Home » Restaurant Review » Review of Ways and Means Oyster House -Despite changes, Ways and Means Impresses
Review of Ways and Means Oyster House -Despite changes, Ways and Means Impresses
Ways and Means - Duck Breast with Quail Egg

Review of Ways and Means Oyster House -Despite changes, Ways and Means Impresses

Review of Ways and Means Oyster House

Despite changes, Ways and Means Impresses


Ways and Means Oyster House Sign with Tom  300x184
It was October of 2013 and the Orange County foodie community was buzzing with the news of Ways and Means Oyster House opening near Old Town Orange. Why the buzz?  The owners had hired Chef Conrad Gallagher, a famous Michelin Star Chef from Ireland. Early this year the rumor mill was again buzzing, with news  that Chef Gallagher parted ways with Ways and Means. His consultancy contract expired and moved on to other ventures. During his consultancy at Ways and Means, he trained two Chefs De Cuisine, Chefs Benjamin Wallenbeck and Justin Odegard. These two Chefs have taken on the role of C0-Chefs De Cuisine.


Ways and Means Oyster House Logo 1024x626


With a change to leadership in the kitchen, the first obvious question is “Is the food at the same levels?”  My second question was if Ways and Means is past it’s growing pains, as highlighted in some Yelp reviews and OC Weekly. I visited Ways and Means twice since since the departure of Chef Gallagher.  I can report that the food was pretty amazing and service was spotless. I ate and drank myself silly both times and had one of my best meals , so far, of 2014. Ways and Means appears to be maturing, even with the changes.



When you pull up to the restaurant, the first thing you notice is that Ways and Means occupies a former Coco’s building. The interior has been refurbished to a nautical theme and the dinning room is comfortably appointed with overstuffed red sofas.


Ways and Means Oyster House Exterior

Ways and Means Oyster House – The location was formerly a Coco’s restaurant.


Although Ways and Means did not spend a couple million dollars to retrofit the restaurant to the level of Red O or Lark Creek, the ambiance is charming and welcoming.


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Ways and Means Oyster House – The staff members are really good at their jobs. This isn’t their first rodeo.

The staff is experienced and very friendly. Like the restaurant, they didn’t hire young eye candy; rather, we were tended to by old hands from the restaurant industry who ensured our visit was pleasant. For me, this was a welcome change.  I am sick of hyper-trained 21 year-olds reciting ingredients that they probably never tasted prior to getting their job. From our Maitre D to our lovely waitress Kathleen, our dishes were explained like they personally cooked the dish. I asked each of the staff members, “what would you order from this menu, if it was your last meal.” I ordered  dishes based on their responses;  below are my reactions to the food.


Food at Ways and Means Oyster House

Bread, an oracle to the meal

I have always judged a restaurant by the quality of  their bread, especially at a restaurant with an average entree cost of $34+. Ways and Means did not disappoint.  Although I do not remember all the bread types, I do remember really enjoying the dark Guinness bread, and the apricot curry bread. The rich butter of course made it all better. Variety and high quality are key for a great bread service.


Ways and Means Oyster House Complimetary Comes in four flavors including Guinness

Ways and Means Oyster House – The bread comes in four flavors, including Guinness. Good bread is an oracle to the quality of the main course.


Amuse Bouche


Ways and Means Oyster House Amuche Buche stuffed Brussels Sprout

Ways and Means Oyster House – Amuse Bouche, stuffed Brussels Sprout


The amuse bouche was a  Brussels sprout leaf stuffed with a bunch of ingredients I missed. Although I cant remember the ingredients, the result was a fantastic starting point to the rest of my meal



Creamy Lobster Bisque


The lobster bisque soup was very delicate in texture, but loaded with flavors. Like most fine dining restaurants , they presented the soup deconstructed and then poured over the lobster.  The bisque was deep in lobster flavor; although, it was light on the palate because it was slightly frothy. This is a very nicely executed lobster bisque.  ($8)


Ways and Means Lobster Bisque

Ways and Means Oyster House – Lobster Bisque. It is served deconstructed and the frothy bisque is poured over on top.


Fresh Naked Cowgirl Oysters


Oysters are Ways and Mean’s namesake, so I was prepared to be very critical of the quality and selection of oysters. The selection of oysters was impressive with 10 different oyster species from both the West and East Coast.


