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Sea Worthy

27 Oct

seagrille_photosI just finished reading Corby Kummer’s mostly thumbs-up review of the Rowes Wharf Sea Grille in this month’s Boston Magazine (which, incidentally, includes my profile of Seth Greenberg). I had the opportunity to visit the place last week at a press lunch, and was encouraged to see that Boston finally has a solidly good, non-chain seafood restaurant with a water view. Funny that such a seemingly emblematic restaurant category was so scarce.

I share Corby’s love of one dish in particular: swordfish with jasmine rice and a coconut curry sauce. I tend to assume the worst of Asian fusion flourishes—previous experience proves that they’re often mangled—but this sauce was light and aromatic and the fish was so delicately cooked. It was a far cry from the bone-dry chops that tend to pass for swordfish steaks at too many oceanside restaurants. You know the type—the ones that serve their swordfish with mango salsa, yellow rice dotted with red pepper cubes, and a side of sauteed spinach, and seem to have just discovered the fruity martini craze, even though they’d long ago crossed the $30 barrier for entrees. I hate those restaurants.

Another Sea Grille standout: the deconstructed Nicoise salad, served only at lunch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect slab of seared tuna, and the dusting of Chinese five-spice powder makes it sing.

The Sea Grille’s clubby, nautically-themed dining room is designed more for business types and tourists than urban regulars—the tables are spread wide apart and surrounded by big upholstered chairs. It’s very comfortable, but I generally prefer hotel restaurants that feel a little less hotel-y. Still, I suppose you can’t fault a restaurant for knowing its audience, and this one is a stone’s throw from the financial district.

One last thought: Daniel Bruce is the executive chef at both the Sea Grille and at Meritage, and I think he’s one of the undersung talents in town. Not that he hasn’t earned praise, but he just doesn’t hog column inches like some other chefs. Seems like he’d rather be out foraging for mushrooms or working in his garden, which I  respect. He also single-handedly programs the Boston Wine Festival, now in its 21st year. So if you haven’t tried his food lately, you’re in for a happy rediscovery.

My one bone to pick with him (and it really is nitpicking)? His restaurant names: I’d prefer to lose the extra “e” in “Grille.” And then there’s the matter of Meritage, which his team pronounces, incorrectly, with a soft “g.” The word is actually an American invention, used to describe California Bordeaux-style blends. It’s cross between the words “merit” and “heritage,” and rhymes with the latter.  I was kind of embarrassed to learn this fact in Napa, after spending an afternoon raving about the wonderfu Meri-tahj blends. Someone finally corrected me. So take it from me and avoid superficial humiliation: Meri-tedj.