Review: Claddagh Oyster House
131 Sydney St., Charlottetown, PEI, – Website
Date of Visit: July, 2016
The Claddagh shares a building with The Olde Dublin Pub, which I visited earlier in order to enjoy oysters for a buck apiece. The Claddagh is downstairs from the pub and it offers a quieter, more refined dining experience. The Old Dublin is a really enjoyable, if raucous, place to visit, but the food at Claddagh truly makes it well worth the visit…
The Claddagh is a very small place, with a good portion of the space taken up by the bar area, where you can watch oysters being shucked. The overall ambience is very pleasant, being quite dark and comfortable, and the whole rear wall is taken up with a terrific cascading water effect. It was early evening when I was seated and the place was just about full, meaning I had to sit at the bar rather than a table. Interestingly, almost all the patrons were Japanese, which, I gather, is not uncommon in the summer what with the Japanese love affair with Anne of Green Gables. Indeed, I saw young lady wearing a hat of the same sort that Anne herself is often depicted as wearing.
The menu is quite small but lists some impressive appetizers, including Oysters Rockefeller, Jerk Crab Legs. There is a great sounding Surf and Turf and a house specialty simply called ‘Galway Bay’ that consists of Tiger Prawns sautéed with Scallops in Irish Mist and cream. There are raw oysters ,of course, but I passed on these for this meal and just ordered from the appetizer list.
Brown Butter Scallops – These caught my eye because the menu lists them as being served with chili oil and a ‘House XO Sauce’. I had to query the waitress about that, but she informed me that, indeed, the chef (who is not, incidentally, Cantonese), does make an XO Sauce from his own recipe. This I had to try and, I have to say, they were absolutely superb. The scallops themselves were expertly grilled and the XO sauce was better than any of my attempts thus far. I think what made this so good was that the flavor of dried shrimp came through nicely and it was not over-sweetened with either sugar or an excess of dried scallop. The chili oil, too, was added with a deft touch and the entire effort was terrific. I rated this at a solid 5 out of 5.
Crab and Lobster Cakes – The menu lists these as being served with Crème Fraiche, mustard pickles, Tobiko Roe, and Chives. I was a bit doubtful about the crème fraiche and mustard pickles but I enjoy trying out different crab cakes and I wanted to sample a lobster and crab combination. First, the Tobiko (or Flying Fish Roe) made n attractive garnish but didn’t add to the taste at all. As for the crème fraiche and mustard pickle, I think that, alone, neither would have enhanced the cakes over much but, together, they worked very well. The cakes themselves were expertly made and held together well, and the flavor was good, but I felt they were lacking a little in that the lobster really wasn’t apparent. Still, I thought they rated a 4 out of 5.
I will happily return to Claddagh, given the opportunity. The service was excellent and the food really top-notch. Alongside an excellent lobster meal I had a few days later, I though this the best dining experience of my entire visit to PEI. I rate the place at a 5 out of 5.