Ways and Means Oyster House Oyster Selection

Ways and Means Oyster House – Oyster Selection. The night I visited there were 10 different varieties. I tried the Naked Cowgirl oyster.


We tried the Naked Cowgirl oyster and it was meaty and delicious. It tasted like it slept in the ocean the night before and served on a bed of ice with Mignonette, lemon and Tabasco.  I could see myself coming in just for wine and oysters.  (market price ~ $3.40-3.90 /each)


Salmon Rillette


Rillette, if you are not familiar with the term, is a French technique that renders down meat to a paste, similar to pâté. Ways and means version uses fresh salmon that is rendered so that the meat and fat combine to form a spread. It is perfect spread on their buttery toast!  The Salmon Rillette is served with red onions, watercress and a nice lemon aioli that made the dish pop. ($12)


Ways and Means Salmon Rillettes with toasted points Collage.jpg


Hot Naked Oyster

This was a fun baked oyster dish made with a watercress leaf on the bottom, oyster , bread crumb, chorizo , hot sauce and a hit of creamy Hollandaise sauce and a sweet tomato. I really liked the multiple flavor and texture layers in this dish. The flavor shifted from salty, sweet, spicy to savory in one bite.  ($24)


Ways and Means Hot Naked Oyster e1393888345773


You could eat these baked oysters using a warm oyster fork, although these babies are meant to be slurped straight from the shell. Don’t worry about manners, with oysters, slurping is encouraged.


Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Ways and Means version of deviled eggs a departure from the typical preparation.  Whipped smoked salmon is piped into egg white shells  and sprinkled with egg yolks. I love both smoked salmon and deviled eggs, so this dish was a big win for me.


Ways and Means Oyster House Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Ways and Means Oyster House – Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs have whipped smoked salmon piped into the egg and sprinkled with egg yolks


I liked the creamy smoothness of the whipped salmon against the egg white. The one minor change that I would have made to this dish would be to include more yolk sprinkles over the eggs and a little more aioli on the side. ($6)


Cocktails at Ways and Means Oyster House

W &M Moscow Mule

The W&M Moscow Mule is made with Tito’s Vodka, Regatta ginger beer and fresh lime. This cocktail was light and refreshing, a perfect cocktail to clear your palate. The W &M Moscow Mule is served in the traditional copper cup.


Ways and Means Oyster House Moscow Mule

Ways and Means Oyster House – Moscow Mule


Maid in Mexico

This is a nice version of a margarita that had elements of a mojito. It is made with tequila, cucumber mint and fresh lime.

Ways and Means Oyster House Maid in Mexico Cocktail



My favorite cocktail at Ways and Means is the Winward, which is made with Mount Gay Rum, Cola reduction, citrus zest. The dark rum has aromatics that might remind you of a bourbon, but drinks smooth like a rum. The cola reduction added the right amount of sweet orange flavor to the mix to create a near perfect cocktail in my book.  Notice that they used the proper large ice cube to prevent the cocktail from being watered down.


Ways and Means Oyster House castaway cocktail

Ways and Means Oyster House – castaway cocktail, made with Mount Gay Rum, Cola reduction, citrus zest

Main Courses at Ways and Means Oyster House


Roasted Duck Breast

The roasted duck breast was perhaps my favorite dish that we ordered. The duck is pan seared, skin side down. The result of this technique is juicy meat and a nice crunchy skin.


Ways and Means Duck Breast with Quail Egg

Ways and Means – Roasted Duck Breast with Quail Egg


The duck is topped with a sunny side up quail egg and greens. The savory flavors of the duck and quail egg yolk together was magical.  The duck was served atop creamy butternut puree, puy lentils and a deconstructed apple walnut salad for garnish. This is a very well constructed dish that provided multiple flavors layers. ($33)

Seared Tuna

This dish had an Asian flare, so it did not match with the rest of the menu.  With that said, the Tuna was prepared very nicely and it holds it’s own against the European influenced menu. The Tuna is seared with a wasabi black sesame crust, providing a nice contrast with the smooth tuna meat.

Ways and Means Seared Tuna

Ways and Means – Seared Tuna with a wasabi black sesame crust

The tuna is served atop wok-fried shitake, bean sprouts and bok choy. On top of the tuna was lightly crisped tofu wonton. ($34)

Sides at Ways and Means Oyster House

Like many fine dining restaurants, the main course is serve mostly a la carte. Although main dishes include generous garnishments, such as the butternut puree and lentils with the duck breast, some folks may want extra sides.  Depending on if you ordered appetizers, I recommend one side per two people to share.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

The Lobster Mac and Cheese is very rich and decadent with chunks of lobster integrated into the cheesy pile of macaroni.  I could taste a slight flavor of lobster infused into the white cheese sauce. It looks like they then added a “racelette” cheese layer on top and added bread crumbs and chives.

