Adi Mandel, executive chef of the new Bristol Oyster Bar, came to the new restaurant by way of Rhode Island’s fine dining scene, including stints at Providence’s 10 Prime Steak and Sushi and Newport’s The Mooring. A native of upstate New York, Adi’s Argentinian-Jewish parents owned delis and gave him his first exposure to different cuisines and cultures. Any night of the week, he’s serving fresh, locally sourced seafood at Bristol Oyster Bar.
What brought you to Bristol Oyster Bar?
I had taken a hiatus from the restaurant world, but after speaking with [owner] Peter Sebring about the restaurant, I was sold. My dream was to always have a small place, 40 seats or so, open kitchen that served a simple from-scratch and locally-sourced menu. We shared this concept and our partnership started from there.
I love that the East Bay finally has an honest-to-goodness raw bar. What local fish can we find on a given day?
Right now, all of our oysters and shellfish are local. As far as the menu, we run two or three specials a day and usually those are locally sourced fish. We have run grilled sardines from Narragansett as well as stuffed calamari from Point Judith. We used monkfish and flounder from local fisherman for specials as well.
It’s easy to think that an oyster bar would rely on classic seafood, but I see a lot of creativity on this menu.
I like to take the classics and add some fun twists. With the Oyster Rockefeller, we take the same concept, except we use braised kale instead of spinach, make a fennel cream sauce and top it with garlic parmesan panko. These little twists allow us to use the classics but bring it to the “New School.” Another example is our Tuna Tartar. We use the freshest tuna available, mix it with a dijon lemon dressing which is made to order, and serve it with crispy fried celery root chips. The faint celery flavor with the tuna is a great combination, but the chips are so light you still get the great taste of the fresh fish.
You came to Bristol Oyster Bar by way of fine dining in Newport. How are tastes different here?
Newport has a lot of transient tourists. In Bristol, we’ve had so many repeat customers that I’m learning them by name. When we first opened, we only had a few items on our menu. Yet, we had a few guests that were there two to three times a week, rotating through every item. They made me want to expand the menu faster so they wouldn’t get bored and not come back...which never happened, thankfully!
Bristol Oyster Bar
448 Hope Street, Bristol