By Anni Caporuscio

Oysters on the half shell served raw with an array of sauces. This is a display of all the species and sauces. I was surprised by how diverse in shape they are. The Kumamoto, with a squeeze of lemon, was surprisingly tender and naturally salty. Glacier Point, with a slight drip of cocktail sauce, tasted wise and vegetal. Village Bay was delicate with champagne vinegar.

Oyster 369 is the latest passion of Street Burger owners Aaron and Kristin Leikam. It’s directly next to Street Burger, but has an entirely different feel. It’s like stepping briefly into Nantucket, fresh sky-blue and clean lines, with a cozy intimate setting for fresh seafood.

Aaron and Kristin met in Seattle, and then moved to Maine. Now, they feel nostalgic for real Maine oysters. What they have created is new and different for Kaua‘i: a wide range of shellfish with dynamic cooking styles unique to the Leikams, yet a reminiscence of Old World eating.

However, Oyster 369 is more than just oysters, it serves a full range of shellfish. The cooking element is a brick oven, which is a real piece of art giving the experience something extra special. The brick oven is primitive looking yet versatile. They can cook breads and skillet roast with ease, and also caramelize a butter sauce perfectly. True to what we’ve come to expect from the Street Burger enterprise, every dish at Oyster 369 tastes quite different from each other, each presenting its own creative exploit.

We had skillet of tender roasted mussels that arrived steaming on a platter drenched in garlic and spices, with a dipping sauce of coriander lime butter. We also had a complicated dish of roasted clams with venison chorizo, tomatoes, onions, rosemary and a savory sauce for dipping flat bread. We had a calamari dish of warm kale salad. I thought the green olives gave it a Ligurian touch, while my guest thought it was Portuguese. We also had a poke bowl so beautiful it was an Instagram photo: marinated ahi lightly spiced and tangy with citrus and cubed oranges, mixed with marinated cucumbers and spicy sprouts.

Roasted Clams, prepared with chorizo, tomato, red onion, spices, white wine and rosemary.

I was, however, worried about how I was going to eat oysters, never having done so in a classy setting. Here are some useful bits of information:

  1. How to eat them is a personal preference. You can slurp and swallow for a clean salinity. Some will eat it with a tiny fork. Others will slurp directly from the shell with a drizzle of provided sauces. Some chew. Oysters in general are smaller than I anticipated, so swallowing is a viable option.
  2. There are five species of oysters, named for their locations: Atlantic, Pacific, Olympic, European Flats and Kumamoto. The names of the oysters correspond to where they’re grown, which is typical to the species. They take on flavor characteristics from the growing conditions of the area.
  3. The old adage states that you should never eat oysters in months with no “r” in the name. This is because of the red tide and algae that would harm the eater, but oyster farming makes it possible to enjoy them all year long as farmers can monitor their farms. Oysters are even being grown on Oahu’s Westside.
  4. Oyster 369 offers three types of preparations: roasted, fried, and raw. They serve them with lemon wedges and a collection of sauces including a champagne mignonette and a housemade cocktail sauce.

You can have a serving of oysters with your burgers and Street Burger. You can order the full range of beers and specialty cocktails from Street Burger in the Oyster side. Get to Oyster 369 early to grab a table and chat with the knowledgeable chefs. Find them in Wailua at 4-369 Kuhio Hwy, open Tuesday – Saturday.

  • Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.