As most oyster spots offer up their wares in sixes, by the half or full dozen, a good rule of thumb is six oysters per person at the table. One of the glorious things about oysters is tasting the differences in the various styles (which we will get into in detail below), so often there is a certain logic in breaking up a dozen or so oysters into three or four varietals as you can really start to figure out which ones you most enjoy.
Now, if you're in a fine dining restaurant, they might not give you a choice, as they want to shape your dining experience as much as possible, and that often means having a set raw oyster dish prepared and topped as they see fit. But in most gastropubs and more casual oyster spots, you'll be able to read a list of available oysters much as you would a wine list and get as many as you fancy.
Oyster species and regions
Though there are hundreds of varieties of oysters, Murray thinks it's important to understand that there are only a total of five main species. These breakdown into:
Atlantic Oysters: Native to America, and found, quite logically, all along the Atlantic Ocean down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Olympia Oysters: Native to the American West Coast, once thought to be extinct after over-cultivation in the late 19th century, found mostly in Washington state and Northern California.
Pacific Oysters: Also called Miyagi, these were first imported from Asia in the early 20th century and most often found in North America on the West Coast and in British Columbia.
Kumamoto Oysters: Native to Japan, mostly found in the same locales as the Pacific oysters.
European Flat Oysters: Also called Belons, though that gets complicated because they technically need to be from Brittany to be actual Belons per the whole French thing, these are the hardest to find in America, though you can occasionally find them in New England.
But as we said up top, there are lots of varieties within those species, and, in America, and especially on menus, you tend to only get quick information, like the name of the varietal and its origin. The region where those oysters grew will affect their characteristics, including how they taste. So we asked Murray to give us a quick primer on four of the most popular oyster farming regions.