Archive for category Seafood Restaurants
Recently, Gina and the Big Dog went on a mussel-eating binge. In two weeks or so, we ordered mussel appetizers off five different menus in the northeastern corner of Buzzards Bay and came away with the conclusion that there’s something for everyone here.
We were surprised by the diversity. The basic strategy, we believe, is to saute fresh and clean mussels, typically from Prince Edward Island, in a tasty sauce just to the point of doneness. Add some bread for dipping in the sauce and you’ve got a hearty and simple appetizer. Each of our local restaurants interpreted all of that differently.
Our first stop was at Mezza Luna in the village of Buzzards Bay. This institution is a favorite destination of ours when we are looking for consistent, good food in a comfortable yet white-tablecloth atmosphere. The bar is typically packed with people who make for interesting eavesdropping, but on this Tuesday evening, it was unexpectedly quiet.
The mussels appetizer ($13) inspired our little journey with four parenthetical, challenging words on the menu: “We’re famous for them.” So we chose the standard preparation, which the menu describes as being “in our delicious garlic and wine parmesan cream sauce.” Mussels are also available with marinara or fra diavlo sauce.
The generous bowl of fresh mussels arrived topped with slivers of garlic and a delicious, creamy, cheesy sauce. This was hands-down Gina’s favorite dish of the odyssey, as much for its careful presentation as its flavor. The bread for dipping was served on the side. The dish came topped with a bowl for shells. The sauce was delicious and the mussels were fresh.
Heading west (on a different day), we stopped at Lindsey’s Family Restaurant in East Wareham, where “Mussels Sambuca” were available as a special ($14.99). Now, we know that the folks at Lindsey’s are extremely smart and very responsive to their clientele, and this dish is offered as a special relatively frequently, so it must be popular. But the combination of flavors seemed odd to us. Sambuca liqueur laced a creamy sauce, served with a hunk of garlic bread on top.
We agreed that the shellfish, also described as hailing from PEI, at Lindsey’s, was the best prepared of the four mussel dishes we enjoyed. They were clean and fresh and cooked just to the point of doneness.
A bit farther down Route 6/28 is Bailey’s Surf & Turf, another favorite spot where the Big Dog found his preferred mussels dish.
This scampi version, offered as a special that day ($11.95), was the classic preparation that many think of as the way to prepare mussels. A little white wine, a lot of butter, a healthy toss of fresh garlic, maybe some parsley, and you’ve got yourself a classic. Given the odd adornments we saw during our journey, the simplicity here was welcome.
And the oddest were yet to come.
Venturing to the region’s other end of Route 6, we went to Brew Fish in Marion, another favorite spot with a nice bar and good wine and beer selection. We like the food there.
Not this time.
We saw the word “mussels” ($11) and ordered. Had we continued reading the description, we would have gotten to “fennel.” One thing we agree on is that we don’t like fennel. If you like fennel more than you like shellfish, you would love this dish. If you like fennel at all, you might like this — it’s unusual and creative.
Our last stop (for a while) was another local favorite, the Stonebridge Bistro in Onset. This dish ($11) was dubbed “Pan Roasted Mussels” and described as PEI mussels sautéed in white wine, garlic, onions, and tomatoes. It’s on the regular appetizer menu. We don’t know why, but these mussels were in ordinary-sized shells, but the morsels inside were very small. It was a hearty serving, though, and with a Caesar salad and small flatbread pizza, was plenty of food for the two of us. (And inexpensive too, considering the quality. We also ordered a bottle of Toasted Head cabernet, and the whole thing came to just 52 bucks.)
The bread served with the mussels was the best of our tour. The bread has to hold its own in the sauce, and can’t arrive soaking in it. The Bistro serves a delicious grilled sourdough with many of their dishes, and it really shines in this one.
The one complaint we had at every stop but the Mezza Luna was that our mussels were not served with a bowl for shells. At a couple of restaurants we didn’t even get side plates. We assumed that steamed mussels would be served just like steamed clams. Maybe other folks have a different approach to eating steamed mussels, but we can’t imagine steamers coming without a shell bowl and side plates. Maybe we should find out, in our next odyssey.
We’re on a quest to find the best lobster roll in the region, and before we even started the quest, a friend told us the best lobster rolls are at the Seafood Shanty, located on the Bourne Scenic Highway opposite the Herring Run on the Cape Cod Canal.
