A First Look at Select Oyster Bar
Select Oyster Bar is not your neighborhood clam shack. The new Back Bay restaurant, the first solo venture from former Neptune Oyster executive chef Michael Serpa, brings a fresh perspective to the already-competitive seafood-focused landscape. Here, you won’t find lobster rolls, baskets of crispy clam bellies, or burgers topped with fried bivalves.
When Serpa left Neptune, his home for almost seven years, the chef says he was all too eager to move on from the dishes he was celebrated for in the North End. That’s why, when Select Oyster Bar opens next week (the chef has tentatively penciled in April 2 for his grand opening), you’ll find French classics like Provencal bouillabaisse; Basque-style octopus with potatoes, olives, and golden raisins; escargot with garlic butter (something that will soon be sourced from Boston’s Higher Ground Farm); and billi bi, the creamy mussel soup perfected by Pierre Franey (Craig Claiborne’s longtime kitchen collaborator) during his tenure at The Times.
Joined by talented chef de cuisine, Sebastian Martinez, last seen at Volle Nolle and Koy near Faneuil Hall, the two will explore all kinds of coastal cuisines. Look for Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, and Cuban-influenced dishes, like Select’s arroz frito with uni and cuttlefish or bacalao a la plancha, a preparation of seared salt cod and roasted porcini mushrooms that has Serpa particularly excited.
Divided into three easy-to-navigate categories, Select features a healthy number of “Starters” and “Mains,” to complement a well-curated “Fruits de Mer” selection of raw oysters, prawns, lobster, Santa Barbara sea urchin, and ceviche. There’s even a traditional Russian caviar service, a small extravagance that doesn’t feel haughty or pretentious, especially when you see the price ($75, something close to cost), not to mention the casual, laid-back atmosphere of the space.
Like his former digs at Neptune, the inside of Select is snug (30 seats), but that’s where the comparison ends. Serpa, who designed much of the space with is wife and business partner, Lina Velez, has settled on a casual, almost tongue-in-cheek aesthetic for the Victorian brownstone. There are hipster-approved, screen-printed posters depicting Moby Dick and Jacques Cousteau, paintings of Ernest Hemingway’s boat, as well as a giant tapestry dedicated to the characters in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Exposed brick walls are accented by pressed white tin ceiling tiles and repurposed wooden planks that look as if they were freshly excavated from a Nantucket dock.
A pewter-topped bar seats 12 and features a small selection of craft beer, Hemingway-inspired cocktails (Vermouth Panache, Death in the Afternoon), and over 50 bottles of wine, most from Burgundy, Champagne, and smaller American pinot noir producers. Hand-selected by Serpa, the chef’s list shows a real knack for enlightened oenophilia, with exciting, offbeat by-the-glass choices like Italian orange wines, bone-dry Txakoli, Slovenian reds, and alternative options like Basque ciders.
Finally, a sprawling communal ash table, hand-crafted by Saltwoods in Winchester, might take center stage in the linear space, but Select’s 22-seat patio will undoubtedly be one of its biggest draws. Adjacent to the raw bar, the private courtyard is decked in harbor lights and a hanging herb garden above metal tables and a heated floor. Oleana, The Blue Room, and Harvest officially have competition for the sexiest al fresco dining in the city.
Select Oyster Bar will be open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner service will take place Sunday to Thursday from 4:30-10:00 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 4:30 to 11 p.m.
Select Oyster Bar Menu
50 Gloucester St., Boston; 857-239-8064 or selectoyster.com.