Scott Snyder, chef/owner of the well-regarded Boulevard Five72 in Kenilworth, also runs a small, high-quality wholesale seafood business. In April, harnessing his restaurant expertise to his access to super-fresh seafood, Snyder, 48, opened Boulevard Seafood in Somerville. (A man of seemingly limitless energy, he at the same time opened Conlin’s, a French bakery sharing an old storefront with Boulevard Seafood and providing it with breads and desserts.)
Entering the 72-seat restaurant, one first encounters a small, glassed-in room that serves as fish-display-cum-retail- shop. Then comes a lively black-and-white-tiled open kitchen, where diners at six counter seats and eight high-top tables can see Snyder in action. An exposed-brick dining room farther back opens onto a 30-seat outdoor deck.
Snyder had initially intended to use a light touch, since fine fish needs little to magnify its virtues. “But,” he admits, “I find I just can’t put fish on a plate and be done with it. It’s not my style.”
Snyder would be wise to stick with his initial instinct. His simplest dishes are his best. A sampling of superb oysters listed on the nightly specials chalkboard (which deservedly generates half of all orders) arrived on ice with a trio of chilled sauces. Each bivalve mollusk—from the mineral-tinged Hog Islander to the mild Blue Point—delivered a rapturous, slippery sip of the sea. Snyder’s riff on poké, a Hawaiian raw-fish salad, evoked happy groans with its silken chunks of yellowfin tuna, ripe avocado cubes and crunchy jicama, lightly bound by a sesame-soy-chili dressing.
Slightly more ambitious and equally delicious was a starter of two expertly cooked scallops, their sweetness smartly countered by a bed of lentils enlivened with sherry vinegar. The same level of satisfaction came with the comforting corn chowder, chunky with shrimp.
Snyder gilded the lily, however, with his Blue Point oyster gratin; its tough cap of cheese and prosciutto and mound of creamed spinach overpowered the poor dear beneath. A lump crab and avocado “cannelloni” (mayo-dressed crabmeat in a sliced avocado shell with passion-fruit dressing) simply had too much going on.
Crab cakes were so thick that the under-seasoned, somewhat mushy interior failed to thrill. Better was the hearty, hand-chopped yellowfin tuna burger, medium rare, on toasted brioche with pickled ginger and guacamole. Excellent, too, were the fried codfish tacos with chili aioli and mango-tomato salsa.
Snyder successfully elaborated his rich risotto with saffron, truffle froth, and a ridiculous abundance of lobster chunks, scallops and fresh shrimp. He went overboard, though, when he sandwiched his extraordinary chermoula organic salmon between a bed of coconut-milk basmati-rice pilaf and a hefty dollop of cucumber-apple tzatziki. And there was no need to enrich linguini and clams with mascarpone, which muted the clams’ briny swagger. For the sake of landlubbers, we ordered the buttermilk fried chicken. Strangely soggy inside, it reminded us what we’d come to Boulevard Seafood for.
Baguette slices from Conlin’s Café and Bakery next door were lackluster, despite head baker Julian Laurent hailing from Brittany. We did, however, devour a luscious blackberry-dotted, Key lime pastry-cream parfait. But a mealy rhubarb tart and an uninspired sampler with tiramisu were easy to push aside.
Snyder admits Boulevard Seafood, and its relationship with Conlin’s, is a work in progress. Given his track record, there’s a good chance he’ll turn the tide. Because even now, his place is a gift from the sea.Click here to leave a comment
Cuisine Type:American - Seafood
Price Details:Appetizers: $8-$14; entrées, $13-$34; desserts, $5-$8.
Ambience:Casual yet stylish; oyster-bar inspired.
Service:Friendly and attentive.