There’s an oyster party underway at Echo Park’s The Lonely Oyster. Fish and wildlife biologist Dillon Turner stands behind an 8-seat counter animatedly educating customers about sourcing, sustainability and flavor profiles. The salmon pink and white striped booths set up in the main dining area are meant to evoke the feeling of being on a speedboat.
“We want people to feel like they’re not too far from home, but also for the food to take them back somewhere,” Dominique Crisp, the executive chef at the restaurant that opened in September, says. “Maybe a family vacation, or somewhere far away they’ve been that’s seaside.”
And the seafood celebration isn’t just limited to the Lonely Oyster. Its opening marks a banner couple of years for seafood establishments in Los Angeles including the debuts of Santa Monica hotspot Crudo e Nudo, swanky Marina del Rey spot Dear Jane’s, and raw seafood spot Savida. All of them have been met with a lot of fanfare, and The Lonely Oyster is looking to build on that goodwill.
Seafood education is central to The Lonely Oyster’s ethos, and its staff—led by Turner—is dedicated to talking about all things fish with diners.
Oysters, of course, are the star attraction, with dishes featuring the mollusks spread out all across the menu. A tempura-battered iteration is served as an appetizer alongside a wasabi and Calabrian chile oil sauce. Seafood towers at the restaurant, called plateaus, feature a rotating selection of oysters alongside manila clams, tiger shrimp, scallop carpaccio, and more.
Beyond oysters, there are a plethora of seafood options. The food is influenced by cuisines from all over the world: ceviches inspired by Peruvian and Mexican recipes use jalapeño and lime or citrus and chile marinades; an uni caviar wonton dish featuring kaluga caviar, Santa Barbara uni, and dots of wasabi aioli is a nod to Japanese seafood preparations. “We want to offer decadent bits of seafood,” Crisp says.
Much of the seafood is sourced from the Pacific Ocean stretching from Baja California, in Mexico, all the way up to Alaska. Heartier dishes at The Lonely Oyster include a creamy seafood chowder filled with mussels, salmon sashimi, and clams. “It’s a great cornucopia of all the seafood we have coming in,” Crisp says. “All of the scraps used from our cooking are used to make the stock and fortify the soup itself to add more flavor and more opulence to the dish.”
Cocktails at The Lonely Oyster complement the menu’s saltwater fare. The refreshing bayside includes gin, lemon, simple syrup, and basil, and the paradise on the rocks imparts bold, effervescent citrus flavors with passionfruit, prosecco, and aperol. Crisp’s favorite is the TLL, a classic martini topped with an oyster and caviar. “You can’t get more quintessentially Lonely Oyster than that,” Crisp says. Sommelier Adam Ohler’s wine list features California and European varietals like an herbal white wine from Sicily and a creamy Grand Cru Chardonnay from Burgundy.
The 2,000-square-foot restaurant transports diners to the feeling of being right by the water. There’s a nautical rope that encloses the 20-seat “dockside patio.” Navy, salmon, and white dominate the dining are,a and there’s a solitary life preserver hanging above the white marble bar where seafood expert Dillon teaches a master class on merroir (similar to wine terroir, merroir relates to the taste of the water body the oyster comes from).
The Lonely Oyster is open Monday through Friday from 5 pm to midnight, and on Saturday and Sunday from noon until midnight.
Kristin Braswell is a journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel, a company that customizes travel guides and authentic experiences around the world.