Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scollay Square, Boston

Back in December, I visited the East Coast to see my family and to work from our Cambridge office.  On my last night there, I met up with a couple friends from college for dinner.

We needed somewhere fairly central, as they were both coming into Boston to meet me from the commuter rail that leads to their respective suburbs.  This meant they'd arrive at North Station, and they suggested going out somewhere near there, near Faneuil Hall ... not exactly an area known for its culinary scene.  I managed to convince them to walk a little further and go the other direction, towards Boston Common.

We selected Scollay Square as our destination, a restaurant I found with good reviews, located just a block off the Common, with a great cocktail program and seafood focused menu (things that matter to me!), but casual atmosphere, which seemed perfect for our group.  We'd all be coming straight from our respective offices, and didn't want to have to get dressed up, and didn't want somewhere too pricey.  And, to relive our college days a bit, we obviously wanted cocktails!

It was a good choice, and met our needs well.  The food was good, although not outstanding, and prices reasonable.  Service was good, but the server was very busy, and wasn't able to pay basic attention to us to do things like refill water glasses or bring us a dessert menu.  I'd return, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

The Space

Inside.
The restaurant has a bar all the way deep inside, and a small seating section near the front door.  It isn't very large overall, and it is a bit hard to get to the bar just to hang out before being seated since you have to walk through the entire space to reach it.

The furnishings seem very ... well, very Boston to me, slightly older style, elegant, but not stuffy.  Tables are wood, and there are lots of wood accents are around the room.  The walls are covered in large, artsy photographs.  The lighting adds to the ambiance, with lamps on the walls that look like old fashioned street lamps, and candles on the tables.

Tables are set with placemats and black cloth napkins wrapping the silverware.

Drinks 

We started our evening at the bar, with cocktails.  As you'll see with all sections of the menu, the drink selection was quite large

One friend went for a simple dirty martini, and she was happy with her selection, although she moved on to a glass of brut next.  The other went for a daily special with a sweet fruit jam inside of it.  She didn't stop at just one, so, I think it was a success.
Grapefruit Basil Martini: Hendricks / Fresh Basil /  Squeezed Grapefruit / Soda. $12
I opted for the grapefruit basil martini.  I do like gin, and it sounded quite refreshing.  It wasn't really.  The grapefruit was incredibly bitter, and I don't think they really added any sugar to balance it.  I didn't want a sweet drink, but, the grapefruit and the gin together without anything to balance was just too harsh.  I also didn't taste any basil.

Really, I wanted this to be like the delicious "Rising Sun" I had a Legal Crossing a few days prior, a gin and yuzu based drink, that was actually balanced and refreshing.

I diluted it a bit, and liked it more, but, it just wasn't refreshing as I wanted, and it wasn't balanced enough. $12 is more than I want to pay for a basic cocktail, but seems in line with Boston pricing.

Appetizers 

In addition to a very extensive soup and salad menu (including entree sized salads), and grilled flatbreads, there is a huge assortment of "smaller" plates available to start your meal.  Largely seafood focused, with several shrimp options (poached or fried), several ahi options (tacos, a napoleon), scallops, calamari, and more.  For meat lovers, kobe beef shows up as sliders or meatballs, and vegetarians have a lot to choose from as well, including some very tempting looking tempura fried green beans with a dipping sauce.
Block Island Calamari / Grape Tomatoes / Scallion Threads / Red Peppers / Sriracha Aioli. $11.50.
I really wanted fried seafood.  I had two options, fried calamari or "screaming rooster" rock shrimp.  I almost went for the rock shrimp, but the waitress told me she preferred the calamari.

The calamari was actually really nicely prepared.  The batter was flavorful, it was crispy, and not at all oily.  Really nicely seasoned, salty in a good way.  Most of the portion was rings, just one full body with tentacles in the middle of the plate.  It wasn't rubbery, or fishy.  Just really nice.

What I didn't like was the vegetables served with it.  The grape tomatoes were out of season (it was December), served raw, and just kinda mushy and flavorless.  The red pepper was extensive, there was tons of it, and it was just raw.  So many raw peppers, they overwhelmed everything.  Why not fry these too?  Or have little sweet peppers?  Anything, but boring, raw, plain red peppers, taking over the dish.

Also taking over the dish was the scallion threads, again, tons of them.  I liked that they were trying to add freshness, but, this just didn't work.

I did like the sriracha aioli, spicy, creamy, but drizzled over the top.  I wanted to be able to dunk into it, and, I wanted more.

One complaint I have is with the plating itself.  There was so much piled onto this awkward plate that it was impossible to get a piece without pushing something off the far side of the platter.  No matter how careful I was, I kept having things sliding off the far side.

I wish I'd gone for the rock shrimp, as it came with napa cabbage, which sounds much better than the veggies that came with this.   Still, the tempera batter and frying job was great.  I'd love to try the rock shrimp, or the fish and chips, next time.  This was good, but had enough issues that I certainly wouldn't rave about it.

