J’s Oyster Bar, Portland

J’s Oyster Bar is a local institution in Portland and is authentic and Portland as it comes. The J stands for the restaurant’s owner Janice “J” Noyes and J’s Oyster is the epitome of a locally owned Maine seafood joint.

The restaurant is right off the water and has simple leather bar seating, wood walling and is filled with a few tourists, businessmen eating chowder and the remainder seem like regulars.

The seafood focused menu is very straight forward and J’s Oyster has specific rules including no reservations.  They also do not accommodate special orders or make substitutions. What you see is what you get. The menu is filled with salads, sandwiches and seafood based soups.

After an unbelievable Lobster Roll from Island Creek Oyster Bar, I wanted to try J’s rendition. The red colored lobster place mat was very informative and explained the steps on how to eat a lobster.

I really enjoyed an order of Half Dozen Raw oysters for $6.50. The oysters were served with  lemon, cocktail sauce, horseradish and oyster crackers. The oysters were fresh, briney and exactly what I wanted. The oyster were the best aspect of our meal.

The Haddock filet sandwich was just ok according to my dining companion. The haddock itself was well cooked, but seemed under seasoned. It was was served with chips and a pickle ($8.50) and we were not able to substitute in a salad or french fries. J’s Oyster does not have fires. My friend and I both wished there were homemade tartar sauce versus prepackaged.

J’s Oysters lobster roll was filled with chunks of lobster on a bed of lettuce and a buttered hot dog bun ($12.50). The roll was served with with chips and a pickle and not dressed in mayo.

I can not decide if I like the ability to control the amount of mayonnaise in my lobster roll or if I wanted the restaurant to already add the perfect amount. We have made our own lobster rolls at home, and prefer ours (BMH’s lobster roll).

Next time, I would try the clam chowder, scallops with lemon and dill and the lobster pernod.

J's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

2011 Reflection: Readers vs BMH, Recipes and Restaurants

It is always intriguing to compare what BMH readers view and discover which restaurants and recipes are the most clicked versus our favorites.

In 2011, readers gravitated towards the No Bake Mascarpone CheesecakeShiritaki Fettucine Alfredo and proteins Chinese Bourbon ChickenBeef Lasagna with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Pan-Fried Pork Chop. The impetus for the No Bake Mascarpone Cheesecake was out of sheer laziness. The protein dishes were in search for comfort food and the Shiritaki Fettucine Alfredo was a recipe to slow down on the carbohydrate in take.

Crispy Pan-Fried Pork Chop

The recipes BMH enjoyed last year were Crab Cakes and Remoulade Sauce, Spicy Mayo BLT and Banana Foster Bread. Both the crab cakes and bread were influenced by food travels in New Orleans and we  enjoyed almost once every other month a Weeknight Roast Chicken. After perpetually ordering kheer for dessert, it was only time before we tried to attempt it ourselves.

Weeknight Roast Chicken

Kheer Rice Pudding

Our reader’s most clicked restaurants reviews included Winsor Dim Sum Cafe (for the crispy spring roll), Lithuanian Kitchen (for the cepelinai) and the following:

41 Degrees (for the the Iberian ham air baguette)

Flour Bakery (for the sticky buns)

Momofuku Milk Bar (for the salted pistachio soft serve)

Some of our personal restaurant favorites include American tapas, The Brahmin (for the truffled mac and cheese), The Gallows (for the poutine and burgers) and the following:

Tapacs 24 (for the huevos estrellados)

Island Creek Oyster Bar (for the lobster roll)

Angelo Brocato (for the peach gelato)

Xoco (for the churros and empanadas)

Cheers to 2011, the New Year and may it bring good health, happiness and many pleasant food memories. -The BMH sisters

Island Creek Oyster Bar and Boston Brunchers, Kenmore, Boston

I recently commented on what brunch means to BakingMeHungry. “We love brunch because after sleeping in, brunch embodies Lazy Sunday. Who doesn’t love unlimited coffee, eggs and good conversation!” When Renee Hirschberg, founder of Boston Brunchers, tweeted and wrote on her blog Eat Live Blog, that I be joining the 1st Birthday Brunch for Boston Brunchers, I was thrilled.

This past Sunday morning, I ran into a former co-worker and I mentioned  where I was heading to for bunch.  He had only positive reviews on their own dinner experience and how nice the restaurant was. I walked past Hotel Commonwealth and entered Island Creek Oyster Bar.

I was the second to arrive after Richard of (The Passionate Foodie) and we instantaneously chatted about my newfound love of sparkling sake and his sake certification.

Immediately, I noticed the spacious room, lighting, oyster bar and overall design. While we were waiting, asked the friendly hostess how long ICOB has been in this location and she said its their one year birthday as well, opening in October 2010. The decor and serenity of the room, wood, oyster shells against the walls is very unique and cool. 

The oyster bar is very sleek and ice and oysters were well displayed. I would love to come back and try out the dinner menu or have a cocktail with friends and I mentioned this to the General Manager Tom on my way to the ladies room.

The service was warm and impeccable. Our servers and the kitchen was seamless and the staff executed really well for a group of 39 other brunch attendees and a full restaurant.

Since I had a coffee right before arriving to the brunch, I had a pot of green tea. The tea was soothing and was quickly refilled after I finished the first pot.

At my table was  Richard (The Passionate Foodie), Anthea (Night Kitchener), Marie (Cook With Abandon), Rachel of Boston.com and two other ticket winners who was in public relations and is a nanny by profession. We had an opportunity to chat about some favorite restaurants, food and food trends. On the other end of the table was  Sue (Public Radio Kitchen), Michelle (The Economical Eater), Robin (Doves & Figs) and although we were not able to chat, hopefully at the next event we will be able to connect.