Despite our focus on food, our view of local restaurants is often affected by ambiance, service, and the quality of the beer and wine list. None of those come into play here — the Seafood Shanty is a walk-up window; grab your tray and soft drink, and do your best finding a suitable picnic table.
To be honest, that setup barely qualifies as a dining experience for us. If we went to the salad bar at the Stop n Shop, we would not trouble you with our commentary about it, and a take-out window on a busy four-lane highway isn’t much better than a grocery lunch.
But the Shanty is a popular spot, and we can imagine that patrons flock there for someone’s proclaimed best lobster salad rolls ($20.50), the best scallop roll ($14.95), the best fish sandwich ($8.95), or any of the other standards they have to offer.
We’re certain all of those items are quite good. But we’re equally certain that the flocking is caused not by the main course, but by the french fries.
We each ordered lobster rolls, and like many of the sandwiches, they came with fries. Now, we’re the kind of people who see fries as high-calorie superfluousness, and we’ll often ask for a substitute on principle.
At the Seafood Shanty, we were glad we didn’t. Each fry was the crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside ideal, and they were liberally crusted with salt. You can buy them on their own, at $4.95 for a large side, and we could easily imagine doing that. They were outstanding. We can think of none better in the Southcoast region.
Our thoughts on the lobster rolls were more mixed. They tasted good, with big chunks of lobster tossed with mayonnaise, laid atop some crisp green leaf lettuce and a saucy dollop of mayo inside a buttery bun.
Our issue was with the structure, and this is one time we’re hoping that the ownership will read and heed: We would have been happier with the same generous serving of lobster, or maybe even a little less, spread over two buns. We would cheerfully have paid $14.95 for half the lobster in one bun.
Here’s the thing: It’s not a sandwich if you can’t pick it up to eat it. And we couldn’t with these overstuffed fellas, until we had forked out a healthy serving of overflowing lobster. Many, if not most, of our fellow diners may subscribe to the 16-inch plate of pasta theory of dining value, but we just don’t. A great lobster roll is not one that has lobster on the plate next to it: it’s one that contains bite after bit of bread, sauce, and filling, all working together. The restaurant has been around since the early 1990s and is clearly quite successful, but we’re thinking a slightly different approach might work even better for them.
803 Scenic Highway (Route 6)
Hadley, who has run this kitchen for a dozen years, has gained a widespread reputation for creativity, while recognizing that diners value food that is consistent, fresh, and a great value. It’s an unusual combination for a restaurant that also offers an idyllic waterfront view, with a deck perched over the Stonebridge Marina in Onset.
On the night of our visit, Hadley was experimenting with an oyster special that displayed his special twist on the classic Rockefeller treatment.
He opened a pair of oysters and sat them, bowl side down, in a bed of kosher salt. “It infuses a little flavor, maybe, and keeps them upright,” he noted.
On these, he placed some chunks of bleu cheese, the element which kept this from being a true Rockefeller recipe, but which added a rich earthiness which clearly enhanced the original.
He then added a layer of scallions sautéed with spinach. While we were surprised at the tangle of scallion, Justin said many oysters Rockefeller recipes call for it in lieu of chopped onion or shallot.
Then came a generous, course crumble of cooked bacon.
Finally, Hadley hauled out a tray of a toasted panko concoction and insisted that we sample a pinch, then another. We could imagine eating this stuff by the buttery fistful from a cardboard tub at the movies, it was that good. The crumbs were mixed with butter, parmesan, butter, a hint of red pepper, and butter. He topped each oyster with the crumbs, then put them in the convection oven for five minutes.
The result was rich, bright, cheesy, salty, and crunchy – all of the characteristics of a perfect bar snack. He served the pair of oysters on a bed of organic baby spinach with two grilled half lemon quarters
The Stonebridge Bistro’s specials were part of the second annual Wareham Oyster Festival. A week of culinary and educational offerings centered around the oyster culminate annually in a street fair on the first Sunday in May on Main Street.
For more information about the Wareham Oyster Festival, visit warehamvillage.org.
The Stonebridge Bistro is located at Five East Boulevard in Onset; visit stonebridgebarandgrill.com for information.
