In a year when many restaurant types have been funneling their energies into roast chicken and lasagna, Isabella Macbeth has been puzzling out how to poach oysters in gin.
“I scroll through Instagram feeds and see a cocktail and I’ll be like ‘I can make that,’” Macbeth, an oyster shucker at NICO in Mount Pleasant, says of the inspiration for her French 75 platter.
The platter was one in a series of $40 raw bar platters that Macbeth has been serving on Tuesday nights since before the pandemic. She developed the special in conjunction with Valentine’s Day and has since used the weekly opportunity to tinker with the standard seafood tower format.
“Every time, I do something new and hopefully exciting,” says Macbeth, who’s drizzled Scotch and loquat juice over smoked mussels, paired South Carolina stone crab claws with barbecue and set smoked ham atop oysters.
Macbeth suspects other Charleston-area raw bars have stuck to more conservative menus because there’s a financial risk associated with offering untested dishes. Still, she sees it as a chance to advance shucking and customers’ regard for it.
“I don’t think other raw bars are really trying to push anything innovative, but that’s not a bad thing,” she says. “Restaurants are failing left and right, so why order $300 langoustines from Scotland that might not sell?”
Langoustines come to mind because the lobster cousin has emerged as Macbeth’s favorite medium. And thus far, she’s had no trouble selling them.
In fact, Macbeth says the Shucker’s Platter at NICO always sells out, albeit not always swiftly.
While all 14 of her platters featuring three kinds of ceviche were claimed within one hour of opening, she sometimes has platter components on hand when closing looms. She generally plans on constructing no more than a dozen or so platters over the course of the evening, since “not a lot of people are still coming” out on a Tuesday.
That’s another reason to keep up the platter program, Macbeth says.
“If they’re going out of their way, let’s give them a treat when they get here,” she says of her creations, which are completely immune to the takeout treatment. But they travel well to “anywhere in the restaurant,” including NICO’s outdoor patio.