Review: Extra Brut in Clayton
Pushing through Extra Brut’s heavy wood door, marked simply with an EB, reveals an unexpected, dimly lit corridor beside the bright windows of sister restaurant Louie’s Wine Dive. At the end of the speakeasy-style entrance lined with empty wine racks is a well-dressed host welcoming you and the rest of the Real Housewives through a door marked “private.”
This is a weekends-only sparkling wine and oyster bar, which sets a certain Champagne-wishes, caviar-dreams price point. But despite the esoteric menu, the staff at Extra Brut is unpretentious, attentive and kind. My server was happy to explain all about what I ate and drank without making me feel like a plebian.
Extra Brut’s sparkling wine list is as diverse as your portfolio, with more than 50 carefully chosen bottles from around the world. After getting over the $20 sticker shock, I was able to try a few by-the-glass options, and I have to tell you they were as complex and delicious as their difficult-to-pronounce names. Glasses offered rotate weekly. On my visits I was able to try a $11 glass of Bouvet, a fruity and mild sparkling rosé; a clean, dry sparkling from Piedmont that had just a hint of sweetness; and that $20 Roederer Estates, a bold, satisfying brut. Each is also available by the bottle, if your party is so privileged.
Oysters are flown in fresh from the coasts each weekend. I enjoy even the fishiest of fish (I’ll order mackerel over tuna at a sushi bar), so raw are always my preference. They’re served by the dozen or half with a lemon wedge, house cocktail sauce, horseradish and Champagne mignonette. The menu is seasonal, so there are mostly West Coast varieties like Kumamoto and Kusshi at the moment, but there will sometimes be East Coast and bigger, meatier Gulf oysters, all sold at market price.
If you’re more steak-and-potatoes than sardines-straight-from-the-can, there are a few fish-free snacks (goat cheese crostini, fruit and charcuterie), or you can get your oysters doctored up. The classic Bienville goes the full nine yards, baked with shrimp, bacon, crimini mushrooms, garlic, thyme and green onion. The super rich, savory oysters tasted more like an appetizer from The Cheesecake Factory than anything from the ocean. Charbroiled is the simplest of the brine-slaughtering preparations, topped with cheese and a creamy Creole bordelaise sauce, lending extra texture and spice.
The ambiance is low-key and cozy – candle-lit with singer-songwriter-type live music and a big TV playing classic movies (“How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” when I was there around the holidays). But with the short, snacky menu and high prices, it’s a place best for starting or ending your night, rather than spending the whole evening. That is, unless it’s time to impress the investors – then pile into the Bentley and tell the driver, “Straight to Extra Brut!"
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