Oscar's is a bar that happens to serve Cajun food, and like the bartender on the night of our visit, the chow is full of attitude.
Although her colorful language was dispensed as easily as the beer and mixed drinks, it somehow all seemed appropriate. Oscar's Oyster Bar might not be the kind of place I'd take my Aunt Martha, but I'd probably return with friends who enjoy spicy, fried foods that evoke images of the bayou for a change of culinary scenery.
Since oysters are part of the restaurant's identity, it seemed wrong not to sample some. They're served on the half shell ($2 each), fried on the half shell ($2.25 each)and as Oysters Oscar ($15.95). The latter are fried, served on the half shell and topped with bacon, crawfish and a spinach cream sauce. Think of a Cajun version of nachos - layers of flavors on one plate.
Oscar's breaded and flash-fried oysters are golden in color and oddly shaped; this makes their appearance enticing and, well, not. The crunchy exterior was a bit greasy, so we were grateful for the roll of paper towels on the table. Beneath the crunch was the slippery oyster. The remoulade on the side was what delivers the real punch. We were told there are at least 16 ingredients in what this establishment calls "roulade." This is essentially a mayonnaise that has been bolstered from its pale hue to a salmon-colored, piquant sauce.
The roulade also accompanied the Boudin Balls ($9.95). Ground sausage and rice are fashioned into golf-ball-sized shapes, breaded and fried. The sausage was difficult to distinguish, but these still created an impressive taste sensation with the mix of the soft rice contrasting with the fried coating. The sauce further boosted this appetizer. I was far more impressed with this dish than with the fried oysters.
The real winner at dinner was the etouffee ($12.95). This classic stewlike dish has a tomato base loaded with shrimp or crawfish. At our server's recommendation, I opted for the combo. The crustaceans add a subtle sweetness to the savory sauce - all of which is served over a mound of white rice. When we left the restaurant and walked past diners at other tables, I noticed that many were eating etouffee.
The Southern fried shrimp dinner ($16.95) was less impressive. The heavily breaded jumbo shrimp are fried and served with coleslaw, a cup of jambalaya and a choice of french fries, tater tots or hush puppies. For an extra buck, you can upgrade to a salad, onion rings or macaroni and cheese. The shrimp were certainly impressive in size, but their flavor was lost to the fried coating.
Jambalaya also has a tomato base. The name for the dish has its roots in the French word for ham: jambon. Most jambalayas now opt for sausage that provides more spice. Oscar's rendition has an enticing smokiness along with the trinity of celery, onion and bell pepper.
Po-boys were the other menu item I saw on tables as we left. Catfish, in various executions, seems to share the spotlight with oysters at Oscar's. It's available breaded-then-fried, marinated with mustard and fried, fried in a po-boy and as part of a combination plate.
You may have noticed that the most-used word in this review is fried - it's the most popular one on Oscar's menu. Of course, not everything is thrown into hot oil.
Service is friendly. Food arrived as ordered and without delay. Servings are plentiful. My leftover etouffee stood the test of time and was still enjoyable the next day.