4 X 4

To the uninitiated, the term, the expression, “4 x 4” usually refers to “Four Wheel Drive,” as in a truck or similar vehicle, typically with a motor that can pull stumps, and ripple fresh asphalt.

At a place in San Antonio, though, it’s an appellation stuck on an oyster appetizer. I’m sure the dish’s title was intended as a play on imagery, or maybe not, who knows in the snooty little “bistro” district.

It was an expensive plate, to be sure, I’d been paying – happy hour – less than three bucks for a dozen raw oysters, so the “four by four” combination wasn’t cheap. 4 raw oysters, 4 BBQ oysters, 4 gravy-cooked, and 4 fried.

The four raw oysters were covered in very fresh Pico (pico-de-gallo, for the cultural-cuisine-challenged) and the coverage was to the point that I didn’t ever taste the raw oyster, and considering the season, maybe that’s not too bad.

The BBQ Oysters were outstanding. Well, everything was, but at that price, I sort of expected it to be good. However, each item, the last dozen, were excellent in terms of flavor, juxtaposition, skills and stuff. Just really, really good.

The BBQ oysters were presumably grilled, but topped with bacon bits. Thick, chunky, real, apple-smoked bacon not so much crumbled as trimmed into a smaller pieces. Bigger than bite-sized, smaller than slices. So the BBQ oysters were good.

The “au-gratin” were the least zesty but still had a pungent tang. I would only suggest a slightly stronger cheese, something with more punch. The “au-gratin” oysters were baked in the half-shell, with a delicate cream gravy, topped with grated and melted Parmesan.

Fried oysters, what can be said? This is Texas. If it can be battered and deep-fried, someone’s done it. Our fry cooks are some of the best in the world. Not that it’s any great claim to fame. However, yes, the fried oysters were good, and each oyster was on a half-shell, with the fried critter swimming in a small shell-locked lake of Chipotle-something.

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  • ssmith04 Aug 21, 2008 @ 9:31

    I have a lifelong dislike of oysters and clams, having been forced to eat them as a child when poverty reduced us to living off the land–our own garden and shellfish from the Atlantic Ocean. The slimy cold critters, scooped raw from the shell, adorned with a simple pour of vinegar, did not appeal to me at all. Now the blue shell crabs–what a different story. Gourmet food for free. I hope never to be that poor ever again.

    I’ve never eaten oysters except as raw or in (yuck!) oyster stew, traditional on Christmas Eve. Your description of them in a 4 x 4 plate make them sound almost palatable. I’d given them a try, anyway. You know, one Sag to another, we’ll try anything once, if it ain’t potentially lethal. Or addictive…well, then there’s coffee and….

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