Seafood lovers will probably agree that there is nothing better than a freshly shucked oyster. And, depending on where they’re coming from — the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Gulf, and beyond — flavor profiles can vary widely. Newcomer Salt water, a pop-up crudo bar, offers a rotating assortment. I’m a fan of a clean, smooth finish, but I wouldn’t discriminate against a brackish bivalve either. I’ll take one of each, always.
Brine’s inaugural pop-up took place in December. At the controls, chef Chris Cohen. His team is small and the menu is neat, but everything is executed to perfection. (Previously, Cohen was chef at Bar Zin on Amelia Island, as well as Bistro Aix and bb’s on San Marco.) Think fine seafood but in a temporary setting, like a cafe or a craft distillery.
In January, I tried a few menu items from Brine at Vagabond Coffee in Murray Hill. Then, at a recent Five Points pop-up event at Alewife Craft Beer and Bottle Shop, I was able to get my hands on some oysters and a cobbler for dessert.
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Brine specializes in his creative and ever-evolving crudo. Crudo translates to “raw”. Expect fresh, thinly sliced chunks of raw fish, shellfish, or beef that pair well with olive oil, citrus, or vinaigrette. My first fresh crudo ($15) boasted cobia paired with unfiltered olive oil, Persian lime, pomegranate arils and watercress. It was well balanced, and the hint of sour lime paired with the sweet and juicy pomegranate was a winning combination. The second was a snapper crudo ($15) with yuzu juice, soy sauce, masago, and micro cilantro. Again, balanced, light and a harmonious combination of texture, color and flavor. Small fish eggs (masago) add a touch of crunch.
The panzanella salad ($10) is small but mighty. Toasted pieces of bread are dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and tossed with cucumber, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, grilled onion, basil and salted gorgonzola cheese.
Oyster offerings change regularly depending on which is freshest, and usually two to three varieties are available. They cost $15 for a half-dozen served on the half-shell on a bed of ice with lemon, reseda and cocktail sauce. I opted for three Miyagi from Washington State and Summer Love from Prince Edward Island in Canada. These were creamy, with a balanced finish of both salty and mineral notes. They were all perfectly fresh.
From time to time, Brine ups her game and brings caviar. You never know when you might end up with a plate of dreamy fries topped with Kaluga caviar and crème fraîche!
For those who don’t eat raw, find comfort in Brine’s mussels, chowder, panzanella and bread pudding. And speaking of dessert, I’ll add that the Southern-Style Nectarine Blackberry Cobbler ($9) punctuated with whipped topping was ridiculously flavorful and not too sweet.
Caron Streibich is a passionate foodie who reviews restaurants every two weeks in the Life section. Follow her culinary adventures on facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.
Brine pop-up crudo bar
Inside Vagabond Coffee, 934 Edgewood Ave. S., Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Inside Manifest Distilling, 960 E. Forsyth St., every third Thursday, 6-8 p.m.
Type of cuisine: Seafood.