Photo: Julie Qiu /

Make It Beautiful: Set Up a Raw Bar

Now that you’ve popped your oysters open, let’s take it to the next level by making your oysters picture perfect Instagram rock stars.

The trick is to hold the oysters level so that the liqueur doesn’t spill out. The classic presentation is to place oysters on a bed of shaved ice on a round seafood display tray. We offer round metal trays and tray stands, or you can find them in restaurant supply stores. Shaved ice can be tricky to find, since most bagged ice is cubed, but it’s worth seeking out crushed ice because it makes a much nicer presentation. Note that ice can also be messy if you aren’t eating the oysters immediately because once the ice melts, the oysters will become submerged in the water, washing away their flavors. Don’t let oyster flooding happen to you!

As an alternative to ice, you can use river rocks or colorful pebbles found at gardening supply stores, and chill them in the freezer beforehand. Dried beans and seaweed can be used in the same manner, but while these will hold your oysters up, they won’t keep your oysters cold. Sea salt will also perform the same function; just add a sprinkle of water to the salt and stir until it forms suitable clumps for oyster support. This is actually best for hot cooked oyster dishes.

Aside from round metal trays, what else can you display oysters on? There are vintage oyster plates, with individual indentations for each oyster, which can lend a retro charm to your event. However, we don’t really recommend using these because they’re irreplaceable, and if something were to go awry at an event, you might be left heartbroken. It’s better to use a round chip and dip platter instead, placing the oysters in a ring around the plate, and condiments in the bowl in the center. Otherwise, any large tray will do, and if you can get one with a drainage tube to remove melted ice, so much the better. We also like the Half Sheller, a wooden shucking board that allows you to shuck oysters in the center of the board, and provides a grooved surface for oysters around the perimeter.

What about sauces and garnishes? We are strong believers that oysters should be tasted “naked” so that you can enjoy the nuances and true merroir of the unadulterated oyster. However, it’s also understandable to want to jazz things up after having several of the same oyster. A quick squeeze of lemon always helps refresh the palate and gives an extra punch to oysters. You can also add a dash of French shallot mignonette or homemade cocktail sauce. For fans of spicy foods, try our recipe for Thai chili lime sauce with oysters. If your budget allows, you could also add a dollop of roe or caviar to top your oysters.

For super simple, dump-and-stir recipes for sauces, check out our versions of shallot mignonette, cocktail sauce, and Thai chili lime sauce.

Finally, you can diversify your raw bar with other seafood options, such as Littleneck clams, cocktail shrimp, crab claws and more. This can add an additional pop of color to your seafood display. If you stick exclusively to oysters, be sure to strategically scatter lemon wedges and seaweed or kale leaves to make the raw bar less monochrome.