Monday, January 27, 2014

Row 34, South Boston

Jeremy Sewall continues to amaze me.  I first fell in love with his clean style of cooking, and his incredible reverence to local seafood at Brookline favorite, Lineage.  Then, he opened Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square and with its incredible list of locally sourced oysters, gorgeous fresh seafood dishes with amazing locally sourced products and one of the best lobster rolls Ive had, and my crush deepened.  And now there's a trifecta- just a few months ago he opened Row 34 in the Fort Point Channel area of South Boston.  

Row 34 is named after the last row of oysters set up in the Island Creek Oyster Bay.  This row was set up as an experiment by setting the crates a bit higher than the other 33 rows which is exposing that row to a different current and different temperatures.  We had the opportunity to compare the Row 34 oysters to the traditional Island Creeks the other evening when we were invited in to check out the space and dine.  I was shocked at the difference between the two.  The Row 34, to my palate was a much more robust oyster.  It had a meatier quality and its flavor was even a bit stronger.  It is incredible the difference just a slight variation can make.

Row 34 has branded itself as the workingman's oyster bar, and has an incredible beer list to pair with their delicacies. We were treated to some incredible beers, paired at the hands of Megan Parker-Gray who is searching the world over to find the best beers to pair with their oysters and the rest of their food offerings.  We had the extreme pleasure of enjoying a great pairing of Troublesome brew from the Off Color Brewery in Chicago.  I have to say this was the best beer pairing Ive had with Oysters.  It had a wonderful lemony flavor, that seemed to neutralize the salt of the oyster without overpowering and instead rounded the flavors out so each was at its height.

After devouring as many oysters as we could handle, we began our coursed
dinner with a selection of small plates of Black Bass Ceviche, Tuna Crudo and Shrimp Sliders.  I failed you, my readers, early on the evening I visited, by failing to fully capture fully the flavors of the Tuna Crudo which I basically just gobbled down for all of it's creamy yet acidic deliciousness, and the Black Bass Ceviche, which was simply gorgeous with its rich red color set atop perfect avocado and sprinkled with fried onion.  The Shrimp Sliders however, with plump full shrimp spilling out of the soft buttery bun, is a dish that I savored.  The shrimp had been painted with a chipotle sauce, and then topped with bread and butter pickles creating the perfect notes of heat, sweet, acid and salt.  I feasted on those....

Our second seated course was Row 34's unique take on a charcuterie board, replacing the standard cured meats and pates with a large variety of raw, smoked and otherwise manipulated seafoods, their Smoked and Cured board.  This included a Bluefish Pate which was light and rich at the same time, and with its delicate flavors and creamy offset was the perfect choice to spread atop a salty cracker, and my personal favorite, smoked mussels which combined the beautiful fresh mussels and their natural sweetness with a blast of smoky decadence and then cut with pickled vegetables.  Those of you who know me know my love of mussels and these were divine.

We then turned our attention to Row 34's Mini Bucatini offering.  This, for me,
was the course that stole the show.  Thick strands of pasta, cooked to a wonderful toothsome al dente, were combined with a salty and rich butter garlic sauce, broccolini, rich bread crumbs and two clams which sat atop the bed of pasta in a proud, boastful way.  They begged to be tried and when I freed the first from its shell it yielded its wonderful salty ocean flavor enhanced only lightly with fresh Italian herbs.  The flavor that this clam held was the obvious inspiration for the sauce that encapsulated the pasta below and the dish had tremendous harmony.  I originally thought that the bread crumbs (starch) on top of the pasta (starch) may be a bit of overkill, however after combining the two I realized that they were actually the perfect compliment.

Our next course was served family style and included pan roasted Tilefish, with accompaniments of roasted cauliflower, carrots and brussel sprouts, and then fried chicken thighs with biscuits and gravy.  Yup.  We started off with the Tilefish, which to be honest, I have never dined on before.  This small fish is enormously big on flavor with a firm, meaty like texture.  It was rich and hearty, though as a warning it also has one of the highest mercury contents of those creatures under the sea.  Mercury or not though, served with hints of celery, citrus and radishes, it created a perfect meal, light and yet filling.  Paired
with the roasted carrots, a form of cooking carrots that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine as it brings out their natural sugars and seems to intensify every flavor, and those roasted brussel sprouts - it was a meal you can feel good about.  Now turning our attention to the fried chicken- thats just a meal to feast on.  The chicken had enjoyed a bath in buttermilk and mustard prior to frying which gave the meat tremendous flavor, and a unique twist to the generic. The external coating was crispy, hot and just a little salty, exactly as you'd want it to be.  The biscuits were fantastic- buttery, and puffy like little clouds with a crisp exterior.

Somehow, after all of that, dessert was delivered.  Chef Sewall's signature Butterscotch Pudding was paired with an Apple Hand Pie and heaven was served.  If you haven't had an opportunity to try this pudding, you must go, now, and check it out.  I wont be able to do it justice here.  The Hand Pies were glorious, packed full of cinnamon scented apples and with a perfectly wonderful crust- these will give your grandmothers apple pie a run for its money.

Row 34, with no surprise, is killing it.  To be honest, I expect nothing less from Chef Sewall and his team, and I wasn't disappointed.  Their offerings and fresh (as in Chef knows his seafood suppliers and their methods intimately) and they are creative, as in their dishes aren't ones you find on every menu in the city.  Each dish has been carefully considered, every flavor is paired for a reason, and these are creations you can take your time with, and enjoy.  Row 34 opened just a little over a month ago and is garnering huge crowds, get a reservation and go.  You wont be disappointed.  


Jen said...

Man, I wish I could check this place out... Sounds awesome. Maybe next time I'm in town...

Michelle Lahey said...

Hand pies are my weakness. I've also heard this spot has quite the craft beer list. I must check it out soon!

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