Rock and Rye

I seafood, I eat it

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I’m in big trouble.

The problem is that what’s shaping up to be my new favorite seafood restaurant is located directly below my office—five stories below my office, to be exact. I may never go home again.

Since I first heard the rumor that Bayou on Bay’s Oyster Bar was closing and owner Steve Crosier was transforming it into the Rock and Rye Oyster House at a new space in the Herald Building—where the Weekly headquarters are also conveniently located—I’ve been waiting with anticipation for instant access to fresh seafood.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve seen Rock and Rye transform from a long, barren, brick-lined space into a spare, lovely restaurant with skylights, a sizable bar, a patio with a view of Bellingham Bay and loads of charisma.

But I digress. I’m here to talk about the food.

I was lucky enough to get an invite to one of the eatery’s “sneak peeks” in mid-June, and what I found did not disappoint. The menu that night included sampling plates of grilled oysters, champagne-poached salmon, elk sliders, jicama salad, and house pork belly. In what was not a big surprise, everyone at our table opted for one of everything.

The jicama salad came first. Although it was fresh and lovely, with jicama, yellow bell pepper, arugula, crushed pepper, lime juice and cilantro commingling like attractive friends, it lacked a certain something—a zest none of us could name.

That would not be the case for any of the other menu items. The grilled oysters—fresh Samish Bay Pacific specimens simply prepared with butter and garlic—were deemed to be the “yummiest ever” and “a rarefied version of what I’ve had before.” The salmon with asparagus, minted risotto and coriander aioli practically melted in my maw.

Through some sort of mixup, we also ended up with twice as many elk sliders as we’d ordered. Apparently that wasn’t a problem, as we cleared every plate of the spicy snacks that were put in front of us. We almost missed out on the pork belly, but thankfully our kick-ass waitress, Maggie, had put the order in before they ran out of it, and we all ended up with small-but-statuesque portions of the house-cured meat.

To make sure I consumed some of “rye” in the restaurant’s moniker, I ordered a house whiskey (made with George Dickel rye) with ginger ale ($5). My friends opted for specialty cocktails, including Across the Pond (London Dry Gin, cocci americano, dolin blanc) and the Art of Zen (lemongrass-infused vodka, green tea, lemon and ginger beer). Both were $8, and both were seasonally refreshing in a way that makes you forget you’re consuming alcohol. My drink was also smooth and satisfying.

After they’d opened the following week, my fella and I came back during Happy Hour (3-6pm) with his folks, who were visiting from Minnesota. Once again, Maggie greeted us with a smile.

With my aforementioned penchant for seafood, I chose the entree with as many creatures from the briny deep as I could find. The Cioppino ($18) included mussels, halibut, octopus, crab, scallop, prawn, spiced tomato fumet and herbs. The parental units opted for mustard ginger halibut and chips for him ($16), and a happy hour halibut taco for her ($5). My guy went for the confit duck and cassoulet ($19).

Since I hadn’t consumed anything raw on opening night, we also ordered a round of happy hour pacific oysters ($10 for 6). The Minnesota residents couldn’t bring themselves to consume them, so my guy and I each got three. With a squeeze of lemon juice atop them, they were summertime perfection.

Although they didn’t eat the oysters, the visitors did enjoy their halibut selections, with comments including “top of the line” and “above-average.” The only note that wasn’t effusive was for the fries, which were deemed to be merely “fair.” On the other hand, each mouthful of my Cioppino was masterful, and memorable. 

I’ve heard rumors Rock and Rye will be opening for lunch in July, and their Facebook page indicates they’ll eventually also open for brunch on the weekends. Once that happens, I’ll have additional opportunities to sample more of the menu—crab cakes, grilled sardines, and pork belly carbonara, I’m coming for you.

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