Anyone who knows Boston knows that that North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood, is notorious for it's narrow streets, lack of parking, and great restaurants. The previous two attempts that J and I made to go to Neptune Oyster in Boston's North End ended in dizzying frustration from driving around the block looking for parking, and empty stomachs. Earlier this month we made our third attempt to get to the restaurant. The third time is the charm as some say. As soon as we pulled out of the Tip O'Neill tunnel, thank you Big Dig, and onto Hanover Street, we scored a parking spot before reaching the end of the first block. Finally, a parking spot in the North End; we were going to Neptune Oyster.
The restaurant is tiny and there really isn't much of a waiting area. When J and I got there, the place was packed. No room for us inside the door so we stood outside and waited.
The restaurant is longer than it is wide with an L-shaped booth-like bench stretching along the entire left side of the space and half of the back wall. Several tables were jammed together in front of the bench with chairs on the other side. With seating for twenty-six at the tables and another ten at the bar, which ran along the right side of the restaurant, this place might be considered large by some North End standards. The very front of the restaurant, just inside the etched glass window fronting the sidewalk, was the raw bar where J and I watched the show. Rows and rows of shellfish, and a woman shucking oysters like she was pouring water into a glass. Smooth, effortless, perfect.
After about ten minutes outside and another twenty minutes inside, we sat down at a table. J and I started our night off with two glasses of NV Borgo Magredo Prosecco and a dozen oysters. Four Wellfleet, medium sized, salty, and sweet; four kumomoto, small, sweet, plump, and creamy with hints of cucumber; and four Fanny Bay, medium sized, plump, low salt, sweet, and buttery with a melon finish. Neptune Oyster has a dozen different oysters to choose from as well as littlenecks, cherrystones, and shrimp cocktail braised in Harpoon beer.
Moving on to course two, we shared Neptune's Bottarga Salad. Bottarga is cured fish roe and is delicious. This salad was fantastic with Boston lettuce, red grapes, fennel, caramel onions, white anchovy, grape seed oil and a Parmesan dressing.
With dinner we drank a bottle of Carpe Diem Chardonnay from the Firepeak vineyard in Edna Valley, California. J ordered Neptune's Gloucester Cod Loin served with stewed tri peppers, oregano, mustard, freshly grated horseradish and a grapefruit vinaigrette. The plate was garnished with supremes of grapefruit.
I ordered the Fillet of Salmon with a sauté of crispy duck, pea tendrils, avocado, ginger and soy. Both of our entrees were truly spectacular, but J's cod loin dish may very well be the best dish of the year. The cod was cooked to perfection and the spicy horseradish was balanced so well by the sweet, tart grapefruit, the mustard and the oregano. The cod dish was definitely the star of the meal.
Now for the best part of the evening. We return to the car to find a carefully placed PARKING TICKET on the windshield! Sometime between the last time I was in the North End and last Friday night, Hanover Street converted all the on-street parking to Residents Only after 8pm.
Oh well. Neptune Oyster is awesome and worth a parking ticket. I'll make sure not to park on Hanover Street the next time I go.