Mains

The menu for mains is incredibly extensive, like every other section of the menu.  Numerous seafood options, like rare tuna, bronzed swordfish, roasted haddock, glazed salmon, and several lobster dishes.  For the non-seafood eaters, there is chicken, pork tenderloin, beef short ribs, steak frites, and a single vegetarian pasta.  The full bar food menu is also available in the dining room, so if you want a burger (hamburger, lamb burger, or tuna burger), or comfort food like steak tips, mac and cheese, stir fry, or fish and chips, those are also all options.

One diner opted for the steak tips from the pub menu, and really enjoyed it, particularly with the "potato lasagna" on the side, a delicious layered, cheesy creation that was like au gratin potatoes meets lasagna, sans pasta.
Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops / Bacon studded rainbow chard / Mashed / Beurre Blanc / Chive Oil. $22.
Mmm, scallops.  Besides local, fresh Dungeness crab, scallops are certainly my favorite seafood.  I love them seared, medium-rare.

The menu at Scollay Square drew me in for many reasons, but one is that they have not one, not two, but three different scallop preparations.  One is on the pub menu, the most casual option, broiled scallops with crumbs and garlic butter, served with fries and slaw.  Another is on the small plates menu, blackened day boat scallops with horseradish marmalade, a smaller portion, for only $11.50.  The final is a full entree, and what we opted for.

The mashed potato was kinda lumpy and not great, really just generic mash.  The bacon studded rainbow chard was amazing though, fresh greens, and delicious bits of salty, crispy bacon.  The bacon also complimented the scallops well.

The scallops were nicely cooked.  They didn't have the hard sear I prefer, and weren't mid-rare, but they were fully medium, and not rubbery, not fishy.  So, for the style of scallops, nicely done, well seasoned, and enjoyable.

I wished for a little more of the beurre blanc, which seemed to just be a dot on each of the 6 scallops. The $22 price was good for a entree, and this was a nicely sized meal.  I'd definitely get the scallops, or delicious bacon chard, again.

Dessert

Our server was good, but, very busy.  We sat a very long time after our plates had been cleared, with no offer of dessert.  She rushed by several times, never looking our way.  Finally, I flagged her down, because I really can't skip dessert, and, I knew from looking online how amazing their dessert menu was.  They had wwo selections for the chocolate lovers (flourless chocolate cake or a chocolate dacquioise duo, both gluten free too), plus a fun sounding "s'mored sticks" with toasted marshmallows, melted chocolate, peanut butter sauce, and graham cracker crumbs.  But I had my eyes on one thing: the puddings.
Decaf Coffee.
Of course, I wanted coffee to go with my dessert.  It wasn't listed on the menu, but I asked for it anyway.  Sadly, it arrived long after my dessert, because the waitress had to brew a fresh pot.

It was ... fine.  Not particularly good, not particularly bad.  Obviously hot and fresh.  I'm not sure the price, as the waitress realized after we'd paid that she forgot to put it on the bill.  I just tipped her a bit extra, even though we weren't given particularly good service due to her busyness.
Butterscotch Pudding / Handcrafted Caramelized Sugar / Local Butter / Cream / Fresh Vanilla Bean / Whipped Cream. $8.
So, pudding.  I adore pudding.  Such a comfort food for me.  I like pretty much all forms of pudding, ranging from set custards like crème brûlée, to jiggly panna cotta, to rice or bread puddings too.  So to say I was excited when I saw pudding on the menu is an understatement.  And butterscotch pudding is a favorite of mine, something my grandmother always made.

This was a very good pudding.  It was kinda loose and runny, so the consistency wasn't amazing, but the flavor was.  It wasn't a classic butterscotch flavor, more like a maple flavor, but it was delicious.

The whipped cream on top was kinda sad, not fluffy, totally fallen.  But, I appreciated the whipped cream.

So, was this amazing?  Well, no.  The pudding could have been set better, the whipped cream was laughable, and I wished for some crunch on top, but I really did enjoy this, and the $8 price was quite reasonable.
Bread Pudding / Raspberry & White Chocolate Custard / Vanilla Sauce / Whipped Cream. $8.
The other dessert I had my eye on was the other "pudding", the bread pudding.  It wasn't as successful as the butterscotch.

It was served piping hot, so points for that.  But the top wasn't crispy, the interior just kinda soggy, no real flavor to it.  There was mushy, seedy, raspberries mixed in, which I didn't like, due to the seeds.  It was covered in cinnamon, and the cinnamon and raspberry didn't go together very well for me.  On top was more whipped cream, again, deflated.

Overall, this disappointed in every dimension.  I also never found "white chocolate custard" nor "vanilla sauce".

After a few bites of this, I just went back to the butterscotch.  This went unfinished.  Again, $8 price was good though.
Scollay Square Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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