A warm bowl of chunky chowder has its charms, but the number one item on my Boston to-eat list was a luscious lobster roll. While I would have loved to stuff my face with a sandwich from each of the city’s best vendors, time constraints only allowed for one stop. After a good bit of research, including personal interviews with past and current Bostonians, I decided that Neptune Oyster would be the lucky destination.
Located on the edge of Little Italy in Boston’s North End, Neptune Oyster is a charming seafood shack with an Old World feel. Jeff Nace opened the place six years ago, along with his wife Keli, after serving as beverage manager of Todd English’s Olives in Charlestown for twelve years.
The Astronomer and I lunched here with Rosalind and were seated straightaway. Since the restaurant only has twenty-six banquette seats and sixteen bar stools, a wait is usually inevitable during peak dining hours.
Before the star of the Neptune Oyster show graced our table, we shared three light bites. I was also hoping for a basket of fried Ipswich clams (market price), but unfortunately the vendor had failed to deliver them this morning. The first appetizer to arrive was the buttermilk Johnnycake smothered with honey butter and topped with a smoked trout tartar and Little Pearl caviar ($16).
With the exception of the strange presentation, I liked everything about this dish. Who knew that a sweet and buttery cornmeal flat bread would pair so tastily with salty fish and caviar? Certainly not me.
The next plate to arrive was the “Crudo of the Day,” smoked salmon on rye with duck confit, apple salad, and mustard creme fraiche ($14). Whereas the Johnnycake’s distinct components melded harmoniously when eaten together, this dish wasn’t as successful. Each element was good on its own, but taken simultaneously it was a jumble of flavors that didn’t seem to enhance one another at all.
The final small plate was a seashell filled with a Dayboat scallops garnished with orange sections, mint, Pineland Farm feta, and tandoori spices ($13). The tartar was incredibly light, fresh, and supple—just the way I like my seafood.
And finally, the most beautiful Maine lobster roll ($25) came onto the scene. Neptune Oyster constructs both traditional lobster rolls tossed in mayonnaise, as well as “Connecticut-style” specimens that are drizzled with hot clarified butter. We ordered ours Connecticut-style and it was incredible.
All three of us couldn’t get over how much lobster meat was piled into the grilled brioche bun. Every bite was a glorious mouthful of tail, knuckle, and claw meat. The entire sandwich was amazingly decadent. And the side of fries was perfect too.
Now, where to go for a lobster roll fix in Los Angeles? I will have to consult this handy dandy guide.
63 Salem Street #1
Boston, MA 02113