There seems to be a reoccurring theme in the last few restaurants I’ve reviewed : the view. It may be safe to say that we’ve found a winner with the Boat House on the Sakonnet River in Tiverton. With a seafood-focused menu to match the picturesque waterfront scenery, the Boat House is definitely trying to raise the level of dining quality in a quiet part of the state.
Not to belabor the point, but you can’t help but continually look west as you enter. The whole design of the space tends to focus your eyes toward the wall of windows overlooking the river. The room is open and airy, with a large bar surrounded by tables and an outdoor seating area. As you might expect, being a waterfront restaurant named Boat House, there is a nautical theme to the design, but it’s very clean and understated so as to not compete with the river view.
We started with a couple of cocktails at the bar. As the sun set behind the restaurant, it cast some beautiful light across the river onto the coast of Portsmouth and Bristol. Several of the cocktails incorporate Newport-made Thomas Tew Rum, which is one of my favorite spirits. The Tew Old Fashioned and the Basil Gimlet, which uses Hendricks Gin and fresh basil, were great starts to the evening. In addition to their cocktail menu, the Boat House has a nice selection of wines, including over 30 by the glass, which is a good way for a group to have different selections to complement their own dishes, or to try a variety yourself.
After watching the sun set, we moved to our table. What other starter could we order at a seafood restaurant but chowder? The Creamy Clam Chowder ($6) has won competitions in the past and it was a very good one, not too thick or too full of potatoes, with lots of clams. But the Hall of Fame Chowder ($7) was definitely the winner between the two. This chowder was loaded with chourico and had a nice hunk of cornbread on top. It was excellent. While the rest of dinner did not disappoint, it might have been my favorite bite of the evening.
We also sampled a couple of salads and an appetizer. The Mixed Field Greens ($7) with tomato, cucumber, pickled onion, fennel and white balsamic-honey vinaigrette was a perfect side salad. The Arugula and Grains ($8) was tasty, but with the black quinoa, cucumber, tomato, feta, red onion and tahini vinaigrette, the greens were masked a little bit. The Pork and Clams ($12) was loaded with littlenecks, chourico, onions, garlic, tomato and a Vinho Verde broth, which was so good I made sure to sop up what was left with bread. I didn’t get an answer as to whether the Boat House’s chourico is house-made, but regardless, it was a high point in two dishes.
For dinner, we ordered the Georges Bank Scallops ($26) and Berkshire Pork Chop and Bacon ($26). The scallops were perfectly pan-roasted and the Brussels sprout-chestnut hash was a delicious side. That side, along with the autumn squash puree and cranberry butter, made the dish seem somewhat holiday-like. But, it was definitely an updated holiday with the scallops. The pork chop was beautifully cooked and very tasty, and the bacon was great. It is served with parsnip-celery root soubise, broccoli rabe, organic Maine beans and Banyuls vinegar. I could have gone for more of the soubise as I didn’t feel the rabe was such a perfect fit with the pork. Overall, the chop and bacon were the clear stars and very well done.
For dessert we tried a Chocolate Torte and the Bread Pudding. I made the torte disappear almost as soon as I tasted it. It was a very rich dessert but not so rich that I couldn’t clean the plate. It was an excellent chocolate dish. The pudding was good as well, but outshined by the torte.
The Boat House is part of the Newport Restaurant Group, which also runs 22 Bowen’s, Castle Hill Inn, The Mooring and Smokehouse in Newport; Hemenway’s and Waterman Grille in Providence; and Trio in Narragansett. I get the feeling the Boat House doesn’t get the attention that it should. The food is on par with the other Newport Restaurant Group restaurants and the location almost rivals that of Castle Hill on Ocean Drive in Newport. The cocktail and wine list is welcoming as well. Make sure to give the Boat House some more attention in 2012.