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Review: Aragosta Bar and Bistro

A robust Italian take on locavore cuisine
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  June 29, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

Aragosta - dining
SACRED COD Aragosta combines sophisticated plates with hearty flavor, as with this roasted cod and baby beet greens.

Sensing, the previous restaurant in this Battery Wharf hotel/condo development, was locavore and high-church French, but too subtle. Aragosta proposes to solve that problem with a more robust cuisine focused on the most local of all ingredients: seafood. The name is the Italian word for lobster; the message would seem to be that Italian equals hearty flavors.

Despite all this, my favorite appetizer — and perhaps the most outstanding item I tasted at Aragosta — was right out of the Sensing stylebook, the scallop crudo ($16) with shaved fennel, celery leaves, and limoncello. Almost everything on this flowery-looking platter is shaved, including the marinated sea scallops, the fennel, wonderful radish thins, and bits of clementine to pull up the citric flavor. Calamari salad ($11) is cold and refreshing, with arugula mixed in, and underlying purees of olive and bell pepper. If you love any one of those, mix it up with everything else. "Traditional New England clam chowder" ($10) represents a necessity of a hotel restaurant, but it isn't very traditional — way thicker, flavored primarily with waxy potatoes, and Frenchified with house-made croutons. There is bread and olive oil with a few olives in it, if you want to skip appetizers.

The necessary entrée is lobster fra diavalo with lobster spaghettini ($39). Some early criticism led the kitchen to add more hot pepper, to give the Devil his due, but the spaghetti is the same dried pasta we eat at my house, the sauce is uninspired, and the generous split lobster tails (I'd guess from a 1-1/2 pound or larger decapod) were slightly underdone and difficult to get out of the shell. Here, some of that French cheffery might have made for a better, if less hearty, eating experience.

As at a steak house, most menu items (though not some less-expensive entrées) required side dishes. Grilled artichokes ($7) weren't special enough to justify their price (although the grilled garlic cloves with them were cool), especially as served in a tiny Staub La Cocotte French oven. On the other hand, the spring pea risotto ($7) packs enough flavor, beauty, and richness in each bite to be a don't-miss-this. The roasted cod loin ($27) is a perfectly fine little version of scrod, especially as local cod are in season; the platter also features baby beet greens.

Seared tuna ($29) is a pretty typical dish, done here with style. The odd triangles of mostly raw fish combine seared crust, cooked flavor, and raw texture in a way that I found intriguing, and the underlayment of slow-roasted and slightly caramelized fennel and onions is exquisite. Little piles of ground almonds are like an Asian accent. It's wonderful.

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