Generally speaking, it’s our kind of place Stretched along scenic Shore Road is first a wholesale fish market, then a retail market, then a room for takeout, then a delightfully rustic dining room, then a pub area with a handful of hightop tables on one side and a copper-surfaced bar on the other, then an outdoor patio, then the brackish Back River, which flows forcefully to and from Buzzards Bay with each tide.
Some come for the lively bar scene with periodic live music, some for the off-the-boat fresh fish in the market, some for the reasonably priced yet inventive meals in a dining room that’s as comfortable for toddlers as for Gramma.
We come for the water fowl, and we’re never disappointed.
Sure, the fish tacos featuring corn and black bean salsa ($12) are excellent. We love the beet napolean salad ($9) a composed structure of beets with blue cheese and not much else. The seafood stew ($8 for a 12-ounce cup) is rich and creamy, and the lobster roll ($21, but often available as part of a lunch special) makes you glad you live in New England even when it snows every day for two months. We like our Cabernet Sauvignon, and they have two good ones by the glass: Josh ($9) and Five Rows ($7).
But if you have any interest in wildlife, you’ll want to visit the Lobster Trap for lunch or an early dinner during the summer, and the food will take a back seat to the scene playing out before you at the bar.
The Back River is a tidal estuary which flows into a protected area known as Phinney’s Harbor. During our visits, we’ve watched heron, egrets, osprey, swans, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, black ducks, and more. Most recently, we watched two flocks of Canada geese converge upon one another as if they were playing out a scene from “West Side Story.” The undertow is vicious, and the birds take full advantage, propelled inland under Shore Road, then bobbing back under the railroad bridge.
Others, we’re sure, come for the unusually pleasant staff. This being a seasonal community — one we tend to avoid in the season — many patrons are greeted with a cheerful, “When did you get back!?”
During our most recent lunchtime visit, we experienced a rare misstep: the oversized “house-made brioche croutons” accompanying the caesar salad were like bricks. The Big Dog’s topping of very good steak tips saved his salad, and Gina thought the classic dressing on her side version offset the crouton debacle. And the slightest expression of dismay on our part drew effusive apologies from our server, and complimentary wines for each of us. Things go wrong even at the best establishments, and the front-line staff’s handling of a complaint makes the difference between a customer who won’t return, and one who enthusiastically recommends the place. As we recommend The Lobster Trap.
The Lobster Trap
290 Shore Road, Bourne
We arrived at 42 Degrees North, on Route 3A in Plymouth, on a warm summer evening to find the snazzy outdoor bar packed with patrons. We spotted a couple of seats but found them marked with cell phones, the new universal symbol for “I’m still here.” So we trudged indoors to the empty bar and nearly empty restaurant, and were glad we did. There, we got the full attention of our affable bartender, Brooke, and learned lots of things.
For example, 42 Degrees North is part of a family of restaurants that include two more located further up the South Shore area than we typically venture. They have a fishmonger who delivers a catch of the day and the kitchen is never sure what it’s going to be. They change their menu seasonally, and what we had before us was pretty new.
And very impressive.
The Big Dog spotted oysters on the menu and Brooke sped off to learn that they were, in fact, the product of our friends at Big Rock Oysters in Harwich. He ordered four ($2.50 apiece) and liked them a lot — they were meaty and characteristically briny, and were served with cocktail sauce and an interesting citrusy mignonette.
The wedge salad ($8.95) caught our eye and we split it. A hunk of iceberg came draped with two slabs of bacon in an odd presentation that tasted better than it looked. It came with a quartered tomato and more bleu cheese dressing than any two people should ever eat at one sitting.
Gina ordered the paella ($21.95), which is an excellent choice for people having trouble making a decision. A big bowl of rice, yellow with saffron and rich with little chunks of tasso ham, was loaded with steamed clams and mussels, just-cooked scallops, peas, peppers, and perfect little shrimp without the annoying tail shells that restaurants so often leave on. It was a hearty and tasty dish.
The Big Dog ordered the grilled lamb sirloin (also $21.95, which is about the average for the 18 very diverse entrees). The lamb was cut into pieces and served with a demiglace and a rosemary branch. He ordered it medium well and concluded that medium would have worked for this preparation, but enjoyed it.
