DIG IN Fresh fare at TwoTen.
One of the appealing features of living in a place called the Ocean State is that there are plenty of water-view restaurants. It’s a shame to neglect them, the good ones, especially those having the sense to specialize in seafood. That would be like living in Manhattan and ignoring Broadway.
There is a new one this summer in South County, in a picturesque location — on Salt Pond Road, overlooking a marina, the spot where Hanson’s Landing used to be. TwoTen Oyster Bar & Grill is an attractive place with equally appealing dining offerings — the perfect combination to draw the packed crowd I sidled through on a recent dinner visit.
When I came again for lunch, I had an easier time looking around. There’s a large patio out front, bar-equipped, which looks inviting in sunny weather, with parasols shading the larger tables. It’s a well-designed space, with white glass-topped “wicker” tables and crushed clamshells at the borders. The bar area predominates inside, behind which is a smaller, narrow room overlooking the marina. Below that, accessible only from outside, are a few more seats, loosely enclosed by plastic drops.
There are bars at each of those three areas, a reminder of where sometimes the biggest chunk of an evening’s proceeds are derived. So it seemed odd when a customer I chatted with on a busy evening said she’d planned to have dinner there but decided not to after her bill was slapped down before her at the bar instead of her being asked if she wanted another drink. The busy bartender probably didn’t intend to offend, but did. It’s remarkable how much friendly service — which I found on my visits there — can make or break the reputation, and longevity, of a new place.
But it’s the food that matters most. So I started by checking out their Rhode Island clam chowder ($4/$6), a much better indicator than the traditional version of fried calamari, nearly identical everywhere. Here the clear broth chowder has more chopped clams than potatoes and celery, the primary criterion, but also lots of briny tang. Chef Mike King, formerly of Mystic’s Go Fish, did it right. On my second visit I had the New England clam chowder, in which the apple-wood bacon came through nicely.
I completed a light lunch with something that caught my eye on the menu. I felt obliged to order the Key West conch ceviche ($14), since the place is my favorite vacation spot and I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. About a cupful came in a martini glass. The little chunks were tender, tossed in a citrus vinaigrette, but needed another wedge or two of lime, which was promptly provided. The other midday possibilities included such specials as swordfish tacos ($17), lobster quesadilla ($18), and cornmeal-fried day boat scallops ($17). Dinner items are also served at lunch.