There are few things in this world I love more than trying a new restaurant.
A few months ago I began reading about a new venture from the team behind Island Creek Oyster Bar. It would be called Row 34 and be located in the increasingly hot neighborhood of Fort Point, that strange no man's land between the Financial District and the Seaport.
When I made my first visit to Tavern Road (also in Fort Point), chef Louis DiBiccari said he couldn't wait to welcome his new neighbors, Row 34. When an outstanding chef sings the praises of a joint before it even opens, you know it's going to be great.
I went to Row 34 on that extremely rainy Sunday night after Christmas. We blew in the door, drenched, and the hostess greeted us with a big smile and the offer to take our dripping coats.
Just beyond the welcome desk, Row 34 has a long bar. In addition to sitting and sipping drinks, you can watch the chefs shuck oysters which they keep on ice, right out in the open.
Row 34's dining room is enormous. The industrial space has been transformed with stylish overhead lighting and sleek black and tables and chairs.
The table settings are simple, nothing fussy or over the top.
We were seated at the very last table in the dining room, just outside the kitchen and the bathrooms. Our very adorable waiter came over with menus.
The menus are white with small black text, clean and simple, just like the space's design.
Each place setting has a small fork for oysters in addition to the full size silverware.
We started the night with a bottle of Benoit Mulin (Brut), our waiter's suggestion. We were celebrating a friend's return from San Francisco and a friend's engagement.
If you are looking to share a bottle of bubbly, this was delicious and only $45 for the bottle.
Since Row 34 is part of the Island Creek family, it was only right to begin the meal with oysters. The ladies at the table ordered four different varieties which came served on a bed of ice with three dipping sauces - a cocktail sauce with horseradish, a spicy cilantro sauce and a house sauce with black pepper.
Two of us started with the chopped romaine salad which was advertised as being topped with avocado and fried bread. It did have both of those things, but the strongest flavor actually came from pickled red onions.
The Row 34 menu is 99.9% seafood dishes. If you love oysters, lobster, scallops, calamari and fish, this is your place.
One friend selected the salmon with bacon and bone marrow. She said, "The fish was cooked really well. The puree on the plate was like a thin sweep of mashed potatoes. I did think the dish as a whole tasted salty, but I'm still fighting a cold so my taste buds aren't totally up to snuff."
Next to me, a friend was enjoying the baked cod which came in a stunning blue serving dish. We were all ooooing and ahhhhing over the dish.
After several bites she commented, "The fish was very well seasoned and perfectly flaky. I loved the pairing of the fish with the rice pilaf. This was the ideal portion size too, filling, but not over the top."
Across the table, a friend ordered the bucatini with clams. After a few twirls of her fork she shared, "The dish is pretty buttery. I was happy to find broccoli rabe under there, I felt weird about ordering a dish with no vegetables at all."
Earlier in the night when it was my turn to order, I asked the waiter what he would recommend. The entire menu is seafood and there is not a single vegetarian option listed on the menu. He said the chef can easily make a vegetarian version of the bucatini dish, so I followed his lead and ordered that.
The veggie version of the pasta was topped with bread crumbs and a heavy serving of broccoli rabe. I like broccoli rabe as a component of a dish, but it is way too bitter to be the star of the plate. I love bucatini, but I didn't enjoy this dish at all.
Though my pasta dish was lackluster, Row 34 totally made up for that with their side dishes.
We ordered the Brussels sprouts which came tossed in togarashi spice. They had an awesome kick to them. This was one of my favorite dishes all night.
We also enjoyed the broccoli with IPA and cheddar sauce. This was an excellent dish on a cold night.
Lastly, we ordered up the French fries. Personally, I liked my French fries thinly cut. These were more like steak fries. Despite the thickness, they were deliciously seasoned.
Though we were completely full and felt we were about to bust from the seams, our waiter kindly offered to treat us to a dessert. He said they have pudding in chocolate, butterscotch or lemon flavors. I said, "We'll try anything but the lemon."
He came back with a petit glass jar of butterscotch pudding. You know me, I'm all about the chocolate, so I was skeptical. I did however put my spoon in there for a bite and I have to say, I was completely blown away! This pudding is not like the pudding you buy at the grocery store. It was just the right amount of thickness and the butterscotch taste was superb.
I asked our waiter what was on top of the pudding and he said the garnish is fried Rice Krispies. They were so good!
I was really looking forward to trying Row 34 and I have to say, I was very impressed with what they've done with the space, the attentiveness of the staff and that butterscotch pudding! The menu was very challenging for a vegetarian, but if you love seafood, you will be in absolute heaven.
Row 34 does not yet have a sign out front (permits!), but you can find them at the corner of Congress Street and Boston Wharf Road.