Waterbar on The Embarcadero has always had a highly successful raw bar program. But Raw Bar Manager Greg Babinecz and Beverage Director Steven Izzo have taken it a step further with their new oyster menu.
The menu features a number of unique and rare offerings that guests won’t find at many other oyster havens on the Bay Area. Both Babinecz and Izzo have also collaborated on wine pairings for each bivalve, studying the characteristics and mixing and match to highlight the “merroir” of the oyster, as Izzo explains.
“Just like terroir explains the place where the grapes of a wine are growing, it also explains the circumstances surrounding that particular wine, from the soil, topography, climate and how the grapes are grown,” he said. “The same can be said for merroir with oysters. Each oyster farm has a particular story behind it, from where the oysters are harvested to how they are farmed.”
Bearing in mind the overall philosophy of Waterbar, Babinecz works closely with the restaurant’s buyer and the farms themselves to make sure the oysters being served are sustainable. “And a lot of it is building relationships. It could mean going on trips to local farms to not only see their product up close and personal, but to also watch their farming practices.”
Babinecz’s expertise in oysters is easily seen in his descriptive explanations of each down to a T. From the Drakes Bay oysters, which he describes as “a little creamier, with the taste of clean lettuce” to the “pillowy texture” of some virginicas and “yeasty” qualities of Glacier Bays from New Brunswick, which he said is a great starter oyster.
In many cases, Izzo likes to offer wine pairings where the wine and oyster share a similar quality, trying to match the body and flavor of both. But he also uses contrasting qualities, sometimes pairing a sweet Riesling with a saltier oyster, to neutralize that taste.
Along with a full list of oysters, Waterbar is currently offering a Chesapeake Bay Oyster Flight. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America. The Barcat Foundation, which was founded in 2011, teamed the Rappahannock River Oyster Company with Chesapeake wild oyster harvesters to responsibly grow sustainable oysters. Babinecz said the area is truly unique because the oysters are grown on small plots by watermen, with the results varying greatly at each site. The flight includes oysters from Barcat, Olde Salts and Rappahannock.
The new oyster menu is available daily at Waterbar, located at 399 The Embarcadero.