What to Eat & Drink at the New Hog Island Oyster Co.

The completely redesigned restaurant features a new chef and - for the first time - a cocktail menu
May 8, 2014
by Virginia Miller

Hog Island Oyster Bar is back. The longtime raw-bar destination in the Ferry Building has doubled in size and it's more beautiful than ever before. The new Cass Calder Smith Architecture-designed space is open and modern, with lots of woods and clean lines and Bay Views running the length of the airy restaurant. Now there are three bars framing the space. A dramatic, Bay-facing, 16-seat oyster bar centers the room. On one side, there's an 8-seat cocktail bar and on the other, an 8-seat chef’s counter - both side bars are smartly lined with angled mirrors reflecting the water. Communal as well as individual tables and an outdoor patio offer a variety of seating options. Just as in its former days, the place is bustling and packed from the moment it opens. In a way, it feels as if it never left.

But now they have cocktails - and cocktails created by Scott Beattie and Michael Jack Pazdon, no less. Both are bar masters from St. Helena's Goose & Gander. In classic Beattie/Pazdon fashion, the drinks show off seasonal produce from Hog Island’s farm and feature Bay Area microdistillers. The wine list steers from California through France, Italy, Oregon and New Zealand, including a Hog Island Cuvée, a collaboration with Ironhorse Vineyards, and Hog Island Oyster Wine, a blend of Albarino and Gruner Veltliner grapes from Paragon Vineyard. There are also five rotating draft-beer selections, a cider and a rarity: Boylan sodas on tap.

The kitchen uses only sustainably raised and harvested seafood and oysters from their farm in Marshall. A pioneer in Bay-to-bar restaurants, chef Christopher Laramie (of the now-defunct eVe and Brasa in Berkeley) revives Hog Island classics like clam chowder and the grilled cheese sandwich, but he's also got a few new tricks up his sleeve. Take a look at the latest Hog Island dishes and drinks, below. 

Oyster shells dot the center oyster bar top, while ipe wood from the Coney Island boardwalk in New York was used to build the seating.

Alongside a few oyster specials, the majority of oyster options are beloved Sweetwater, Atlantics, Kumamoto and Island Cliffside oysters from Hog Island's Tomales Bay farm in Marin and their new farm in Discovery Bay, WA. They plan to open an oyster seed hatchery and a third farm in Humboldt Bay later this year.

Utilizing produce and herbs from the Hog Island farm in Marshall (Marin County) plus produce from local farmers at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Scott Beattie and Michael Pazdon created a menu of approachable cocktails, like this subtle Marshall Mule ($11): Arette Blanco tequila and lime mingle with a ginger shrub (a classic style of vinegar-based syrup), just-imported to the U.S. Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur and effervescent ginger beer with fresh-grated nutmeg on top.

Our initial favorite of the newcomer dishes: a delicately delicious oyster po' boy ($15). Oysters are fried lightly in cornmeal for just the right amount of crunch, contrasted by cabbage slaw and remoulade sauce with a side of Creole potato salad. This isn't your usual hefty New Orleans-style po' boy. The oysters in Hog Island's version are lightly breaded, so the shellfish shine through. Their flavor and texture contrast perfectly with the roll from Ferry Building neighbor Acme Bread.

Behind the oyster bar, one of the staff prepares halibut and geoduck ceviche, a special of the day.

Geoduck showed up in two specials of the day yesterday: as fried clam and geoduck belly strips and in this clean, bright halibut and geoduck ceviche ($12) accented with red onion, Fresno chile, cilantro and lime, swimming in coconut milk.

The water of the Bay reflects back from angled windows lining the cocktail bar (and the grill bar on the other side of the room), so even those with the back to the view can still see it. Bar shelves are made from the original 1880s redwood foundation at the Hog Island farm in Marshall.

Another newcomer and a dish we just love: cola-braised pork gems ($11). Gems are the temple of the pig, meaty and tender; here, they're stewlike in Rancho Gordo baked beans accented by greens from the Hog Island farm. It's a sweet-savory bowl of comfort.

Idyllic snack with champagne or sparkling wine (like the house Hog Island Cuvée produced in Sonoma): crispy, whole anchovies ($9) dusted in semolina grain, dipped in lemon aïoli.

Tantalizing at the oyster bar...

Of the initial cocktails we tasted, this one was the most realized and exciting in flavor: Pisco-Rhubarb Punch ($11). Showcasing rhubarb's tart brightness and using Encanto's earthy Acholado Pisco (the owners are based in San Francisco) and Oro Italia Pisco (a company with offices on Treasure Island), the drink is balanced out by classic pineapple gomme syrup, lime and preserved rhubarb slices.

Mussels ($14) doused in shallots, celery leaves, leeks, mustard, white wine and butter? Yes, thank you. Better yet, add on frites (fries) for $3.

new openings
scott beattie