This month PIMP MY PLATE visits the east coast of the USA to see if Boston could pimp my plate. With AUD$19 currently equivalent to USD$14.50 excluding tips and taxes I’ve scrapped the usual budget in my search for flavour.
‘Salty kisses from the sea…’
Saltie Girl Seafood Bar
Few words can stop me in my tracks like OYSTERS, as I walked down Dartmouth St in Boston in the middle of a heatwave. Seconds later I was up those stairs, pushing open the door, and gazing at unshucked oysters behind the counter.
I’d just eaten lunch, so my most pressing question was whether Saltie Girl was open for dinner that night. ‘We stay open, first in gets a table.’ Dinner sorted.
Oysters. There are lovers and haters. I’ve been a lover for most of my adult life. It was a hallelujah moment when I first realized that oysters were so much more than slimy, shapeless, greyish blobs … that they are in fact poetry. If you’re still lurking in the grey area of oyster appreciation, think of them as salty kisses from the sea, which they are. Each ocean fresh salty kiss has a transformative power to rewind your senses back to ocean swims and happy times you’ve spent at the beach.
And if oysters don’t excite you there is always lobster – for breakfast, entree, main, maybe even dessert.
Because when it comes to access to quality east coast seafood, Boston is surrounded by choice. From its home state of Massachusetts you can feast on produce from Cape Cod (SE of Boston), and from Martha’s Vineyard (south of Cape Cod).
Further north is the state of Maine, famous for its prized Maine Lobsters which are considered the most succulent in texture and flavour. Down south, seafood is sourced from the state of Connecticut, the waterways of Washington, and the fisheries of Long Island Sound, which stretches between Connecticut and Long Island.
To a seafood lover, the criss-cross of Boston streets can easily be reimagined as interlocking lines on a giant trawler net. Boston is brimming with a diverse choice of sea creatures, with a seafood restaurant on every block.
Back to Saltie Girl. It’s a niche bar-seafood-hideaway. There are several cosy booths or you can sit at the well-stocked bar beneath the gaze of two mermaids.
The wait staff are hipster cool and know their seafood. There’s a set menu of main meal options, and a cutesy tick the box with a pencil menu of fresh crustaceans.
We wanted to try as locavore as possible, so for oysters we ticked Martha’s Vineyard and for sentimental purposes, Long Island Sound. I’ve seen those long skinny Razor Clams at Sydney Fish Markets but never tried them so this was my opportunity. The oysters were ocean-fresh and didn’t need condiments. The Razor Clam was pre-cut and seasoned and I didn’t like the texture as much as my dinner partner did.
Maine Lobster. No way was I going to pass up the opportunity to try it.
I chose a Gloucester Lobster Roll (USD$32 Market Price) the lobster meat originating from Gloucester, Mass. The next decision was whether to order it served either warm – broiled in butter – or cold.
As I spent precious seconds contemplating which option was the most delicious, our waiter quickly cut in, ‘Go cold!’ OK, then. Suspicions that this lobster roll would far exceed any I’d eaten in Sydney were instantly confirmed. The ‘roll’ was a toasted brioche bun, and it was chock-full of fresh lobster pieces with a subtle tasting aioli.
The savoury chips were a cross between potato slivers and crunchy water crackers.
Having written a soul food cookbook, and eaten various versions of chicken and waffles, there was also no way I could pass up the chance to try Fried Lobster and Waffles w sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup (USD$32 Market Price). Verdict? Unbelievably good.
Before ordering, I asked about the waffles – were they sweet? I was told they were Belgian waffles, cooked on the premises, and not too sweet. They didn’t lie. There is something about this combination that defies logic, but with each bite, your taste buds concur that this dish is nothing less than an amazing concept. Crisp tender lobster, with springy soft waffles, with a trickle of corn butter, doused with maple syrup – it’s not incongruous, it’s a flavour sensation.
Take your dollars and your plastic as this is not a cheap dining destination, but it’s worth every bite.
RATED: Pimped and pumped! FOOD: 5/5
VALUE: 4/5 ATMOS: 4.5/5 VIBE: Atlantis
SALTIE GIRL SEAFOOD BAR– 281 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116