Back in DC, I was blessed to have lived across the street from Hank's Oyster Bar, a really fantastic little establishment devoted to bringing diners the best bivales available. Until recently, I wasn't aware of any similar outlets for my oyster loving ways in Los Angeles. But January brought us the opening of L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake, a cozy joint soaked in green and concrete from the same folks behind Bar Covell.
Nestled on a quiet residential strip on Silverlake Boulevard, L&E is pretty small, and seating is limited - they don't take reservations, so either get there early, or be prepared to wait. A large part of the interior is taken up by the bar, which serves a not-insubstantial selection of wines (both by the glass and by the bottle), as well as a small selection of California craft beers.
Seated on the enclosed patio, we got right down to business with the Daily Dozen, a platter of 3 different types of oysters (4 of each kind) selected by the chef. Both the Sunset Beach and Kumai oysters were wonderful (medium-sized, plump, and just a tiny bit of a sweet finish), but my personal favorite was the Fire Island oyster, medium-sized with a perfect balance of salinity and a beautifully clean aftertaste. The platter was accompanied by three sauce options: horseradish, cocktail sauce, and a mignonette.
In addition to its daily oyster offerings, L&E has four entree options on the menu. The blackened catfish, with roasted sunchokes, blistered shishito peppers, and pepper and celery slaw, was pleasant enough, if a little unexciting. The best part of the dish were the luscious creamy grits that served as a bed for the fish.
The kitchen was on more solid ground with the Knife & Fork Fried Oyster Po'Boy, served with sauce gribiche (a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce), wild lettuce, tomato and pickled red onion. The plump oysters were fantastically juicy, and perfectly breaded & fried.
The chimmichuri steak sandwich, with tomato, watercress, and horseradish aioli, was the sole meat entree option. While ultimately forgettable - the skirt steak was a bit on the chewy side and the chimmichuri didn't make much of an appearance - it's an inoffensive option for non-seafood lovers. On the other hand, we couldn't stop eating the accompanying mountain of crispy thin French fries.
The last member of our party rounded things out by getting the final of the four entree items, the Cajun shrimp pie. We didn't try it, but it smelled really good, and the crust looked light and flaky with 'L & E' branded into its skin.
For dessert, we finished our meal with the chocolate tart with salted caramel sauce and the date bread pudding. While I preferred the lightly sweet date dessert, Mark unsurprisingly favored the rich and a little salty chocolate tart. But neither stood out enough to trump those oysters. No doubt, that's why we were there.
Maybe nostalgia prevents any oyster bar from ever topping Hank's in my memory, but L&E is a pretty decent substitute. The rest of the menu has a little room for improvement to catch up, but these guys are serious about oysters, and the ones we sampled were top notch.