Lunch At Grand Central Oyster Bar And Restaurant

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Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant in New York City. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Dining at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant was among my must-do list while visiting New York City this second time around.

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Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.

First opened in 1913, over a century ago; having been the old Oyster Bar for almost 60 years, it had had its glory days. Yes the history of this famous restaurant fascinates me… However, by relying too heavily on its landmark location and becoming known for a lack of excellence, it ‘had no position among New York restaurants’ according to restaurateur Jerome Brody. The business went bankrupt and the location laid dormant for 2 years. So when Mr Brody was approached by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority to take over the space in 1974 and breath life back into the old Dame; not only renovation, a complete reinvention was a necessity.

Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
Down the basement level of Grand Central Terminal; the herringbone hatched tiles and vaulted chambers of the restaurant do not disappoint! Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Being oyster and seafood lovers as we are; Kent and I needed very little prompting to find ourselves in the Grand Central Terminal and then of course, standing in front this famed eating house’s wide arched front door, eager for a taste of the ocean on only our third day in Manhattan. However irony struck – NEW YORK FASHION WEEK!!! – there was an invitation-only event which had taken over the entire restaurant that day. We learnt our lesson and decided to come back when we had our table booked.

Three Dining Sections – One To Suit You

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.
Fabulously matching the red and white tablecloths in the main dining area with my red top! Photo credit: Kent Johnson

The architecture of this vast transit hub is designed to awe, and even tucked down in the basement level of Grand Central Terminal, the herringbone hatched tiles and vaulted chambers of the restaurant do not disappoint. There are three dining sections: the main restaurant, the casual food bar area with long shared tables – including a long ’50s style ‘lunch counter’ with bar stools facing an open kitchen. And the Oyster Bar Saloon.

Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
Viewing from the food bar section which shares an open dining space with the main restaurant. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Our table was for the formal restaurant which shared the greater open dining space with the food bar. The Saloon is an adjoined room at the opposite end: nautical themed paintings, a bar within; wood panelling, tables with red and white tablecloths – the same kind as the main restaurant.

We have booked for the fancy tablecloths and were informed we could sit anywhere as ‘the menus are the same’. Well it’s a special day and highly anticipated so we chose to stay formal and decided to save the food bar side for a later time.

Our Shared Lunch – Shellfish Platter With Whole Lobster

Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
‘Today’s Catch?’ Let’s see… Photo credit: Kent Johnson

I like the newspaper theme menu, although it’s not an unseen style; it suits the ambience especially with ‘Today’s Catch’ which sounds like daily news to me! While Kent enjoyed a cold beer, I took on the difficult task of deciding between a plate of fresh oysters? ‘Today’s Catch’ or simply the ‘Shellfish Platter’?

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.
Our shared lunch – Shellfish Platter with Whole Lobster. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Shellfish Platter with Whole Lobster; with its oyster selection as well, so why not? Why not indeed! Our eight oysters were a mixed selection from the Atlantic Ocean and the West Coast. There were three New Zealand mussels, two clams; two shrimps and a whole lobster. We were glad that we went for the whole lobster option rather than the half – only a small increase in price – big increase in value, or someone might be missing out…

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.
The key to a shellfish platter is freshness and freshness it delivered. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

And some chilled white wine, sparkling. ‘You like Prosecco!’ Encouraged Kent, so we ordered a bottle of Prosecco too.

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.
Enjoying our bubbles and fresh seafood at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

The key to a shellfish platter is freshness and freshness it delivered. What I enjoyed the most were the Atlantic Ocean (East Coast) oysters. They had a refined clean ocean taste and a great balance of salt and sweetness. ‘Oh I love the chewy, fuller flesh of the East Coast!’ I shared my thoughts with Kent across the table while he opted for the creamy, smooth bite of the West Coast oysters. So we were happy with our conflict free shellfish platter. Sweet lobster claw and tail ‘so much better than crab’ says Kent. Clams, shrimps (very meaty) and fresh bread; it was a fulfilling meal and perfect with the accompaniment of the chilled Prosecco.

The Grandeur Of A By Gone Era

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
The herringbone-pattern Guastavino tiled arches and vaults making this landmark a Beaux-Arts masterpiece. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Yes the food is nice, but what makes dining at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant so special, is to see, experience; be part of and indulge in the Gatsby grandness of a by gone age. There’s herringbone-pattern Guastavino tiled arches and vaults making this landmark a Beaux-Arts masterpiece you do not want to miss. The renovation and decoration is sensitive to the heritage of the building and history of a seafood restaurant.
I love how the festoon lighting highlights the structure of the arches and I adore those iron boat decorations on the ship-wheel-inspired ceiling lights.

Home Made Dessert: Individual Cinnamon-Praline Chocolate Truffle Cake

Lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
Our delicious dessert: Individual Cinnamon-Praline Chocolate Truffle Cake. Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Yes we were satisfied but we still had room for something sweet.
Maybe just the one to share would be enough. I chose Individual Cinnamon-Praline Chocolate Truffle Cake to share with Kent. And what a wonderful surprise it was! Light, smooth; creamy and yummy! It almost outshone those Atlantic Ocean oysters! Truly a home made cake in its best!

A Lovely Lunch Experience – Think Bistro Not Fine Dining

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.
The meal quality at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant is more bistro style than fine dining. Photo credit: Vivienne Shui

A trip to the bathroom which was located at the other end of the hall inside the Saloon, provided ample opportunity to check out the other two dining areas. ‘This is better than what I expected!’ I thought, and why? ‘Down-to-earth meals in historical settings and great energy pumping – I love it!’ Perhaps it’s a travel vibe and Kent loved it too suggesting we should certainly come back and try sitting at the food bar next time.

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, NYC.
Enjoy this post? Stay tuned to White Caviar Life’s Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review – Part Two! Photo credit: Kent Johnson

Of course all meals come to an end and with that ending comes the bill. When the bill hit our table it was reasonable, but for non US citizens don’t forget the tipping! Which when dining in New York always pushes the price up 15% to 20% making it a little less reasonable than it seems. While the meal quality was more bistro style than fine dining, overall for us the whole lunch experience we had was lovely. Service was good too. We both enjoyed the atmosphere so much that we promised ourselves to be back for more!

And we did. So stay tuned…

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Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant food review by White Caviar Life.

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