cucumber or melon finish
  • Denman Island: very clean flavour, plump, cucumber finish
  • Phantom Creek: fresh and sweet with a slightly fruity aftertaste
  • Summer Breeze: plump and sweet with a smoky finish
  • Sinku: fresh, crisp feel, mild salty flavour
  • Royal Miyagi: smooth texture, mild kiwi aftertaste
Another local oyster destination with a great Buck-a-Shuck offer is Nautical Nellie’s Steak & Seafood House at 1001 Wharf Street. Between 3:00 and 6:30 p.m. every day, the restaurant sells selected varieties from their oyster menu for $1 per slurp. Like The Oyster Bar, Nautical Nellie’s carries a wide selection of oysters. Local oysters, at $2.50 each or $26 per dozen, come from Cortes Island, Qualicum, Fanny Bay, and other B.C. areas. Premium imports, $3 each or $29 per dozen, are brought in from Washington, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and elsewhere. The restaurant aims to carry up to 10 varieties at any time, depending on seasonal availability. Ask about their Oyster Shooters! If you still haven’t had your fill of fresh mollusks, Ferris’ Oyster Bar & Grill at 536 Yates Street is another hot spot for fresh-shucked oysters ($2.25 each, $24 per dozen). They also serve up multiple variations of baked oysters. Finally, for the best regular menu price for local Fanny Bay oysters on the half shell ($1.75 each), head to Doubles Oyster Bar at the Executive House Hotel, 777 Douglas Street. Bon appetit!