The lamb was served with a side of quinoa laced with goat cheese that was good enough to try replicating in The Dog House some day. The crunchy little quinoas were bathed in a goat cheese sauce, with some asparagus and portabello mushrooms tucked inside.
To our dismay, we found ourselves faced with a very appealing dessert menu and were forced to endure the bread pudding ($6.95). Brooke told us that dollop of ice cream was house-made cinnamon, and that alone would be enough to bring us back to 42 Degrees North. We rarely order dessert (yes, you’ve heard that before) and this enormous, delicious, and creative dish will be difficult to top. No perfunctory BJ’s cheesecake here — the desserts are definitely given plenty of attention in the kitchen.
Throughout the evening, Gina sipped a Clayhouse cabernet sauvignon, and the Big Dog chose a Josh cab (each $9 per glass). When there’s a good selection of wines, we typically try each other’s and often make a trade, but not so this time — we each preferred the wine we had ordered.
This dinner was more expensive than our norm (about $70 plus wine and tip), and despite the large volume of food we brought home no leftovers. But the high quality food, excellent service, and attractive surroundings made it feel like a great value, and we highly recommend 42 Degrees North.
42 Degrees North
690 State Road, Manomet
We had the good fortune of returning with friends to the Pilot House, and it was the kind of dinner where time flies by and next thing you know, it’s time to go home. Joining us was a crew of four people we like a lot. You know the drill: one minute you’re seated in a fairly crowded restaurant, and the next minute the waitstaff is scowling at you from a huddle in the corner, calling their boyfriends to say they’ll be late because a party of six just won’t leave.
It wasn’t that bad, but it was well on its way, on this Saturday night before the summer season makes it so difficult to find a seat at a really good restaurant on the Cape.
And the Pilot House is a really good restaurant. We had one service misstep and one dish described only as “good,” but our dining experience was otherwise excellent.
The Pilot House overlooks the Sandwich Marina near the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal. One of many window seats at what may have been a wrap-around deck would have offered a great view of the waterfront, but we were seated by the fireplace, unlit during this first warm evening of the year. It’s probably a nice spot there on a winter evening, but due to the restaurant’s spare and airy decor, colorful in a classic way, it was a nice spot in the spring too. The restaurant’s design makes great use of varying levels, with the bar at the entrance at the highest point, and dining levels stepping down towards the sea.
The menu includes a varied selection of wines by the glass. We’ll spare you Gina’s anguish at the news that a new list is being introduced and the Albarino is being phased out (who phases out an Albarino in May!?) — but she was placated with a floral Chateau Ste. Michelle sauvignon blanc ($6). The Big Dog spotted a Josh cabernet ($9) and jumped right in. Jim ordered a Harpoon IPA ($5), which we all know is the perfect antidote to a day of yard work, and Mary the fruity Pilots Punch ($9). Dark and Stormy each ordered their namesake beverage ($9).
As an appetizer, Gina ordered the green salad ($3.95) with balsamic vinaigrette served on the side without asking. The salad consisted of mixed green leaves, with a couple of slices of English cucumber and a couple of grape tomatoes. Sounds boring, perhaps, but the combination of a snappy dressing and fresh, clean, spicy greens was spectacular. A flawless green salad portends a meal characterized by obsessive attention to detail.
Jim ordered a cup of the Portuguese kale soup, the day’s soup ($4.95). Anyone dining regularly in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts knows that kale soup tells you as much about a kitchen as a green salad does, and this didn’t disappoint: Jim said it was hot, both in temperature and spice.
Mary ordered a half dozen raw Duxbury oysters ($13.50) while the rest of us looked on in horror, having recently enjoyed endless oyster dishes during the Wareham Oyster Festival. The Duxburys were on the specials menu, as were Barnstable oysters provided by our friends at Big Rock Oyster.
The Big Dog ordered a caesar salad with anchovies ($6.95), and this is where the unfortunate service misstep occurred. As his entree, he ordered a monstrosity called the Seafood Pot ($17.95) off the appetizer menu, and it was hauled out as his appetizer. So while the rest of the table sat with its tiny soup cups and delicate salads and wee shellfish appetizers, the Dog confronted a giant trough containing lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, all in a delicious sauce with bread for dipping. Good, but it threw off the cadence of the dinner in a way that the staff should have anticipated.
