Sunday, November 1, 2009

Turner's Seafood: A Melrose Institution

We are fortunate to live in New England, with access to so much delicious seafood. From Maine lobsters to Island Creek oysters, our coastal waters provide an abundance of tasty options. If you wish to sample some fresh fish, prepared in a myriad of ways, you also have plenty of restaurant options. In the Melrose area though, your best choice is Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market.

Turner's Seafood, a family business, opened back in 1994, but the family's experience with seafood extends back four generations. Turner’s mission is to “to serve you the freshest, best tasting seafood you’ve ever eaten with the promise to remain authentically New England." It is certainly a very popular restaurant, and unless you have a reservation on weekends, you will have to wait awhile for a table.

I have eaten at Turner's numerous times over the last fifteen years, but I had not been there much lately. Just so many other restaurants I have been checking out. But I returned to Turner's recently, several times, to see how it was handling the test of time. Had the quality diminished? Or was it continuing to push forward, still serving excellent seafood?

The restaurant has a small bar area, where you can have a cocktail or glass of wine, a main dining area, an oyster bar/dining area, private dining rooms, an open kitchen region, and even a fresh fish market. I sometimes stop at the fish market, which can be a bit pricey, but the quality of the seafood mitigates the price. The restaurant has a very casual ambiance, and is open for both lunch and dinner.

They have a full bar, with a diverse list of cocktails and even make a good Sangria. Their wine list is small, though relatively inexpensive. You will find bottles for under $30. One of my favorite choices is the Paraiso Pinot Noir ($38/bottle). It has rich, red fruit flavors and interesting spice notes.

The lunch menu (as is the dinner menu) is quite lengthy, with an extensive list of choices. With all those options, you might have difficulty deciding on what to order. There are salads, soups/chowders, pasta dishes, sandwiches, appetizers, entrees and more. There are plenty of traditional New England dishes, as well as some more creative dishes. There are usually off-menu specials available each night.

Prior to receiving either your lunch or dinner, you will receive warm rolls with butter, which is something I always enjoy. So Turner's scores points with me from the start. You might want to start your meal with a bowl of Lobster Bisque ($5.99), a thick, creamy and tasty bisque with plenty of lobster. The bisque is well spiced, providing a richness of flavors. You can even order additional lobster for your bisque. They also have Clam Chowder and Portuguese Fish Stew.

For sandwiches, you can order the traditional Clam Roll ($12.99), which you can see above. The grilled roll is fresh and filled with plenty of fried clams, which have a nice clean taste. All sandwiches come with your choice of cole slaw or vegetable medley, plus a choice of french fries, onion rings, or rice. I very much enjoy the onion rings, which are thinly sliced and covered with a tasty batter.

The Yellow Fin Tuna Melt ($12.99) is another good choice. A good-sized piece of pan-seared tuna, cooked to your preference, with swiss cheese and Japanese BBQ sauce. The tuna was not tough at all, and makes for quite a delicous sandwich. My only minor issue was that the piece of lettuce on the sandwich had wilted edges.

A new item on their menu is the Crab Mac n' Cheese ($13.99) which you can order as an appetizer or entree. I ordered it as an appetizer and it was large enough for a meal. I think the entree simply comes with an added salad. The dish is made with orchiette pasta and at least three different cheeses. It was absolutely delicous, with a rich, creamy cheese sauce and sweet crabmeat, though it probably could have used more crab. The pasta was cooked just right, and the orchiette was a nice choice, its ear-shape forming a pocket for the cheese.

The restaurant has a full raw bar, with oysters, steamers, mussels, shrimp cocktail, tuna sashimi and more. The seafood is very fresh and I especially enjoy their oysters ($1.99 each, six for $10.99, twelve for $20.99). They usually have several different types of oysters available.

For a lighter choice, try the Summer Bistro Salad ($6.99), with sliced strawberries, candied nuts & crumbled goat cheese atop a vinaigrette dressed Mesclun salad. A very good salad, with fresh ingredients, and a subtle but flavorful vinaigrette. They also have a Mesclun Salad, Caesar Salad, and Asian Salad. For an extra cost, you can add various seafoods and meats atop your salad such as sea scallops or fried baby shrimp.

Another good choice for an appetizer is Nana Turner's Cod Cakes ($4.50 for 1, $7.50 for 2), which comes with homemade piccalilli and Boston baked beans. The thick, good-sized cod cake has plenty of salty cod with a lightly breaded coating. One of the better cod cakes I have ever had.

A special appetizer one night was Salmon Tips with an apple demi-glace and sweet potato gnocchi. The apple-flavored salmon was excellent, not overly sweet, and the gnocchi made a nice balance to the salmon.

For dinner entrees, you can get broiled, char grilled, pan seared or fried seafood. Plus, there are numerous specialty dishes, including items like Japanese Salmon, Cioppino, Haddock Piccata and Baked Stuffed Shrimp. In addition, they have lobster dishes, including Boiled, Baked Stuffed and Lobster Pie.

One of my favorite entrees has long been their Tuna Sashimi Dinner ($25.99), slices of Yellow Fin tuna, pan seared rare, and crusted with black & white sesame seeds. I just dip a slice of the silky tuna in some soy sauce and savor the taste. It reminds me of a fine piece of steak. If you enjoy sushi, then this dish is for you.

The Tuna Rockefella ($24.99) is pan roasted with a spinach, cheese & bacon stuffing finished with a tomato buerre blanc. The above came with a vegetable medley and garlic mashed potatoes. The stuffing and sauce were both flavorful, complementing well the tuna. The veggies were very fresh and the potatoes were creamy, with a strong garlic taste.

The Fried Fisherman's Platter ($22.99) had scrod, scallops, clams and shrimp. All of the fried seafood has a light, clean batter and it is obvious the seafood is very fresh. The platter is a good-sized dish, which should appease most appetites. I especially enjoyed the fried scallops. Another fried option is their English Pub Style Fish ’n Chips ($11.24/bistro, $20.50/large), which is Bass Ale battered scrod and malt vinegar.

So, to answer my original questions, Turner's is still an excellent seafood destination. Service is very good, even when they are very busy. The seafood is fresh and prepared well, dishes are usually ample, and prices are reasonable for the quality and quantity you receive. There is a good reason why so many people dine here.

As I mentioned before, Turner's is holding a Lobster Fest throughout November so now is a very good time to check out the restaurant.

Turner's Seafood Grill & Market
506 Main St
Melrose, MA 02176
Phone: 781-662-0700

Turner's Seafood Grill & Mrkt on Urbanspoon


The Wine Whore said...

The food looks absolutely awesome! I am also a huge fan of lobster bisque... I'm getting on the next plane and heading over there right now! :)


Richard Auffrey said...

Come on out and I'll show you plenty of great restaurants.