I was running 15 min early to catch up with my dear friend, JKP, and decided to partake in happy hour at Lure, a seafood-centric restaurant located in Soho.
To get the party started, I ordered 2 dozen Blue Point oysters- slick, briny, and ample. These aren’t the anemic, shriveled specimens you find at other happy hours.
The dish of shrimp tempura was also delicious - crispy breading topped with a spicy mayo sauce.
After washing that down with a glass of their house chardonnay, I dug into the deviled eggs and the fried oysters with tartar sauce, which is up there with my favorite rendition at Pearl Oyster Bar.
The aroma of Drakkar Noir wafted from behind and I knew JKP had arrived. We exchanged pleasantries but things quickly turned for the worst. You see, JKP is many things: a shrewd businessman always on the hustle, an unselfish wingman who jumps on grenades with arms wide open, and a Jewish Usher/Timberlake/Chris Brownesque dancer that delights the crowd at many bar mitzvahs and K-town karaoke bars.
But there is one thing JKP does not do: seafood. For most of his life, food equaled chicken fingers, pb and j sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and lots and lots of bagels. Extremely diverse, I know.
3 years ago, when I took him to get some pho with grilled porkchop in Sunset Park’s Chinatown, he confided to me that it was his first time having pho….and a porkchop. I nearly didn’t believe him until I saw his sister’s fb comment to his uploaded picture: “you ate what for the first time?”
I was also there to witness him eat bacon for the first time and was a proud papa when I accompanied him on his maiden voyage to Tiffin Wallah - a vegetarian indian spot (he didn’t know it was vegetarian cuisine until after the meal. What he thought was juicy chicken was actually roasted cauliflower). He experienced kimchi at Mad For Chicken (he’s not a fan), lobster rolls at Pearl Oyster Bar, and beets at Chez Jose. Everytime we go out to eat, he is usually having something for the first time. This makes me happy. This is what life is about - trying new things, taking risks, and being open to change. Tonight would be no different.
I had purposely saved a few oysters for JKP knowing he never had them before. I take sadistic pleasure in pushing him out of his comfort zone but to my surprise, he embraced the situation with confidence. He asked what red sauce and brown liquid I was spooning onto the oysters (it’s called cocktail sauce and a dash of malt vinegar), took a deep breath, and slurped it down like a champ.
He swallowed and stood there silently. I nervously waited to see if I was about to wear oysters on my newly cleaned leather jacket. After a moment of eternity, he rubbed his belly slowly in a clockwise motion and slapped his 8 pack hard. “Legooooooo!” he exclaims, as he put back one, two...four more oysters in quick succession. And that’s how you conquer your first oyster.
We closed out the tab at the bar and made our way to the maritime-themed dining room complete with circular windows shaped like portholes. The burled wood tables and dividers evoked a sense of being on an elegant cruise ship back in the day.
For appetizers, I ordered 2 pieces of uni, toro scallion roll, and a lobster tempura roll with tobiko. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. The uni was a bit flavorless and not as creamy as fresh uni from Santa Barbara.
While I forced the uni down, I forced him to try sushi for the first time in his life. He was uncooperative at first and drew the line at raw fish. A few minutes later, he managed to pick up his chopsticks and clumsily stabbed a piece of the lobster tempura roll. When he inquired about the “tiny red balls” on top, I declined to say it was flying fish roe. Somehow, saying “oh….roe is fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries, or the released external egg masses of fish” (wikipedia) didn’t sound too appealing.
I waited for him to swallow his first piece before I told him the truth.
I made a similar face too after having the toro scallion roll. I’m a big fan of toro and would have forgiven most things except for the overabundance of wasabi that made me tear up. Totally destroyed the balance of the fish.
Our entrees fared slightly better. JKP got the burger as he had enough exploration for one day. I had a bite of the flavorful juciy burger that was held together nicely with the toasted bun.
My lobster roll had generous chunks of lobster meat inside a toasted bun. However, it wasn’t seasoned well and fell a bit flat. My favorite is still Pearl Oyster Bar - their lobster seems to be more tender and less slathered in mayo.
Watching JKP try roe and oysters for the first time made my night and made up for the overpriced entrees. Happy Bday buddy - I have some tripe and liver for you to try….
Great for date night: From the swanky decor to the cozy candlelit booths, this is a cute date spot that you can dress up (Chloe purses and Manolos) or down for (jcrew/anthropologie). Swallow a few oysters, sip some rosé and let the evening take its course.
Happy hour: Runs M-F from 5pm-7pm which is great for people that get off work later. Great spot for coworkers to pregame with some apps and drinks. All dishes and drinks are a few bucks cheaper. The oysters are $1.75 vs $3.50 (caveat: only one type of oyster is available but it was delicious and higher quality than most places)
Get: For HH, I recommend the oysters, shrimp tempura, and fried oysters. I'd skip the deviiled eggs (standard) and littleneck clams (not as good as oysters). In a subsequent trip, I enjoyed the Ginger Apple Martini with vodka, fresh apple puree & ginger. Refreshing and not too sweet - perfect for the summer. For dinner, I'd skip the burger (you're at a seafood restaurant) and focus on the fish. Might I recommend the Steamed Red Snapper - Bok Choy, Jasmine Rice, Red Curry Broth. Cooked perfectly and the light, fragrant curry broth accentuates, not overpowers.
Classy ambiance: The restaurant fills up and gets a bit noisy around NYC's dinner time - 8:30pm and onwards. If you want a quieter setting, come early around 6:30pm or 7pm. Due to the Soho location, you will be surrounded by models that are physically superior to you in every way. But then again, they can't enjoy food because their dinner consists of the sliced ginger served with the sushi.