As an entree, Dark and Stormy each ordered the seafood special: lobster ravioli generously adorned with lobster, scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, and asparagus ($26.99) in a white wine sauce. We all tried some and agreed that lobster ravioli is so often marred by a heavy sauce, but this was not.
Mary is a connoisseur of fish tacos and was pleased but not particularly impressed by the Pilot House version ($19.95), which included black beans and was made with mahi mahi.
Jim’s dish of mussels marinara ($19.95), were pronounced very tasty. They arrived as an enormous mound of relatively small shells concealing a plate of pasta in a sauce worth sopping up with the bread that came alongside.
Gina was pleasantly surprised by her baked scallops ($21,95), a dish that many restaurants badly mangle. A small plate of a dozen or so large day boat scallops, with crunchy crumb topping, were nestled into a delicious sherry butter sauce, and came with rice and crunchy green beans. The scallops were perfectly done, moist inside but cooked through.
We were kidding, in the beginning, about the waitstaff calling their boyfriends. The team at the Pilot House is professional and pleasant, and at one point a passing staffer alerted us that the Bruins were winning in a playoff game that we could not see from our vantage point.
Gina and the Big Dog enjoyed this spot in a different way when stopping in recently for an afternoon snack and beverage at the bar. It was evident during that stop that the Pilot House is the sort of dependable yet adventuresome restaurant where you go with people who are important to you. We did that, and we were not disappointed.
The Pilot House Restaurant and Lounge
14 Gallo Road, Sandwich
At the Pilot House Restaurant, you can see the east end of the Cape Cod Canal from pretty much every seat. A step down here, a couple of steps up there, and you get a multi-level extravaganza of entertaining views.
Of course, Gina and the Big Dog sat at the bar, where you get peeks of sparkly water but not much else in terms of view. We did get to see an excellent golf tournament on TV, and we had a great view of the Pilot House’s excellent selection of unusual wines.
We don’t usually dwell on the alcohol, but let us do that for a moment. We ordered two glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon in order to compare them: one Justin, which we had only ever seen by the bottle at The Rye Tavern in Plymouth, and a Josh Cellars, which the Big Dog gets at The Lobster Trap in nearby Pocasset (and which we just realized we’ve never mentioned). Lucky Gina got the $12 Justin, and the Big Dog got the $8 Josh. Both were rich, lush Cabs, full of fruit but not jammy, but when it came time to order a second glass we decided that the distinction wasn’t worth $4, and we ordered another pair of Joshes.
We note that a Chardonnay drinker beside us was delighted to see a La Crema on the wine list, but balked at the $11 pricetag. Lucky for her, apparently, her blustery male companions insisted ordered the La Crema over her objections.
We’re sure that you could order soup, salad, and entrees at the Pilot House, and maybe a dessert, and enjoy them all. But do what we did, and you’ll be just as happy.
To start, we ordered the cold seafood sampler ($15.95). It came with a lobster claw, two oysters, two littlenecks, and four peel-and-eat shrimp. We don’t share the same taste in seafood, and this was a perfect arrangement, with us each getting plenty of the stuff we like. The platter came with plastic cups of horseradish, cocktail sauce, and a vinegar concoction that Patricia the bartender explained was “minuet sauce — some people like it with their oysters.” The oysters were from Barnstable, we learned, and everything was clean and crisp and fresh.
We then ordered a haddock chowder special ($5.95) and blackened swordfish with lemon caper butter special ($12.95). We informed Patricia that we intended to split both, and she facilitated that with extra spoons and plates.
The chowder was outstanding. We don’t mean it was good. We mean that if we do a chowder contest: sorry, kids, but we’re picking the Pilot House. We mean that if we’re marooned on a desert island, the one food we want with us is Pilot House chowder. We mean that if we’re elected president, this soup will be served in the White House. We mean… well, you get the picture. We all have our pet peeves about chowder: too thick, too thin, potatoes too big, insufficient protein, etc., but we dare you to find something wrong with this creamy, bacony, thyme-y bowl of bliss.
The salad was a very fresh lettuce mix with some added oomph — maybe brussels sprouts leaves? — with grape tomatoes, a few European cucumber slices, some red onion, and the best house-made Italian dressing we have ever tasted. No need to tart up this basic oil and vinegar emulsion with herbs or cheese.
