Dining Out: Rowes Wharf Sea Grille
Among the main courses, one rose to the level of the soft-shell crabs: grilled swordfish with jasmine rice and coconut-curry essence ($28). The swordfish was fine, if not as steaklike as some I’ve had recently, but the yellow curry sauce—voluptuous with coconut milk and alluringly lightened with lemongrass—was impressive. Bruce told me he makes a classic fish fumet (broth) for the stock, technique again coming to the fore. Everyone at my table kept digging spoons into it, mixing the rice into a kind of savory porridge, till there wasn’t a bit left.
The scallops with pea shoots, snap peas, snow peas, and English peas ($28) were nearly as good. Darkly caramelized disks from Georges Bank, the scallops were not only enormous, but also sweet, and with an exemplary meaty texture. The white wine–butter sauce was another classic, the lashings of butter tempered by the acidity of sauvignon blanc.
Yet other main courses were unremarkable: grilled Nova Scotia salmon with gummy black rice and bland baby vegetables in a heavy pinot noir–butter sauce ($24); grilled monkfish "osso buco" in a bouillabaisse broth ($28), the fish thick and rubbery, the fennel-tomato broth wan. The halibut with saffron risotto ($26) was too memorable, for the nearly solid butter in the rice. Risotto mantecato (creamed risotto) is one thing, but it’s not supposed to mean a warm, buttery block. Still, the halibut was good, and its conception elegant. Ultimately, that’s what you’ll come to the Sea Grille for: nothing too surprising, just solid service and solid seafood with great views.
The desserts (all $9) have a fancy, ta-da! look perfect for celebrations. (This being a hotel restaurant, there’s a pastry chef, and one Bruce has long worked with, William Romiza.) Like many of the main courses, they’re pleasant, mild, and high in quality. The baked ricotta cheesecake with toasted almonds and seasonal berries seemed dry and dull, but two chocolate desserts struck a nice balance between kiddie treat and grownup indulgence: dark chocolate in a phyllo case with a not-so-bitter "bitter chocolate" cream pie, and, my favorite, a milk chocolate charlotte in a pretty ring. I might never fall into a Julia swoon and cry, "Ah, butter!" when a sizzling sole sauce hits the table, but when that charlotte arrived, I had my own moment: Ah, cream!