296 Keefer Street – Website
Date of Visit: July, 2017
Oyster Express sits on the corner of Gore and Keefer in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It is very small and easy to miss given the minimal signage. It has seats for about 30 but, maximum capacity, it would be rather close. It is quite plain and understated in décor, but is functional and comfortable. The staff is very enthusiastic and friendly and the whole atmosphere is welcoming. The menu matches the size of the place and, aside from the raw oysters, which are listed separately according to availability, there are only 12 items. You can get steamed or fried oysters, mussels, two types of clam chowder and, should you wish it, a grilled cheese sandwich, along with a good variety of cocktails and some 23 wines. On this occasion, I came just for the oysters… [
There were 7 or 8 different type of oysters available during my visit but three were east coast varieties I have had often and I was hoping to sample a few west coast types that don’t make it to the east. Now I must note, here, that July is a poor month for eating oysters and the quality tends to be poorer than during colder months (typically the ones without an ‘R’ in the name). Still, I knew that going in and, though my experience wasn’t as good as it might have been, this is not a reflection on the restaurant.
Pink Pearl – These are harvested off Quadra on Vancouver Island and are quite meaty. They were about 3 x 2 inches in size, with deep cups, and they were, I would judge, about four years old. They were very sweet, without any hint of brine, and had some nice grassy notes near the end. The texture was a bit soft, and the overall flavor a bit flat, but, given the season, not surprising.
Kusshi – These are a small, rounded, tear-drop shaped variety from Bowser, B.C. They have deep cups and only measure about 2 x 2 inches. There was a slight burst of brine at the very start, followed by a mellow sweetness, but, overall, they were flabby and bland. I am sure they would be much better in, say, October.
Gorge Inlet – These come from Cortes Island, B.C., and are quite meaty indeed. There was a pretty sharp hit of brine immediately but it faded quickly. They were sweet with some grassy highlights and, just for a moment, a hint of the melon quality that you find in west-coast oysters. Unfortunately, and, again, this is probably a seasonal issue, that component didn’t develop any further.
Overall – It is unfortunate I could have visited at a better time for sampling oysters but one can’t have everything and, on the whole, I enjoyed my experience. The staff were exceedingly friendly and managed to create a very pleasant and cheerfully informal atmosphere.