Then two baskets of pastries came to are table filled with a blueberry muffin, doughnut muffin, cinnamon roll, croissant, raspberry crumb cake and scone. All the baked goods looked tempting, but our servers highly recommended the doughnut muffin and raspberry crumb cake.

Given how much I adore doughnuts and muffins, the hybrid combination of the was a fantasy fulfilled. The doughnut muffin was tender, lightly sweet and I craved the other half. I think will try to recreate this novel idea myself.

I also tried ICOB’s cinnamon roll, which had a hardened glaze over the lightly cinnamon flavored pastry. Although it was good, it was a bit too dry for my liking.

The cocktail I tried was a Red Beer (ICOB Pilsner topped with housemade sangrita). I liked the bite and bitterness of the  pilsner and it really reminded me of autumn. I have had beer and champagne before at Mistral and loved it, but I have not tried wine and beer together. The combination requires a sophisticated palate and a few of us who ordered it thought it was very tasty, but a bit too heavy to drink the whole beverage.

A lot of other folks at the table seemed really pleased with their Bloody Mary and McCarthy’s Crossing (pear brandy, spiced honey, rose vermouth, lemon and bubbles). Rachel of Boston.com ordered a second McCarthy’s Crossing, so her cocktail must have be quite enjoyable.

Our entire table ordered either the cinnamon french toast with caramelized bananas and toasted almonds or Ethel’s lobster roll on a rosemary roll with homemade kettle chips and cole slaw. The french toast serving was quite generous and Richard mentioned it was one of the top french toasts he has had and many brunchers didn’t finish their place.

I had Ethel’s lobster roll on a rosemary roll with homemade kettle chips and cole slaw. The lobster roll was stuffed with full lobster claws and meat and the hint of rosemary on the buttered roll really made the sandwich unique. I enjoyed the crunch of the kettle chips, which could have been a little tad bit saltier and the coleslaw was really creamy and refreshing. Going forward, any visitors I host in Boston will be directed to the ICOB lobster roll and restaurant for a thoughtful representation of New England seafood.

What I found quite humorous was the amount of strategy involved to elegantly consume the lobster roll. What was the best methodology? Amongst just grabbing the entire roll, Divide the lobster roll in half and carefully enjoy.

Thank you so much to Renee, all the attendees and the Birthday Brunch’s generous sponsors. I had a wonderful first Boston Brunchers first experience.

Whole Food’s swag bags

Goodie bag filled with coupons, samples and literature I need to go through.

I cannot wait to read the Foodies magazine, Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and Salty Sweets.

America’s Test KitchenBarefoot WineBibaBiltmore Bar & GrillBoston BalletBoston Center for Adult EducationBoston Food FindsCow and CrumbCumberland FarmsDorado Tacos & CemitasDore CreperieDoves and Figs KitchenEversave BostonFoodies of New EnglandThe Four Seasons BostonHaircutteryHarvard Common PressiPartyKloutKO Catering & PiesLangham Hotel Boston,Phillips Candy HousePinkberryPretzel CrispsPopchipsStages of BeautyStonyfieldUSA Pears

Island Creek Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Neptune Oyster, North End, Boston

This quaint intimate restaurant is tucked away in the North End. I have always heard very good things about this restaurant from friends and family. It has been quite awhile since I’ve visited but Neptune Oyster did not disappoint.

Triton Plateau Crab Salad, Lobster Salad, Large Shrimp, Mussels, Oysters, Cherrystone Clams

Everything was delicious and fresh. I didn’t really like the mignonette sauce as much since the size of the “minced” shallots were quite large. The oysters were salty briny tender goodness. The mussels were clean tasting. The cherrystone clams were smaller than I was used to but were still good quality. The jumbo shrimp were succulent and meaty. I highly enjoyed the lobster salad as it didn’t have the typical mayo but a lemony dressing. The crab salad had large lumps of crabmeat and had a bit more mayo than I was expecting. One thing I will say is they do not skimp.

Maine Lobster Roll toasted roll, hot with butter

This is certainly one of the best lobster rolls you can have in Boston! I’ve never had a bad one here. It’s mostly tail and claw meat. There’s no vegetables mixed into the lobster. The potato roll is gently grilled and brushed with butter. The lobster is doused in butter so that the excess gets absorbed into the roll. I ate all of the lobster meat but left most of the roll because I was getting full. The fries were pleasantly crunchy and retained their shape. They were well salted.

Seared Georges Bank Scallops roasted porchetta, rainbow Swiss chard, sweet turnips, country mustard sauce, bing cherries

This is great dish to share. The scallops are just cooked til done. The tartness from the mustard sauce, sweetness from the cherries and the saltiness from the porchetta go well with the scallops.

Daily Special, Lobster Spaghettini

If you have the chance to go to Neptune Oyster on a Monday, the daily special will not disappoint you. The al dente spaghetti is just sauced enough. There’s at least a whole lobster in this dish and they certainly do not hold back on the amount of seafood you get, like some other establishments.

I would definitely come back here again. Neptune Oyster serves top quality seafood. I would love to try the Neptuneburger, Neptunes on Piggyback, Crudo Special, Blue Crab cocktail or more oysters. Note that reservations are not accepted, however the waitress will take your name and number, then call you 5-10 minutes before they seat you so you can come back. I would definitely try to get here for an early dinner around 5-6pm or later around 8pm, Monday through Thursday. Weekends in the North End are horrendous for dining as the wait can be much longer than an hour with lines extending around the corner. Dinner was followed with nice leisurely walk through the quaint cobble-stoned streets. We lingered to enjoy the summer breeze with a stop at Cafe Vittoria to share a slice of tiramisu and have a coffee.
63 Salem St.
Boston, MA 02110
Tel: (617) 742-3474

Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon