How is it that seafood at a restaurant located on the water's edge is more appetizing than at one located inland, even a few blocks up the street? I don't recall ever salivating because a steakhouse was next to a cow pasture.
The river view from Portsmouth's 15 Point Road is pleasant, which is fortunate since we arrived a few minutes before their 5 pm opening. But before we took seats on their deck near another couple, someone inside, not a stickler for rules, noticed the early arrivals and, with a welcoming smile, unlocked the door.
The place is informal, as indicated by the costumed, long-haired Halloween skeleton that greeted us in the entryway. There were numerous comfortable-looking banquettes, but we chose to sit at a small table with a panoramic window view. There were no tablecloths over the Formica, but there were white cloth napkins. I wouldn't have to pay for an extra laundry bill, but personally I would have preferred a slightly classier ambience to complement the view. Perhaps flowers, even silk ones, instead of the clunky quasi-lanterns that were on the tables.
The restaurant doesn't specialize in seafood, and though it's perched on a lovely stretch of the Sakonnet River, not on the mighty Atlantic's wave-wracked rocks, the inducement is the same. My dining companion and I were both drawn to sea fare — not that a carnivore would feel orphaned. I remember smiling here over a perfectly cooked, fork-tender duck breast under an orange demi-glaze.
In fact, a roasted half-duckling ($19), with a hoisin glaze this time, was among the three entrée specials. Priced to please. An even better deal, I should quickly add, is available Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays: a $20 prix fixe dinner. Four choices, from pesto-crusted salmon to a 10-ounce grilled rib eye, complete with wine or beer, salad and dessert. We went for that the last time we were here and weren't disappointed.
We looked over the appetizer choices. Half of the eight items were seafood, and two had "No15" before them. Our server explained that these indicated popular holdovers from the previous menu — the current owners, Sean and Carly Smith, took over a year and a half ago. Among the entrées, these included a deconstructed beef Wellington ($26), which layers filet mignon with puff pastry, portobello, and pate; drunken lobster penne ($23), with black pepper pink vodka sauce; and steak Diane ($25).
As it happened, without noticing, everything we ordered turned out to be one of these inherited dishes, although they number in the minority. Old hat but for good reasons. We started with the baked brie ($11). It was wrapped in phyllo dough and lightly browned, with crostini on which to spread it. The plate also sported a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a large dollop of red raspberry jam, which varied the taste opportunities beautifully.
Johnnie is allergic to crab, so I had the cup of crab bisque ($8) all to myself. That's fortunate, because I might have reflexively slapped her tasting spoon away. Dense with bits of the shellfish, it was creamy, slightly spicy, and also contained some corn and red flecks — red bell pepper? Quite wonderful.