Here in the tranquil inlets and fjords of British Columbia, an oyster revolution is quietly brewing. The Pacific Northwest has long been known for its pristine waters and abundant wildlife, ideal conditions for growing shellfish. Now, Alex and Shannon Munro of San Mateo Sea Farms are putting a lifetime of experience and passion into creating the perfect oyster—the Mattaki—and we are blown away by the results.
I caught up with Alex one afternoon to hear more about his remarkable story. The Munros have both been involved in the oyster business for over 20 years, and they’ve developed a pretty good eye for what makes a good oyster. When they decided to take the plunge with their own oyster farm two years ago, they knew exactly what they were looking for. “In our opinion, the best tasting, plumpest and fullest oysters come from areas west of Vancouver Island,” said Alex. “We went prospecting to many sites, looking for a very remote, wild, undisturbed location close to the Pacific, and we managed to find one near Barkley Sound.”
Here, the oysters are nourished by the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, while basking in the scenery of nearby Pacific Rim National Park. The area may not receive too many human visitors (reaching the farm requires a boat or the ability to stomach 45 miles of logging roads), but there are ample numbers of humpback whales, sea otters and sea lions who drop in to say hello. “It’s a little piece of undisturbed paradise,” said Alex. “We’re trying to grow a good oyster out here, and the characteristics of the algae and nutrients of open ocean all work to make fat, happy little oysters.”
The Mattaki oyster is grown in suspended cages that float near the surface of the water, and using innovative conditioning techniques, the oyster develops a deeply cupped shell that is easy to shuck. When you crack one open, the shells are filled to the brim with plump, dense meat. It comes with the bite and chew of a Kusshi oyster, but the salinity and mild earthiness of a Kumamoto. The oysters are pulled out of the water and immediately shipped through Fanny Bay Oysters, the most reputable shellfish processor in British Columbia, so that they arrive at your table in peak condition.
How did the name come about? “We were hooked on the idea of a Japanese nickname,” said Alex, “and the word Mattaki means ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ in Japanese.” After tasting the Mattaki, we can vouch that this little taste of Barkley Sound is perfect indeed.