First Bite: Sam’s

The new Louis store at Fan Pier may have finally cracked the formula for a house restaurant.



I can’t think of a nicer place to spend a late-summer evening than the patio at Sam’s, the glass-walled restaurant in the newly relocated Louis store. Perched on a wide green lawn, turned to the sweep of sea from Rowes Wharf to the Harbor Islands, it’s the answer to a question Bostonians and tourists have been asking for years: Why aren’t there more decent restaurants with a water view?

The minimalist space looks like a bistro as imagined by Dwell magazine — and nothing detracts from the view. But little touches (fresh garden flowers, vintage linen napkins, and a blackboard entryway chalked with guest graffiti) make the experience feel personal. And at Sam’s, that personality is Esti Parsons, a former partner in Radius, Via Matta, and Great Bay. She glides around the room tracking every table, the perpetual hostess of the town’s coolest dinner party.

Oh right, dinner! The kitchen, run by Via Matta alum Ken Rogers, offers an important distinction in these days of whole-hog feasts and burger excess: It takes vegetables seriously. The family-style veggies served with most entrées are generally fantastic, particularly the buttery giant lima beans. And the menu’s strongest category may be the salads: beet with lemony house-made ricotta, peppery niçoise, greens with poached egg and crispy bacon. If Sam’s purpose is, in part, to appeal to Louis’s base of Ladies Who Lunch, the salads prove that this team — unlike those behind failed house restaurants like Boston Public — has figured out how to reach its audience.

Seafood, too, is mostly great: spot-on mussels and fries, a perfectly poached seafood platter. But other entrées seem half conceived. Steak frites disappoint, the tough meat sliced with the grain rather than against it, and a Hawaii-inspired tuna sandwich looks and tastes tired, the small portion of fish lost in a giant bun. Spinach, caramelized onion, and pine nut crêpes are a puzzlement — surely some sort of creamy filling would tie it all together.

But Sam’s deserves a little time. While the cuisine is still finding its way, it seems it’ll soon be worthy of its four-star setting.

60 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-295-0191,