Archive for category Seafood Restaurants
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
A rare Saturday night journey into New Bedford was, well, weird. Our first stop was a place touted as the city’s hottest rooftop nightspot, and granted, it was early evening (7 p.m.), and hot nightspots aren’t our thing anyway, but we were alone with the bartender in a two-story space for much of our visit. In fact, we may have been the only living creatures on the whole street, one that is supposed to be the heart of New Bedford’s restaurant scene, on the nicest evening of the year so far.
And then, based on the recommendation of a couple who came in later, we went to the Waterfront Grille, requested a table on the patio, and we were alone there too. The inside dining areas and bar were hopping, though, suggesting that patrons were on hand for something other than the best view you’ll get of the working waterfront without stowing away on a fishing boat. (The camera phone photo on this page was taken from our table.)
Our young waitress brought us a shiraz and a pinot grigio, and an order of sweet potato maki — an unadventurous but very tasty selection from an extensive sushi menu. Gina’s house salad was fresh and crisp, and the Big Dog’s caesar was doused with a good dressing and laden with parmesan.
The Dog ordered scallop scampi, partly because it was so likely to have come off one of the boats that was sitting in front of us. It was a delicious version of the classic dish, with a smattering of sun-dried tomatoes and the same addicting crostini that came with his salad.
Gina’s black pepper crusted swordfish special with grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes was perfectly prepared. But at the risk of sounding like we spend too much time in faux Italian chains where a serving includes multiple pounds of pasta, this was simply too little food for the hefty $27 pricetag.
When seeking dining recommendations, we found that everyone in New Bedford began by identifying the likely age range of fellow patrons. So, lest you think that the Waterfront Grille is just for older folks like us, we would note that we ran into Big Dog Junior on our way out, dining on sushi with fellow 20-somethings. The indoor dining area is festive and sleek, with ample windows overlooking the harbor — likely a great place to watch the game while splurging on some excellent food.
36 Homers Wharf, New Bedford
We love the Cape Cod Canal. It’s a stunning convergence of industry, technology, history, nature, and art. It’s a great place for a half-mile walk with a cranky old dog or a 14-mile bike/run(7 miles end to end). It’s a great place to catch a fish or a sunrise. It’s a great place to watch people, great blue herons, or barges. It’s just a great place.
The few restaurants which take advantage of this engineering marvel are located at the eastern end of the canal, on the Cape side, and our favorite of these is Hemisphere. The view is spectacular, and the food is generally pretty good.
Your dining experience will not be without missteps. If you’re seated in the upstairs indoor dining area, you’ll find the space to be incredibly loud. The waitstaff is young and immature and doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of how they add to, or detract from, your night out. Our waitress described one dish as “cool,” and we old fogeys thought she meant “chilled.”
But on a recent visit, a bottle of Malbec complimented a very good dinner. We started with fish nuggets: tasty morsels of haddock in a light, crispy batter, served with lemon and tartar sauce and plenty for two. The Big Dog had the stuffed chicken, kind of a twist on cordon bleu which he said was “neither too hammy nor too cheesy.” Gina ordered the seafood scampi, which came in a whiter sauce than the traditional butter and garlic preparation, over penne, but it was very good and loaded with scallops, shrimp, and lobster meat, along with fresh tomatoes.
With the aforementioned bottle of wine, dinner came to about $85. Portions were generous: leftover scampi will make one of us a very large lunch.
98 Town Neck Road, Sandwich