Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Food Field Trip: Neptune Oyster is Truly the Boston Seafood God

Without a doubt, one of my favorite foods is lobster and one of the best preparations of it is Neptune Oyster's hot buttered lobster roll. This intimate bistro in Boston's North End specializes in the full range of seafood, including raw bar items as well as inventive fish dishes.

The tiny (30 seats including the bar) dining room is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro with marbled floors, tables, bar, mirrored walls, and large ice buckets teeming with bottles of champagne. Service is always pleasant and the food is fantastic. It is basically perfect except for one thing: they do not take reservations. I am a planner, so this wrinkle drives me crazy (last time we showed up we were quoted a two hour wait), but it is worth the try. This past Saturday B and I had perfect timing and got the last two seats in the restaurant within 5 minutes of arriving.

And December was a great time to start dinner by sampling some local oysters. We opted for three types of Massachusetts oysters and glasses of prosecco.

We settled in, soaking up the European ambiance, in addition to the conversations on either side of us. The dining room is quite cramped, so we got to hear all about an upcoming wedding to the left and, on to the right, watch a family squirm as the parents were delighted to share the seafood with their adult son and girlfriend, who both opted for burgers.

Back to us. First came the oversized homemade oyster crackers. These are much denser than the prepackaged variety and far less salty. They were a nice compliment to the oysters.

I am a relatively new convert to the raw oyster craze, but I now believe that you cannot beat the subtle contrast of taste, salinity, and texture between different varietals.

The homemade mignonette sauce had more shallots than most and the cocktail sauce had a great kick thanks to ample horseradish. These succulent and salty bivalves ranged between 2.50 - 2.70 a piece.

And then after time to digest our appetizer (service is well paced), it was time for the lobster roll, a $25 dollar plate of goodness comprised of an entire hot buttered lobster--and only lobster, i.e. no fillers, lettuce, or mayonnaise--served on a housemade brioche bun with an ample helping of crispy skin-on french fries.

As you can see, Neptune does not skimp on the lobster. It was cooked to perfection, succulent and delicious with plenty of butter to soften the roll. The fries are actually some of the best, darker in color than most; several diners asked if they were made from sweet potatoes (they aren't). The fries are salty, with a crispy outside and soft hot inside.

While the other seafood dishes looked great, we both opted for the lobster roll with a glass of white wine, putting us in a state of food euphoria.

Neptune Oyster does not serve dessert, and for good reasons. Not only does it keep tables turning, but there are ample places to grab a traditional Italian-American dessert item just around the corner. On this night, we were too full to room grab a cannoli at one of the many traditional neighboring bakeries. However, after dinner we did snag some last minute tickets for a laugh.

The bill with tax and tip came to $130 with two glasses of champagne, two glass of white wine, six oysters, and two lobster rolls.

And I leave you with a Hemingway quote etched in the restaurant's bathroom mirror:
As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

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