The swordfish was good. The butternut squash served alongside was also good. The mashed potatoes were fluffy, smooth, and delicious.
The Pilot House isn’t new. The building has clearly been there for a long time, although the interior has a fresh updated feel, and the operators tout some significant experience in the area. It was new to us, though, and we look forward to returning for outdoor dining as the weather warms.
The Pilot House Restaurant and Lounge
14 Gallo Road, Sandwich
Elisabeth’s feels like a diner when you enter, largely because of the chrome trim around its 15 or so tables. It is part of chilly gray/silver motif accented with an occasional nautical artifact. At the far end the skeleton of a rowboat hovers above the open kitchen, adorned with twinkling blue lights. At the entrance of the long, narrow room is a bar which, during daylight, feels more like a diner’s tall lunch counter.
There the diner comparison ends, as Elisabeth’s food is far more sophisticated, while prices are quite reasonable. Lunch entrees are in the $10 to $14 range, and slightly larger dinner portions topping out at less than $20. We think people would pay a bundle more for this delicious food.
We’d just made a rainy Friday afternoon jaunt to the fish market in New Bedford, so were inspired to sample Elisabeth’s scallop choices. When they arrived, we quickly realized that we had each ordered a dish the other of us would prefer, so we swapped.
Gina ended up with a selection off the regular menu, Sauteed Sea Scallops Espinage, a word we suspect someone believes is French for “spinach.” The dish, at $10.95, was described as “roasted garlic and spinach pesto with wine and cream on rice with tomatoes and asparagus, garnished with Buzzards Bay scallops.” We’ve posted a photo because it was as beautiful as it was tasty, and Elisabeth’s description, as well as anything we might come up with, could not do it justice. Under the deftly carmelized scallop pieces was a scattering of whole baby spinach leaves; the sauce on top was a delicious lemony, creamy concoction.
The Big Dog tucked into a daily special, Sauteed Scallop Chunks with tomatoes, lemon-basil pesto, fresh penne noodles, white wine and cream, again with the Buzzards Bay scallop garnish ($9.95). The penne had the telltale jagged edge and chewiness of a freshly made batch, and the dish had a generous dusting of parmesan cheese.
This followed a bowl of clam chowder ($4.95). Elisabeth’s version is an unthickened cream broth piled high with clams and potatoes. We’d also asked for a bread basket because everyone else had one, but the impenetrable sourdoughiness probably wasn’t worth the calories.
With our lunch, we enjoyed glasses of Genesis Meritage and Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, each tasty enough to prompt us to look for bottles at our local wine shop. Our pleasant waitress, Amanda, told us that Margaret’s, a restaurant located two doors down, shares ownership, staff, and many menu elements, but Margaret’s is a BYOB joint that also serves breakfast.
Some might find the small portion size here to be an issue. Each of our dishes could have been bulked up with as extra scoop of rice or pasta, but to what end? We’d rather have top quality ingredients prepared well in small quantities than a giant pile of cheap carbs. We felt that the lesser quantity emphasized the quality and we liked that.
Overall, we found Elisabeth’s to be a very good experience with great food, and we look forward to returning.
1 Middle Street
Put your flaps up and landing gear down for final approach to this fine restaurant located, appropriately, at the New Bedford Airport. From the air, the Grille may look romantic or welcoming, but arriving by land, we entered through a winding industrial park road and walked through a formica-clad airport waiting room. The contrast made the sleek restaurant decor seem even snazzier than it is. Cape Air provides passenger service at New Bedford, and the Airport Grille certainly approaches island standards for those stopping in for a snack before their 50-minute flight to Nantucket.
For our earthbound excursion, we were joined by Estelle and Rupert, who were sipping espresso martinis when we arrived. We began with an order of PEI mussels in a traditional preparation of white wine and butter ($10). The dish was also available with littlenecks, and could be prepared Portuguese style, or diavolo. This was a great choice and should have guided the rest of our evening: when in New Bedford, even in a landlocked industrial park, eat fish.
The Big Dog and Rupert each ordered a salad which the ladies sampled. Dog’s “local greens” ($6) was crisp and fresh in a lightly applied balsamic vinaigrette. Rupert’s wedge salad ($7) looked pretty good, despite slices of wan, wintry tomatoes, but Estelle said the creamy dressing was oppressive.
