Friday, February 17, 2017

Island Creek Oyster Bar: The Catch of Burlington

As the number of new restaurants in Burlington continues to rise, one of the hottest new additions is the Island Creek Oyster Bar, located near the Burlington Mall in The District complex. Similar in many respects to the original Kenmore location, this Island Creek is larger, with three private dining rooms, raw bar seating, and a more spacious dining room. Earlier this week, I had lunch at Island Creek with my mom and the meal was so excellent, I needed to write about it immediately, though please note that this is not a full review, just an initial glimpse into the seafood wonders you'll find here.

They have an extensive and interesting drinks programs, with a number of local spirits and intriguing cocktails (priced $12-$13). The wine list is also diverse with lots of fascinating choices, and wine lovers will definitely find plenty that interests them. I opted for a glass of Orleans Borbón Manzanilla Fina Sherry, an excellent choice for seafood and fried food. However, I do wish they added some Sake to their list, which is also a great pairing with seafood.

The lunch menu, which changes to some degree every day, has a Raw Bar section, Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Lunch Entrees ($13-$18), Shore Food Entrees ($15-$27), and Sides. The Raw Bar has numerous Oysters, Crudo/Ceviche, and Shellfish. The majority of the menu is seafood, but there are a few non-seafood options, such as a Colorado Angus Burger and ICOB Rigatoni, but make no mistake, this is a shrine to the bounty of the sea.

We began with Shrimp Cocktail ($3.50/piece) and these were monstrosities, some of the largest shrimp you'll find most anywhere. They were tender, cooked perfectly so that they weren't rubbery or tough. An excellent beginning to lunch and if you love shrimp, then you definitely need to order these.

We also started with the Yellowfin Tuna Poke ($15), with cucumber, sesame, chili, nori and large taro root chips. Silky tuna, with tangy citrus and mild spiciness, delighted my palate. The thin, crisp taro root chips were a nice platform for the poke and the sesame seeds added a bit of crunchiness and a nutty element. Another compelling dish.

The Fried Ipswich Clams ($27/large) come with some cole slaw and french fries, and the clams tend to be smaller than some places, but that isn't a flaw. These are sweet and tender, with a fresh and light batter with a delicious crunch. They aren't gritty in the least, and are certainly addictive, as you find yourself popping fried clam after fried clam into your mouth. Fried perfection. And even the french fries are top notch, with a nice crunchy coating and a fluffy interior.

A Tuna Melt is a rather common sandwich, yet there are restaurants which elevate it to new heights, and Island Creek accomplishes that objective. The Confit Yellowfin Tuna Melt ($13) is on white rye, with ICOB pickles and Fontina cheese, and it is frankly one of the best tuna melts I've ever eaten. The creamy and delicious tuna filling doesn't ooze mayo like some other tuna melts, and the pickles add a nice texture as well as some sweetness. The melted fontina adds some nutty notes and the bread, with panini-like grill marks, is just the right thickness. Everything meshes well together, creating a superb sandwich and one I highly recommend.

How do you end such an excellent lunch? With an equally compelling dessert. The Banoffee Pie ($9) is an English dessert pie, commonly a blend of bananas and toffee, though Island Creek uses dulce de leche. The banana slices atop the pie have a light, crunchy layer of dulce de leche and would be a tasty dessert on their own. The silky and sweet cream is compelling, a fine topping for the thick banana slices beneath. Though the pastry shell beneath the pie was tasty, it was a little too thick for my preferences. But that is a minor issue with an otherwise scrumptious dessert.

Service was excellent, and the entire staff shares working together at every table. They are consummate professionals, knowledge and personable, attentive without being obtrusive. It was such a positive lunch experience, with superb seafood, and I'm eager to return. Island Creek Oyster Bar is a welcome addition to Burlington and I highly recommend you dine there.

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