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Redlands Oyster Cult: A culinary journey back to high-energy times

Oysters R-O-C this fella Oysters R-O-C this fella

It took a year away from the bustle for me to realize that there’s simply no substitute for the energy of a culinary hot spot. Seafood-oyster-cocktail bar Redlands Oyster Cult will bring you right back to the old days as soon as you step inside.

In this roaring, speakeasy-like atmosphere, upbeat music merges with enthusiastic conversation. You’ll be tempted to take an open stool at the grandiose central bar, but wait—the host will greet you and seat you in the order in which you arrived. There’s a controlled orderliness within this jovial chaos.

Much like the dazzling interior, the small, focused menu is an absolute delight. There are oysters, of course, freshly shucked and very, very good. You could have a lovely evening simply pairing these with your drink of choice, although you would miss out on the kitchen’s array of culinary surprises.

Clam stew.

Clam stew

Crunchy crab cakes served next to a cool pile of fennel are divine. The clam stew—peppery, laden with pork belly, and as thick as gravy—is a must. For more substantial appetites, there’s an outstanding lemony barramundi that nails the elusive moist inside yet crispy outside perfection. A stellar steak frites is the sole offering for those with red meat cravings. Still, you can best judge a seafood bar by the quality of its fries, right? ROC’s are glorious, golden winners.

The intimate, shoulder-to-shoulder bar vibe won’t be for everyone. This is not a quiet, mellow place, nor is it ideal for families with children. And during a later visit, the kitchen ran out of many items as closing time approached. But for those who miss the days when dining out sparked a kinetic reaction to all 5 senses, prepare to feel it all over again.

Steak frites

Steak frites

Best dishes: Oyster Butter Bomb, Oyster R-O-C This Fella, crab cakes, french fries, R-O-C Clam Stew, barramundi.

Dinner prices: Fresh oysters, $22–$38; starters, $7–$22; entrées, $18–$39; desserts, $10.

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