Honestly, when I heard that the Hard Rock was going to open an Oyster Bar, I wasn’t that excited. I saw another half-assed, boring oyster seafood restaurant, with staples like soggy fish and chips and overpriced oysters that most customers only ate because they heard it might give them a larger erection. Still, when Chef Bradley Manchester, former of downtown’s Glutton invited me to try the the restaurant, my interest perked up a bit more and I dragged myself down there to see what they were doing.
Boy, am I glad that I tried it out
First of all, Chef Manchester is a fun guy. Despite just losing his own restaurant, he seemed excited about doing a new menu at a new place, and really couldn’t stop talking about the food. No burn out, no melancholy, just a really happy chef that loves whats he does.
Franky, I don’t blame him: He’s managed to make a menu that reminds me of his closed restaurant a bit, but also adds a little bit of needed rock and roll for the location.
We started with the calamari fries, which was one of the dishes he brought over from Glutton. It was one of those dishes you think to yourself, “I would just come here again just for this.” They were perfectly fried, tender inside, and the spicy sriracho mayo was made for more than just dipping. Even though it was the first dish, I ate most of it, while my date starred at me, reconsidering why she was out with a pig such as I.
Next we had the amazing four ahi tuna tacos, with custom made shells and deliciously matched yuzu guacamole that made me want to order more immediately. The light shells made in house were perfect, just giving enough texture and utility, but allowing the flavor to melt through.
We then tried the shrimp and grits, a dish that I usually avoid on any menu because it’s usually an afterthought, and frankly most chefs aren’t really that kind to grits. In this case, the cheddar heese and andouille sausage was a creative compliment that made my date want to eat the entire dish up herself.
Everything that came out, including the normally boring linguine and clams had a creative twist to it that made the food sexy, but frankly, a bit on the kinky fun side, not unlike the hotel itself. Not unlike that first time you had way too much fireball with a bartender at the HRH and ended up naked tied up to a chair with Sriracha on your nipples. Manchester, and his really amazing staff are an awesome match to what will be a centerpiece of the hotel for years to come.