Friday, January 25, 2019

Cusser's Roast Beef & Seafood: Impressive North Shore Flavor

When you live north of Boston, you probably have your favorite spots for Roast Beef sandwiches. Those spots commonly offer seafood options as well, from fried clams to chowder. I've devoured plenty of roast beef sandwiches during my life, generally eating at least one a week, and have my own favorites. And I may have a new favorite, except that it comes from a restaurant in Boston, not the North Shore.

Back in July 2017, Mooncusser Fish House opened, a joint endeavor led by Ian Calhoun, Vincent Vela, and Chef Carolyn Johnson, all who also own and operate 80 Thoreau in Concord. This seafood restaurant is actually divided into two parts, the Moon Bar located on the first floor and the Mooncusser Fish House on the second floor. The Moon Bar is the more casual dining area while the upstairs is more higher-end. And in May 2018, they expanded their concept, opening Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood within the Moon Bar.

Last weekend, I stayed at the Boston Park Plaza, so last Friday I stopped by the nearby Cusser's for lunch. Cusser's is only open for lunch, Monday through Friday, from 11:30am-2pm. You can dine in at the Moon Bar (which I did), or get take-out from a special window located outside the restaurant. The menu is small, but with a sufficient range of choices, including Roast Beef Sandwiches ($10), Lobster Roll ($25), Tuna Burger ($14), Fish Tacos ($10), Fish & Chips ($12), and Swordfish Souvlaki ($15). They also have Sumac Lemonade ($3), which I found to be tart, only lightly sweet, and quite tasty and refreshing.

Lunch began with a cup of their Mooncusser Chowder ($8), with clams, smoked scallops and skate. The half-moon crackers atop the chowder were made by their pastry chef Katherine Hamilburg, whose skill touched on other elements of the lunch as well. I love this chowder, and it was one of my 2017 Top Ten Favorite Restaurant DishesPlenty of tender, tasty seafood with a flavorful broth that wasn't too thick or too thin. And on a cold winter day, it certainly warms the belly, and is an excellent way to start your lunch at Cusser's.

The Fish & Chips ($12) includes several pieces of fried Hake, and their choice of fish delights me. Though Hake is a member of the Cod family, its flesh tends to have a milder taste and softer texture than cod. And with some of the sustainability challenges that face Cod, Hake is an excellent alternative. The batter was crisp and light, with plenty of mildly sweet hake inside. And the Fries were quite crisp, with a fluffier interior. Another winner of a dish.

The Roast Beef Sandwich ($10) can be ordered in two different styles: North Shore and 80T Style. The 80T Style is served with cheddar, pickled red onions and Thoreau sauce (a type of spicy mayo). I went for the North Shore style, which usually comes with barbecue sauce, mayo, and cheese, though I had them omit the mayo. I'd heard some good things about their roast beef but I still wasn't prepared to be so impressed with it.

The rolls are made daily by pastry chef Katherine Hamilburg, and it originally took them quite a while to decide on the right roll for their roast beef. It was soft and fresh, with the slight crunch of the seeds atop the roll. Honestly, the rolls you get with most North Shore roast beef sandwiches aren't particularly interesting or memorable. Hamilburg's roll was an excellent vehicle for the extremely tender and flavorful rare, roast beef. They freshly slice the roast beef for each sandwich, which you can watch within the Moon Bar. The barbecue sauce had a pleasant tang to it and didn't overwhelm the sandwich. Each bite was so satisfying. The ratio of bread to beef was also good, and overall, it was a well-balanced sandwich and one which I found absolutely delicious.

I actually ordered another sandwich to go, planning to eat it for dinner as I knew I would be stuck in the hotel for the rest of Friday. Plus, I knew Cusser's would be closed for the weekend so I wouldn't have another opportunity to get one of their roast beef sandwiches.

After lunch, we received a couple complimentary Whoopie Pies ($3/each), which are made fresh daily by pastry chef Katherine Hamilburg. Another winner from Hamilburg, the chocolate pies were fresh, mostly soft with a slight crunch to certain parts, and provided a delicious and rich chocolate flavor, which went well with the sweet, creamy center. They weren't too big, and just seemed the right size to be a great ending without being so large that you felt bloated once you finished it.

Cusser's Roast Beef & Seafood is a lunch spot worthy of your attention, and if you love roast beef, then their sandwiches will impress even a jaded North Shore aficionado. I suspect that their Roast Beef Sandwich could even end up as one of my Top Ten Dishes of 2019. Their seafood dishes remain consistently excellent and you definitely should pick up some whoopies pies for a sweet treat. I like this lunch concept and maybe other restaurants could emulate this idea, creating something a bit more unique for the lunch crowd. Kudos to the entire Mooncusser team!


Devilham said...

Wow, that sounds great, can’t wait for a weekday off to give that a whirl

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