Gina made the best entree choice of the night, selecting roasted sole ($18) and scarfing it down before the rest of the party had a chance to get a good look at it. The sole was layered with crab meat and linguica atop risotto with green beans. The stack was topped with hearty crumbs and a light lemony hollandaise sauce, a delicious combination. (Note to dining companions: See photo above.)
Estelle selected a pappardelle bolognese ($15) whose lightly applied sauce had a nice tang to it.
The Big Dog ordered a sirloin steak ($26) and regretted it because of that whole fish thing. The steak cut was gristly, the asparagus tasty but nothing spectacular, and even the bernaise sauce was weak.
Rupert ordered salmon ($18). It came with couscous and broccoli rabe and a piquant sauce, and was excellent. The very fresh and hearty cut of salmon was perfectly prepared and complimented by the yummy sauce.
With our entrees, we shared a bottle of Bazan malbec ($30) which we all enjoyed.
To conclude, we shared a creme brulee, because it turns out that Estelle also adheres to Gina’s rule that if creme brulee appears on the menu, you have to order it, because it’s invariably delicious, and it’s not like you’re going to make it at home. It was topped with a kind of a sad-looking strawberry.
Before taking off, we poked around the restaurant, which was quiet for a Saturday, and found a lovely lounge where comfy leather chairs were arrayed around a gas fireplace. We’re guessing that the sunset, as well as the display of air traffic in the summer season, would be pretty spectacular. But the food was great too, and that’s a rare combination.
1569 Airport Road, New Bedford
Upon arrival for lunch at The Back Eddy one wintry Saturday afternoon, we were captivated by the view of the Westport Point harbor, and interesting waterfowl floating by. We’d been lured by the promise of “locavore” sensibility. We were charmed by the pleasant waitstaff. We relaxed in the spunky nautical decor. We were cheered by the Big Dog’s perfect black and tan, and Gina’s superb Vinabla malbec.
But when the food started arriving, we were silenced. Reduced to an occasional, heartfelt “Yum,” the Dog said we should start our review that way.
As we’ve observed before, waterfront dining is often a terrible experience. You’re paying for high rents, not experienced staff or quality ingredients. Ditto for the local food joints that are popping up everywhere. We’re fans of the concept, but face it: in a New England winter, we learn that seafood and turnips only go so far.
Not at Back Eddy. No, no, no. Here, the elements come together so flawlessly that you’ll think of the spectacular view as the afterthought. It takes a back seat to the excellent food, a lot of which was sourced thoughtfully.
The Big Dog opened with a bowl of turnip soup ($8). Sounds like something your Irish grandma would foist on you when you were sick, right? Well, Grandma would have enjoyed the sweetness of the pure white soup, but this bowl was tricked out with a garnish of shredded lobster and drizzle of truffle oil. We could smell garlic, but it was so subtle that we couldn’t tell where it was coming from.
Gina started with the simple green salad ($7.50), pictured above. Yes, anyone can put perfect fresh greens on a plate. Anyone can dress them lightly with vinaigrette. Anyone can toss in some hearty, crunchy croutons. But if anyone can do it, why was this salad so unique? It was a salad you would make at home if you really cared about, and were trying to impress, your dining companion.
When the pleasant young bartender returned to take our entree order, we made a pivotal decision that probably affected our whole view of the restaurant: We decided to split an entree. With prices soaring to the 30-buck range, two entrees would have put us over the $100 mark, which is a particularly pricey lunch when you’re on your way to a foodie Christmas party. (Hey, we’re doing a public service, keeping you informed.) But we probably would have chosen the same thing anyway, plus they brought out two plates without that “extra plate charge” nonsense, so we were particularly happy with our decision.
Here’s what we got: A magnificent, moist grilled swordfish ($25), snuggled with melt-in-your-mouth brussels sprouts atop garlicky mashed potatoes. Alongside was a tangle of dressed watercress topped with a golden nasturtium. In the interest of research, we also ordered a side of slaw ($4). It was a brilliant, creamy celebration of cabbage, which Gina said was the best she ever had in a lifetime of searching for the perfect slaw.
Not surprisingly, we’ve heard that The Back Eddy is tough to get into during the summer season. But they’re open year round, so go now. Right now.
The Back Eddy
1 Bridge Street, Westport, MA