“A half dozen is six, and a dozen is 12,” our server reminded us as we scanned the oyster board, debating between Carolina Cups, Blue Points, and Cape May Salts — as if the loud, fluctuating wave of bass-bumping island music was enough to dump the duodecimal file from my brain’s vault — but a courteous reminder nonetheless.
The huge oyster board inside the Oyster Room displays a changing list of oysters (including prices and harvest date), the fresh fish of the day (most recently Sheepshead, $18.95), and the fresh catch sandwich. It’s visible to the entire bar, dining room, and the eager Folly Beach tourist poking his head inside the doorway to see what the place is all about.
Gulf oysters ($6.95 half dozen/$10.95 dozen) are a more or less permanent fixture on the board, while Beavertails, Umami, and Blue Points ($12.95/$23.95) appear now and then. On our first visit, there were no local oysters, but we were happy to see Carolina Cups on the board the following week. Oysters are served raw on the half shell with cocktail sauce, horseradish, pear mignonette, and lemon wedges. About half of our oysters were properly shucked; the rest required some work to extricate them and a few should have never made it to the tray, as they neither looked nor tasted good. A little TLC would take care of this.
Served in a large cappuccino mug, the small portion of “he crab” soup is rich and creamy ($4.95/$6.95). It’s a decent rendition, without the roe and sherry garnish. A little more of that TLC and attention to detail would have helped here too, as I came across a piece of shell in a spoonful halfway to my mouth.
The menu continues the seafood theme with dishes like wood-grilled barbecue oysters, snow crab legs, and jumbo lump crab cakes. The Cajun fried oysters ($9.95) amounted to a lot of soggy breading with an oyster hidden inside. The serving of remoulade and plain carrot sticks on the side don’t help this sad interpretation of a classic.
A traditional New England style split top roll cradles a hefty portion of lobster meat, but an overdose of mayo and large chunks of celery do it no favors. A lighter hand with the dressing and a finer cut on the celery would go a long way. Recently mahi mahi starred in the fresh catch sandwich ($10.95), served on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, red onion, and tomato. The kiss from the grill gave the fish a nice smoky flavor, but some citrus or sauce was needed. To the side: a standard spring green salad drowning in creole vinaigrette.
The small, dimly lit space used to be part of Snapper Jack’s, but a wall now separates the two. The décor is confusing. The wooden tables and walls are stained a dark red, the main dining room floor is bamboo laminate, and a thin stretch under the bar stools is a light wood that resembles pine. The bar itself is another shade of deep red wood with light oak trim. Laid-back beach meets subtle elegance? I’m not sure.
There’s also some confusion in the kitchen. The Oyster Room menu includes Asian tuna with egg rolls ($12.95), Asian beef skewers ($11.95), and fried rice ($5.95). The tuna was seared perfectly, but lacked seasoning and acidity. As soon as I bit into an egg roll, the jingle from La Choy started playing in my head, which had the happy effect of drowning out the aforementioned island music. They were cut in half at an angle and served with tiger sauce and a mediocre seaweed salad, but still “swung American.” Needless to say, I didn’t bother with the beef skewers or fried rice.
The cocktail list is filled with sweet, sweet, and more sweet — like the “Vanilla Bean” with marshmallow vodka, Frangelico, cream, and chocolate swirl, the “Better Than Dessert” with Bailey’s, caramel vodka, Godiva white chocolate liqueur, and chocolate swirl, and the “Folly” with Malibu rum, orange, and pineapple ($8 each). The Oyster Room takes a heavy approach with sangria by adding citrus and orange vodka, Pinot Grigio, lemon-lime soda, and orange wedges, making it sweet and boozy. I’ll stick to the Holy City Slanted Porch pale ale every time.
There’s a hodgepodge of issues with the Oyster Room that need to be addressed. For starters, the identity — are you an oyster bar or an Asian bistro? Can you please add a bit of acidity to some of the dishes? While you’re at it, remove the lead gloves when dressing greens and mixing mayo with the lobster. Make sure each and every oyster is fully shucked and carefully selected. Individually, these may seem like small things, but collectively they add up to big problems. But not unfixable problems — as I’ve noted, a little TLC and focus could turn things around. Until then, I’ll practice counting to 12 with Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” blaring in the background.