Monday, January 6, 2014

Half Shell Seafood: Mississippi Flair in Manatee County

The Mississippi-based restaurant, formerly called the Half Shell Oyster House, newly opened in Sarasota's Manatee County a few months ago. A joint venture between Bradenton native Dino Mirando and Bob Taylor, president of Gulf Coast Restaurant Group and founder of Half Shell Oyster House, the new name Half Shell Seafood reflects their new offerings aside from hand-shucked oysters which are prepared in many ways, including charbroiled over an open flame, Rockefeller, Bienville, Orleans-style and of course, on the half shell. The new menu also features king crabs, snow crabs, lobster and southern favourites such as fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, po’ boys, shrimp & grits and gumbo.

Half Shell Oyster House of Florida President Dino Mirando and parent company, 
Gulf Coast Restaurant Group President, Bob Taylor

The first Half Shell Oyster House opened in July 2009 in Mississippi in the historic Kremer building in downtown Gulfport, enjoying great success. As with other Half Shell Oyster House locations, in Biloxi and Hattiesburg, the decor consists of French Quarter finishes including wrought iron, high ceilings, exposed brick walls, classic lighting fixtures, stained glass and a copper bar, with a unique exhibition kitchen for preparing oysters — of which, it's not uncommon for them to serve upwards of 10,000 oysters a week. Not a fan of raw oysters? Any time the restaurant is open, which happens to be seven days a week starting at 11 am, you can order the Po-Boy Sandwich which comes three different ways: shrimp, Voodoo shrimp or with oysters. They're all made on bread from New Orleans’ Gambino Bakery, a necessity for authenticity according to Dino Miranda, and are all served with your choice of sides, including fried okra and exceptionally crisp French fries.

Half Shell menu

A cold glass of Stella Artois Belgian beer

To start, Miranda suggests the Oyster Combo of three Charbroiled, three Orleans, three Rockefeller and three Bienville Oysters, followed by a cup of Crab-and-Shrimp Gumbo made fresh in-house daily. As an entrée, his recommendation is Polynesian Mahi-Mahi topped with homemade pineapple salsa. For dessert, he suggest the house-made, Cinnamon-Roll Bread Pudding. "Anybody can put whipped cream on bread pudding," says Miranda, so he serves his with a Myers rum sauce. Dino describes Half Shell's ambience as 'polished casual' and says his goal is to put a lot of value in his pricing so it isn't just an occasion restaurant, but one Sarasotans will visit time and time again. 

Crab & Shrimp Seafood Gumbo

Caesar Salad with croutons and shaved parmesan cheese

Voodoo Shrimp Fish Tacos in a grilled tortilla shell with shredded cabbage, white queso, homemade avocado sour cream and and pineapple salsa

Seafood Pot Pie with shrimp, crawfish, crabmeat, corn, peas and carrots 
in traditional pot pie filling with a crisp buttermilk crust

Oysters Bienville topped with an herb, mushroom, crab, shrimp, bacon, and Italian bread crumb mixture and baked with parmesan cheese 

Fried Local Gulf Shrimp, battered and dusted in homemade seasoned corn flour, 
fried golden brown, and served with homemade cocktail and tartar sauce

Blackened Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos in a grilled tortilla shell, with shredded cabbage, white queso, homemade avocado sour cream and pineapple salsa.

Fried Okra

Half Shell Oyster House Bienville Topping
Topping for 15-dozen oysters

This is a restaurant-sized recipe, so adjust the amount you wish to prepare!

6 oz butter
1 1/2 cups bacon, chopped
1/4 cup minced shallots
3/4 cups minced garlic
3/4 cup diced mushrooms
2 1/2 lb chopped shrimp
1 cup chives, minced
1 cup milk
1 cup white wine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 cups Italian bread crumbs
1 lb lump crab meat
1/2 lb crab claw meat

Sauté butter and bacon until browned in a large braising pan. Add shallots, garlic, shrimp and mushrooms, and sauté until shrimp turn pink. Add the remaining ingredients, except the crab meat. Remove from heat, and then fold in the crab meat. Shuck the oysters and broil to cook them. Spoon about one tablespoon of hot topping on each, then broil 3 to 4 minutes, until the topping is browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

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