Oyster and clam farmer Perry Raso, whose harvests have become quite popular over the past three years, has taken his livelihood one step further and opened his own eatery: the Matunuck Oyster Bar. It sits on a beautiful cove just north of East Matunuck State Beach, where many a restaurant has come and gone, but this time, there's a large outdoor deck in addition to the sun-filled dining rooms inside.
This space has always had the feel of a summer cottage, with windows that look out onto boats and birds. Spruced up with booths and a large U-shaped oyster bar, it feels like it's a keeper. We met friends from New York there for lunch last weekend and, with their band of seven, we had a good sampling of the menu.
Before our arrival, there had been some explanations to the younger of the five boys about the raw bar, within sight of us and, as we contemplated lunch choices, five-year-old John pulled on his mother Donna's arm, and said: "Mommy, mommy, look at the man killing oysters!"
Their dad, Ken, homed in on a dozen Rhode Island raw oysters ($1.75 each): Matunuck from Potter Pond, Ninigret and East Beach Blondes from Charlestown Pond, and Rome Point, from Narragansett Bay. Donna liked the Rome Point best, though they were all pronounced "nice and briney."
Ken also had the pan-roasted littlenecks with grilled chorizo, white beans, tomatoes, and garlic in a white wine broth ($9), and they were excellent.Donna noted that this could be a signature dish for this new establishment.
I think it could vie with the fried oysters, which were the best I've had in a long time, in an oyster po-boy ($11.95) a few weeks ago. Based on that sandwich, Bill ordered an oyster BLT, but was bitterly disappointed at the overcooked oysters — they were either over-fried or held too long under a heat lamp. The same was true for the fries which accompanied my terrific lobster roll ($15.95) and the three orders of fish and chips for Armand, Lionel, and Ken.
The cod in those plates was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, even if that did involve, when I tasted it, pulling the thick beer batter off (just not my thing). The others loved the fried fish. The cole slaw was creamy and tasty.
Donna ordered the field greens salad with grilled shrimp ($13.90) and appreciated the fresh Moonstone Farms greens, the Narragansett Creamery ricotta on the accompanying toast, and the lemon Dijon vinaigrette.
Teenager Paul enjoyed his New England-style creamy quahog chowder ($5.95), though he didn't find the "crispy bacon" listed in the menu. He went off the seafood binge of the rest of the table and tried the portobello burger ($8.95). He was attracted to it by the grilled portabella cap with fresh mozzarella and basil pesto, but he didn't think the taste of the mushroom came through the other flavors.
Another favorite starter that we all sampled was the Point Judith calamari ($8.95), expertly cooked and served with fried capers, spicy mustard greens, and a citrus aioli. Bill and I indulged in some "spicy sriracha wings" ($10.95). Sriracha is a fiery-red Thai hot sauce, and I definitely needed to dip the wings into the cilantro-lime ranch dressing now and again. But they were meaty and delicious.