There's an exercise that Sundeep Vohra, known to people as Sunny, likes to show guests when business at Margaux's Oyster Bar in Bravery Chef Hall is a little slower. If the guest has a bunch of the same oysters, he might take them outside to eat one. Then he'll bring them back inside to try another.
"What it tastes like in here is different from what you perceive outside," says Vohra, intimating that the air itself is going to affect everything about that oyster-tasting experience. "One you start to block out all of the noise, you will actually be taken to where the oyster comes from. You'll be able to smell the oyster better. You'll be able to taste the oyster better. And you'll get to know more about what it's like."
The idea behind the exercise is to accumulate information. The more the better, especially when it comes to such a nuanced food like the oyster. Some may think there are two kinds—big Gulf Coast ones and small other-coast ones—but the differences from one variety to the next and from one batch to the next can be staggering. So, more information means the person eating those oysters can better pinpoint what they like about each, and that means a better experience.
Sounds like Vohra is a sort of sommelier for oysters, right?
Well, Margaux's Oyster Bar—which chef/owner Choey Dang and Vohra, executive chef and general manager, opened in early 2020 at the former Atlas Diner space in Bravery—is an early adopter of a new term: mermmelier.
"The whole idea is, the term is a sub proclamation. I'm an oyster nerd, I'm a geek. I love oysters, we love oysters so we love to learn more about them," says Vohra. "You take it the same way a sommelier approaches wine. It's not just knowing oysters, but it's the aquaculture itself, the mariculture itself. It's knowing the meroir of the oysters. Knowing more about that, you start to learn more about oysters."
That's right—Margaux's has also gotten in on the term meroir, though that's been around for nearly a decade. Dang and Vohra, through a menu of oysters that's constantly changing and highlighting available styles from across the continent, are educating guests about the specific location of their food. Everything about that location informs what ends up on finely crushed ice.
To further drive that home, Margaux's is developing an oyster omakase program. That'll feature raw bar items and interpretations of oyster preparations.
While that hasn't yet launched, the sleek counter at Bravery offers plenty for your eating and educational needs. You might find the umami-flavored Dutch Island oysters from Jamestown, Rhode Island, or the deeply saline Sunken Meadows from Eastham, Massachusetts, along with the plump Mississippi Deltas from the Louisiana coast.
Beyond that, Margaux's has explosive little bites like deviled eggs topped with fried oysters and swoon-inducing escargot with garlic herb butter and crusty bread. Larger-format dishes include chargrilled king crab legs and, for those who'd rather eat off the land, Snake River Farms wagyu skirt steak. Also serving brunch, the bar has a classic breakfast plate of eggs, bacon, and sausage, plus fried-chicken wings and a mochi waffles.
At the end of the counter is Margaux Button, the restaurant's pastry program that offers creeps with mochiko flour, plus bite-sized pies and sweet dessert items like strawberry pie.
Brunch is also a great time for a dozen raw oysters. I suggest trying all of them, chatting with Vohra so you can better understand their meroir. Or do the real easy thing and go outside with one—it might just open your eyes (and other senses).