Monday, March 17, 2014

Reel Seafood Co.

Our one and only visit to Reel Seafood Co. was more than three years ago. Our meals weren't terrible; they were just forgettable. Ever since J mastered the art of shucking oysters, our outings for seafood has been limited to trips to fin-your fishmonger for our own stay-at-home feasts. But with recent news of renovations, new chef and owner, and renewed efforts to source sustainable seafood and local seasonal ingredients, we were willing to jump back on board Reel Seafood Co. We don't typically go out on Friday nights but it was a chance for us to observe a busy dinner service. 

Although it felt a bit like being inside an alien spaceship, neon glow aside, the "new" Reel Seafood Co. certainly looks sleek and modern with updated furniture, a wall of aquariums, and bright blue lighting.  We were excited to try the "new and improved" menu. We're more than capable of prepping our own raw bar and escargots has been on J's culinary bucket list for awhile now, so in we dove with snails as an appetizer. This was our first time trying escargots and we didn't quite know what to expect. What we got were underseasoned, butter-soaked bites. The little rounds of puff pastry didn't add much flavor or texture, and I didn't really care for them. A few shakes of salt helped a bit but the herbed-butter was overwhelming. As for the escargots, J liked them more than I did. They were a bit too earthy-flavored for my taste but the texture wasn't as bad as I was expecting; it's almost like eating a chewy mussel or clam. I would try escargots again but prepared differently. 

Sadly too much butter was a consistent theme throughout our meal. We're use to rich and decadent foods but, hate to break it to you Paula Deen, there is such a thing as too much butter. For our entrees, J and I wanted to try different parts of the menu. I went with the Signature Stuffed Haddock dish from the Chef's Compositions. For a signature dish, I expected to be wowed; instead I was on the verge of a heart-attack. The seafood stuffing was soaked with butter and left a greasy, uneasy feeling as I took each bite of haddock. Granted the menu said "buttery crab-meat herbed bread stuffing," but the butter just smothered the clean, fresh taste of the fish. For what it's worth, the fish was cooked perfectly; the haddock was nice and moist but the stuffing overpowered it instead of complementing the fish. The littlest bit of acid adds to any seafood dish and this dish desperately called for a squeeze of lemon. I appreciated a side of fresh, sauteed seasonal vegetables. But even the veggies were greasy, my guess from the oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, albeit the tomatoes was a nice touch to the medley.

J went with the pick-your-own option: your choice of a seafood item simply grilled or broiled with a brush of lemon butter, served with an "enhancement" and one side. J chose Atlantic Salmon "enhanced" with lemon beurre blanc and for an extra $5, creamy lobster mashed potatoes. Granted J's entree came with a side of requested butter sauce, there was no lack thereof even more butter in the lobster mashed potatoes. While I was more disappointed in the texture of the potatoes, J didn't mind the puree as much. Avid sushi heads, we prefer our salmon rare to raw but since this was grilled, it was a bit too well-done to our liking. Perhaps we could have asked for it cooked rarer but didn't know if that was an option. The side of lemon beurre blanc was a welcomed acidic element but J would have preferred a sweet glaze instead. It would have been nice if the menu came with a suggested "enhancement" pairing for each fish. 

Ironically enough, the best part of our meal was the house butter that came with our complimentary bread basket. Our waitstaff informed us that the kitchen was a little behind. We didn't mind waiting with a head's up but we were a little confused getting a basket of bread after getting our appetizer. Nonetheless, would you believe that complimentary carbs was the best part of the meal? The crusty, chewy bread came out piping hot with a trio of spreads: olive oil & balsamic; regular butter; and the star of the bunch: a chive and lox butter. Bread never tasted so good with salty, briny bits of salmon and onion. I've never really been a fan of lox or smoked salmon but I might be a convert now. 

All butter aside, I really wish the seafood had more of a starring role. Not sure if it was just a bad choice of dishes, but I was expected to be transported to our days of eating fresh seafood by the Maine coast. It didn't help that we waited at least 10 minutes for our check to be picked up, but for fine dining price of our meal, our expectations for this dining experience were a lot higher. It's been 0-2 with our seafood restaurant outings, maybe third time's a charm. 


  1. I just have to say, there's nothing seasonal about those vegetables. Well, that and the puff pastry on top of the escargot is an embarrassment. Those rounds look like raw dough instead of the deeply brown, crispy foils to the more chewy and dense snails below.

    Thanks for taking one for the team.

    FWIW Atlantic salmon is farmed salmon. I think that Reel Seafood has found a more sustainable source for the stuff, but can't swear to it. While salmon farms are improving, it's still a dicey option if you don't know where it comes from.

    1. No green thumbs here. So much for the "seasonal" part. This was after all at FLB-prompted trip.