Ways and Means Lobster Mac and Cheese1

A racelette is typically a blog of cheese melted directly off a block or wheel of cheese and served on a plate with bread and garnishment. In this dish, they added the racelette as an extra layer of cheese

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 ($16) The Mac is an expensive appetizer, but worth it.

Colcannon Creamy Mash

Colcannon is a classic Irish dish that is similar to mashed potatoes and typically integrated with kale or cabbage.  Ways and Means version reminded me of very creamy and velvety mashed potatoes. The  arrugula and scallions were deconstructed on top. This was an extremely delicious dish, my only wish is that they would serve more of it.  ($6)

Ways and Means Colconnan

Desserts at Ways and Means Oyster House


Raspberry Eat and Mess  Meringue (Eaton Mess)

My first experience with Eaton Mess was while I was working in England. This dish is constructed by layering Chantilly cream and crispy meringue with  fresh raspberry and raspberry coulis. The dessert is topped with a rich vanilla bean ice cream.  This dish is very similar to the version I tried in the English countryside. ($8)  

Ways and Means Eat and Mess Dessert

Warm Valhrona Chocolate Cake

Ways and Means version of the lava cake is made with Valhrona chocolate. Valhrona is a very fine chocolate made in a small town near Lyon, in the wine growing region. It is accompanied by a chocolate brownie, which is topped with pistachio ice cream. ($10)

Ways and Means Lava Cake


My Final Thoughts of Ways and Means Oyster House

I honestly did not know what to expect when I walked into Ways and Means the first time. I did not visit the restaurant while Chef Galagher was still in charge of the kitchen. So my visit came without the baggage and burden of comparison. What did I discover? In my humble opinion, I found Ways and Means to be one of the better restaurants in Orange County. I have even recommended it several times.

I found that the food was delicious and artfully prepared and worthy of the price point. This is a key point, as a dinner ticket can reach $150 (before tax and tip) for two, especially  if you go full hog and order cocktails, wine, appetizers, main courses and desserts.  For me, Ways and Means delivered a high quality meal and experience to earn this price point. If you want a cheap food, for cheap prices then go to Coco’s. I have read the Yelp reviews for Ways and Means and they can be bi-polar with very high or very low ratings. Based on my two experiences, I am giving Ways and Means a  high rating.

Ways and Means Oyster House Address

513 E Chapman
Orange, CA



See my other Blog posts

Recipe for Irish Potato Soup with Kale and Bacon

GauFree Artisan Waffle Sandwiches

Orange County Restaurant Week Picks

Review of Lark Creek Newport Beach

BevMo 5 Cent Wine Picks

BLK Burgrz – The $18 Burger comes to Ladera Ranch

Review of Rubio’s Ancho Shrimp Burrito

Top 10 Aphrodisiac Foods

Review of Shades Restaurant Huntington Beach

Food and Wine Festivals Guide

Vine Restaurant in San Clemente

Garbanzo Mediterranean 

About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.


  1. Yummy! A series of delicious food and I would like to have all of these.

  2. Everything looks and sounds super yummy! The lobster bisque would be perfect on a cold day like today! :-)

  3. There’s no doubt why Ways and Means are the big deal in that place. They have the best Chefs and dishes options!

  4. Ways and Means sounds delicious! The duck looked super yummy! In fact it all did, I love seafood! You never fail to make my mouth water with your posts. Well done!

  5. Lobster bisque is my obsolete favorite. All the food looks amazing. Great review.

  6. Stephanie Clopton

    i have never seen salmon deviled eggs and they look delicious!

  7. I’m happy to see Ways and Means doing so well, I look forward to eating there again soon.

  8. oh my! I love all the salmon dishes. They look delicious. I have never seen smoked salmon deviled eggs before but I would love to try them

  9. Everything looks freaking delicious! I want that duck in my belly!!!

  10. This was such a great review! I especially loved those smoked salmon deviled eggs! Your post makes me crave them:)

  11. I have to stop looking at this site when I’m hungry!!

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