Through the slim celadon doors of Josh Boissy's Maison Premiere, the call of the French Quarter beckons from the Napoleon-adorned absinthe tower standing guard from the bar. Sharply dressed bartenders shake up Sazeracs as the bluesy wail of Son House croons in the background. Find yourself a corner seat, and settle in for a long night of New Orleans wining and dining at this newly opened oyster and cocktail bar.
Every night from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., all oysters and clams are just $1 each. Select from a menu ranging from more than a dozen different oysters, culled from the best bays throughout New England, the Pacific, Canada and Mexico.
At the happy hour price, it's worth ordering just about everything from the menu. For a surefire bet, go straight for the Beau Soleil, the "Bentley of oysters" with a provocatively delicate flavor. Sweet Kumamotos from Mexico (pictured above) are a popular choice; complement them with the salty Fishers Island bivalves from Fisher Island Sound in New York. For big oysters, try the briny Moonstone or Duxbury, or the meaty Wellfleet. Always get advice from the waiters, however, as the oyster menu is subject to change based on availability.
Cherrystone Clams (pictured) and Littleneck Clams add variety to the oyster menu, though its pungent shellfish flavor is much more pronounced than the oysters. Shrimp Cocktail ($14) in a light cocktail sauce is also a nice change-up after the barrage of oysters. A full menu featuring more raw bar items—king crab, lobster, caviar—is coming soon.
Naturally, champagne flows freely in an oyster bar, but here absinthe is the main attraction. The bar offers several different brands, and looks to add more in the future. For beginners, try the Delaware Phoenix "Meadow of Love," a soft, herbal concoction that's sweet on the eyes and easy on the tongue.
About the author: Nancy Huang, who comes to New York by way of Los Angeles, writes The Wanderkind, a food and travel blog of adventures here and abroad. She loves noodles, subway maps, and word games.