Cityview Online
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Weather
Food Dude

AMICI-Paid Sponsor

By Jim Duncan Reviews

Splash Raw Oyster Bar

Splash Raw Oyster Bar & Fish Market
303 Locust St.
Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (open Sundays only when Civic Center has an event).

For the local hospitality industry, the real New Year hits Jan. 4. That’s when the celebrations end, the out of town guests leave and post-caucus reality glares like cold turkey withdrawal. Two wide-open races and an earlier caucus date brought more fourth quarter business to town than in any previous election campaign. Other than local TV stations, no one benefited more than restaurants. A coincidental boom of downtown openings preceded the caucus rush. Dos Rios opened while still under construction and Miyabi 9 after consultation with astrologers. Nothing, though, suited celebration and new beginnings like Splash’s new raw bar.

Splash is Des Moines’ top seafood restaurant — gorgeous as its Saley Nong murals, sophisticated as its caviar menu and intimidating as its wine list that tops out at $1,440. Splash Raw Oyster Bar & Fish Market (SRO) is its unattached and unreserved little sister. Every seat in this cozy corner café has a view of the Crusoe Umbrella and Nollen Plaza. People walk by, notice who’s inside and come in to join them. Every oyster on the menu is displayed behind glass. Fish and seafood are displayed in a grocery style cabinet. What you see is what you get and that’s a rare comfort in the modern day dining.

It also makes the caviar menu and wine list less threatening than at big sister’s place — as it should. Russian beluga caviar is on the menu at $400 an ounce for entertainment. So is Russian golden osetra for a few dollars less. More affordable fish eggs begin at $33 an ounce for American golden whitefish. Prices reflect extremely limited supplies — it’s been illegal to export Russian beluga into the United States for more than two years and also for any American purveyor to trade prized Iranian beluga across state lines. I was told that big sister sells maybe two or three ounces a year. At little sister’s place, it’s a yuck, as in “We ordered beluga for everyone while you were talking on your cell phone. What else do you want?”

SRO is designed to be fun like that. Eating raw oysters is akin to drinking wines in that each variety has unique characteristics that subtly appeal to everyone’s unique set of taste receptors. After trying every oyster on the menu on two different occasions, I was confused about their sizes, let alone other characteristics. The menu described Connecticut Blue Points as being 3 to 4 inches and Whitney Points as being “small.” On my plate, the Blue Points were barely 2 inches wide and the Whitney Points were the largest of five varieties. I quit reading the menu and enjoyed everything more. All oysters tasted fresh and the oyster shuckers worked hard opening them, which is important. If shells aren’t clammed up tight, the oysters aren’t good to eat raw. I also enjoyed oysters Casino (bacon and green onions), “Rockefeller” (herbed Hollandaise) and Moscow (horseradish and caviar).

Most diners don’t bother with raw oysters or caviar because little sister deals in comfort food with most dished falling in the $11-$14 range. Smoked salmon and trout were served with goat cheese, blini and artful garnishes. A calamari salad was spectacular — whole baby squids grilled and served with roasted peppers, Spring mix and Parmesan wafers with a lemon-oregano dressing. So was an order of Big Eye (ahi) tartare with chili ginger dressing. Deviled eggs came with a caviar halo while BLT’s were made with Niman Ranch bacon and tuna. SRO’s New England clam chowder and the crab bisque are local soup royalty. Dinner salads can be ordered with ahi, salmon, chicken, crab, shrimp or lobster. An ahi sandwich seemed overpriced at $27 and a French dip was too busy to be comforting, with Remoulade sauce and melted cheese messing with expectations.

Side dishes
Sheree Clark’s raw food group will meet Jan. 7 at East Village Book Store. Info at 279-2922. … Food Dude’s next open food discussion group meets Jan. 14 at Gateway Market Café at 5:30 p.m. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2008 2007 Reviews

Comment on this story | Return to top



Best Of . . . Best Of . . . (Thank You) Relish Dining Guide

Best Of 2009

Best of ... Than You


Condo & Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Nightlife Golf Guide Wine Tour Guide
Cityview Nightlife Golf Guide Iowa Wine Tour
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Dwelling Guide
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Cityview Nightlife
Holiday Party Planning Holiday Gift Guide Women In Business
Holiday Party Planning Guide Holiday Gift Guide Women in Business
Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment
Des Moines Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment Guide
Dallas Co Tourism Annual Manual Get Moving
Dallas County Tourism Guide Annual Manual Annual Manual
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide