We were this close to eating at Alley Cat Oyster Bar during opening week back in August. But, as is often the case, three months quickly passed before we made it there for a long-overdue date night. Such is life with young kids.
But at least we did make it, even if it wasn’t quite according to plan.
Located on the banks of the Cuyahoga, the setting sure is nice. Although we didn’t get to eat outside, there’s a nice patio right on the water from which you can watch the boats pass and the sun set. The interior is rather industrial-looking; I did like the light fixtures, though I’d lean toward more of a modernized New England feel, but that’s just me. And truly, I don’t care how a restaurant decorates, I just like to give a little background.
The menu is obviously heavy on the seafood, with a good variety of fresh oysters (10+), although chicken, beef, and pork can also be found. Options skew seasonally, for example, sweet potato hash and celery root puree, both currently available. You should know what you’re getting yourself into if you go to an oyster bar, but even if you have to drag along a non-seafoodie, there should be something for them as well.
We went during Restaurant Week, so we each had an app, entree, and dessert. We started with a deliciously smooth Mediterranean fish bisque, with rouille (a sort of garlic/saffron/red pepper mayo), toast, and shaved Parmesan – everything about it was excellent. Alongside that was a shrimp Dijon – plump rock shrimp served with a creamy whole-grain mustard sauce and bread crumbs. I enjoy a mustard that’s not too overwhelmingly pungent, and this sauce was perfect.
For mains, S had a fish fry taken up a couple notches – tender, flaky fried catfish, with crispy hot fries, hush puppies, and slaw. Only negative note is the hush puppies were a little salty, but the smoky Old Bay flavor was nice. I had a saffron mussel risotto, complete with fresh peas, halved grape tomatoes, and preserved lemon. It was quite a combination of flavors, and quite scrumptious.
Desserts were a rich, fudgy chocolate terrine and a light, almost custardy coconut cheesecake. Each was a perfect balance to the other, so it was a good thing we ordered both…
Alley Cat Oyster Bar is a fitting addition to Zack Bruell’s menagerie, and we’ll give it 5 1/2 out of 7. The food was great, service was friendly and attentive, and prices are fairly reasonable (most entrees in the $16-20 range, though items like crab legs and the 16 oz strip steak will cost more). And of course, the view is hard to beat.