The World Was Their Oyster: Matunuck Oyster Bar

 

Those new to raw oysters are learning to love–or at least, appreciate–the bivalve with the help of various chefs (at Chef’s Collaborative where they were tried for the first time by several students and teachers) and an oyster farmer here in Rhode Island. This venture  was led by Mr. Perry Raso, who founded his farm on Potter’s Pond in East Matunuck (in South Kingstown) in 2002, and then opened Matunuck Oyster Bar. Mr. Raso has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from URI in aquaculture and fisheries technology; he explained the concept of oyster production and cultivation before taking us out onto the pond to see the farm up close. An impressive lunch in the restaurant followed, with Mr. Raso serving us himself while explaining the nuances of eating raw oysters and steamed clams. His knowledge and generosity led to a most excellent oyster adventure.

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Students comment:

An exciting visit to the Matunuck Oyster Bar was a delicious and highly educational culinary experience for us all. After a scenic, chilly, and only slightly hazardous tour of the oyster farm itself, we all trooped inside to enjoy a top-notch dining event.

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Once we’d gone over the basics of aquaculture, our host took us out to see where the oysters are actually grown. Row upon row of stiff plastic mesh bags (reminiscent of flattened laundry hampers) extended into the water, hundreds in each row. Each bag was filled with oysters ranging from the size of your thumbnail to full market size. We learned about some of the advantages of having oysters in an estuary – namely that they are great filters and keep the water’s oxygen levels comfortably high – and the AP Bio students downright bristled with definitions for us biology-abecedarians. Before we cast off back to the restaurant, we all crowded to the edge of the boat to get a glimpse at the farm in action, and there was only one near-camera-death experience.

When we got back to the restaurant, we filed into the building to find a table already set, and a Portsmouth-Abbey-specialized menus waiting for us. We started with appetizers – oysters, naturally – and eagerly salivated as the entrees were prepared. When the food came out after what seemed an eternity, but which was in reality probably fifteen minutes, it did not disappoint. My enormous portion of fried oysters, coleslaw and French fries were delectable, as was the beet-and-feta lobster salad that Kevin ordered across from me, and there was plenty left over to take home.

The Matunuck Oyster Bar was as informative and tasty a trip as one could ask for, and with its clean, organic product and friendly staff, it’s high on my list of recommendations. –Max Bogan

 

On November 8th, 2015, the Culinary Arts Club visited Matunuck Oyster Bar in Matunuck, RI. When we first arrived, we learned all about the science behind aquaculture and how it pertains to the oysters farmed in Matunuck. We learned about the most effective techniques for growing oysters and keeping them healthy. We then went on a boat and went out to the oyster farm. It was seven acres big and contained about 15 million oysters. We saw the various stages of oyster growth and got to hold oysters right out of their growing bags. We then went back to the oyster bar. In there, we were served cold oysters with cocktail sauce, and they were so delicious. We were also served steamers in between the oysters and our main entrees. Hannah Banderob and I split the pasta with grilled chicken and pesto sauce and the seared scallops, both very tasty. On this trip, I learned the science behind oyster farming while discovering my love for oysters. –Grace Gibbons

 

On Sunday, the Culinary Arts Club took a trip to Matunuck Oyster Bar on Potter’s Pond. Perry Raso, the owner, gave us a tour of his seven-acre oyster farm in the gorgeous saltwater pond. He explained how sustainable aquaculture works and showed us how he runs his operation in an environmentally friendly way. Mr. Raso also told us that aquaculture would be the future of seafood as the demand for seafood is rising, but without aquaculture there will not be enough to provide for everyone. After our boat ride to see the rows where millions of oysters are grown in large mesh bags, we headed back to land for a delicious lunch. Though I did not expect to like them, I tried some raw Matunuck oysters; to my surprise, they were fantastic, especially when paired with a fresh cocktail sauce. I learned so much about aquaculture and oyster farming as well as getting to try new foods. –Hannah Banderob

 

I question the first man’s decision to eat a rock with a dull yellow jelly inside, but I am glad he made it. There is no doubt that oysters are an acquired taste, but I sure acquired it. My father is from Oyster Bay Long Island, so I slurped down oyster instead of baby formula in the early days, and I know a good oyster when eat one. It is fair to say I have never eaten fresher oysters than the ones at Matunuck, serving as both a farm and a restaurant; it avoids the time spent shipping, since it is truly farm to table. The oysters are raised in locked cages, stuck to the sides living a stationary life, sifting through cold-water only to be liberated on the plate of a customer, and I am very thankful for that. — David Ingraham

 

Oysters have always been my favorite since I first tried them. Ever since coming to Rhode Island I loved the raw oysters that they serve in Newport. It had a different taste from those back home in Korea. I was grateful for my trip to Matunuck Oyster Bar learning how these oysters were bred. It was interesting to see how the aqua culture worked keeping a right balance between profit and the environment. Also it was fascinating to actually visualize where the food I eat came from. Not only was it interesting to see the how the food is grown, but also the taste was sublime as well. The raw oysters that they served were fresh and salty. Also the fried oysters were perfectly cooked, juicy but not raw. Knowing where the food I just ate came from reassured me and elevated the whole experience. I enjoyed this trip because of both the food and the oyster farm. I also further learned the importance of the idea, “farm to table” looking first hand at a restaurant that does this. — Sam Choi

 

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On the point where Potter Pond merges into the sea, the members of Abbey Culinary Club enjoyed a meal in the “farm-to-table” Matunuck Oyster Bar. Each of us had two raw local oysters that had a salty and metallic flavor. The homemade Mignonette sauce also complemented the oysters very well. I prefer eating oysters raw to grilling them, and eating them with some mashed garlic because raw oysters preserve more of the salinity and juicy texture. Beyond the amazing gustatory experience we had indoors, the more exciting part of this culinary trip was the “farm” part. Owner and oyster farmer Perry Rasso led us on a boat and we went to the oyster farm in the middle of the Potter’s Pond. We got to know some fun facts about growing oysters, like how the larvae adhere themselves to rocks or shells of other oysters with calcium carbonate in a natural environment in order to be stationary. However, oyster farmers prevent the natural attachment by putting them into mesh bags so they confuse the bag with those hard surfaces. The oyster farmers replace mesh bags with smaller openings with ones that have bigger openings so that more food can go into the bag to feed the oysters. Christine Gu

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