Anthony Fowler, corporate executive chef at Shuck, the raw bar that recently opened in the 100 Block of Gay Street, says he has tried to "bring a little Charleston raw bar to Knoxville." Describing the research as "a blast," he says, "I ate at eight different raw bars in Charleston in three days." He came home ready to work with Chef Travis Miller to create the menu at Shuck and to continue learning about oysters. "There's a real talent to shucking oysters," he says.
Oysters are rotated depending on what's available, but there are generally six types in the rotation. They come from "all coasts," says Fowler. "Gulf, East Coast, the Pacific. You can get a Chef's Choice oyster platter. It's wildly popular. It's four oyster varieties served with horseradish cocktail sauce and lemon."
You can get oysters raw, steamed, or fried, but the house specialty is the oyster preparations. You select one of the available raw oysters and then select one of four toppings. "We're trying to do something new," says Fowler. "It's a way to get people to try oysters. Try it topped; then try it plain."
The menu is not limited to oysters. There are three different fish tacos, several salads, a soup of the day, and the best New England clam chowder I've ever had. Fish and crisps and a fried grouper sandwich appear on the menu along with smoked salmon, cornmeal fried oysters, and salt and pepper calamari served with house-made Green Goddess dressing. The $8 lunch menu is a great deal, with various combinations of soup and/or salad served with fish tacos or sandwiches or various preparations of shrimp and oysters.
Two stand-out dishes are the oyster BLT and the soft-shell crabs meunière ceviche is available as well as crudo, which Fowler describes as European-style ceviche. My favorite is Tuna Crudo, thinly sliced tuna topped with chilled pink grapefruit slices, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and just enough minced jalapeno to wake up the other flavors.
The menu lists a wide selection of ales and lagers on tap, imports, high-gravity beers, and a handful of domestic beers, but the wine list is equally impressive. "There are not a lot of recognizable wines. That's on purpose," says manager Andrew Kilgore. "We're doing a lot of European old-world wines. We want to introduce wine lovers to new wines, and our servers are great at giving recommendations." m
Shuck Raw Bar & Ale
135 S. Gay St., 329-0000
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-12 a.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday 12 p.m.-9 p.m.
Complimentary valet parking service on Fridays & Saturdays
Greek-Style Oysters: On the day I was there, Fowler recommended a gigamoto oyster from British Columbia topped with cucumber-olive relish, cherry tomato, and lemon. As intended, the topping makes the freshly shucked raw oyster into something different. Think of the oyster as a secret ingredient, peeking out from the minced topping.
The Tower: It's easy to see why this has become one of the most requested items on the menu. It's created with layers of finely shredded romaine lettuce, house-made pico de gallo, steamed shrimp, avocado, jumbo lump crab tossed with house-made tartar sauce, chipotle vinaigrette, and ancho chilies served with blue corn chips. Tip: Go ahead and knock the tower down; it's the mix of flavors and textures that makes it so good.
The Shuck Lobster Roll: The authentic New England style bun is lined with house-made tartar sauce and topped with lobster that has been steamed and tossed with butter and Old Bay seasoning. Served with salt-and-pepper chips and a slaw with a bit of a bite, it's like a hot dog made with creamy, buttery lobster.