After months of going without even a nibble of something from the ocean, seafood was on my mind.
So off I went to Empty Shell, a newly opened seafood restaurant in Mukilteo, located just up the hill from the ferry dock on Second Street, in a space that most recently was Kiss of the Ocean. It’s housed in the oldest building in Mukilteo, built in 1903.
The place is conveniently located on my commute from Whidbey Island, so I’ve kept an eye on its progress. I was thrilled to see one morning that it had opened for business.
When I took a seat in Empty Shell’s dining room with a view of Possession Sound, I wanted nothing but seafood. There are plenty of choices: shrimp cakes, lobster bisque, fish and chips, grilled shrimp, scallops … the list goes on. There’s even lobster and crab, plus an oyster bar.
I ordered manila clams from the appetizers menu, which were steamed in a white wine base with garlic, chives and a hint of truffle oil ($9). I’ll cut right to the chase: They were excellent. And this is coming from someone who has eaten a lot of them (if I see clams on the menu, I’m 99.9 percent sure I’m going to order them).
I couldn’t tell what flavor stood out the most: the delicate flavor of the clams, the white wine base, or both. Then I dipped slices of wheat bread, toasted on a flat-top griddle and brushed with olive oil, into the broth. It was definitely the broth.
Next, I took a leap of faith with a half-dozen takara oysters ($12) farmed in Willapa Bay in southwestern Washington. As the writer and satirist Jonathan Swift once said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” I felt bold when I ordered them because, frankly, they made me nervous. I’d never eaten an oyster in my life.
Empty Shell offers six types: Takara, Pacific, Kumamoto, West Coast stout, Kushi and Dabob. Each have their own flavor profile.
Takara oysters are mildly salty with a sweet cucumber finish. They’re also chilled in ice and come with two sauces: cocktail and a house sauce made with a blend of tomatoes, habanero, onions, jalapenos and parsley.
I naively expected them to taste something like mussels or clams. I let my waitress know of my inexperience and she wisely suggested I take a nibble so I could get used to the taste.
Alas, one nibble was enough for me to decide oysters aren’t my thing. And if you’re wondering: Yes, I finished them all. I was hoping they might grow on me, but they didn’t — though I will say that dipping them in the sauces was intriguing.
Empty Shell is operated by three people: Raymond Mak, Dejay Getahun and Du Le, all of south King County. Le, 38, is essentially the face of the restaurant as general manager, while Mak and Getahun run things behind the scenes.
Le said the recipes on the menu come from Mak, who has about 20 years of seafood restaurant experience. All of their ingredients are made in-house, while all of their seafood — from the lobsters to the clams — is fresh.
“When you get food that’s frozen, you lose a lot of that texture and flavor,” Le said. “We want to serve the food how we want to eat it. We take a lot of pride in that.”
The oysters are sold in orders of one, three, six, nine and a dozen. You can buy one oyster for $1 during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.), too.
“That way people can try each individual oyster,” Le said.
In addition to seafood, Empty Shell serves steak, burgers, soup, pizza and ribs, and has a specials menu that changes every two weeks. The current menu includes choices like chicken satay and mango-jalapeno baked trout.
“We don’t want to have a stale menu,” Le said. “We want people to come in and try something different every time.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Empty Shell is at 801 Second St., Mukilteo.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays.
Call 425-374-7641 or go to www.facebook.com/emptyshellrestaurant.
This story has been modified to correct the days of operation.