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Neptune Oyster This Sunday; Recs Please?

Looks like this sunday will finally see our baptism there.I've read the threads from end of last yr. Anyone gone recently and have recs? I've spent alot of time comparing seafood menus but this one really grabbed me - with so many unusual and appealling things.

Lobster roll sounds great but we'd likely get more unusual dishes. Love sturgeon and never see it on menus, so am tempted by that. Their fish tacos are beloved by some CHs though cornmeal crust and flour tortillas deter me. Vitello tonnato sandwich? Johnnycakes w/ smoked trout? Yellowtail?

Also, I can't remember- are PNW oysters generally better later in the year?

Do you think 2-4PM a better chance of quick seating? Thanks much for your help. We're psyched!


Neptune Oyster
63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

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  1. I've only had the basics, so can't comment on your specific requests, but looking at the menu, the vitello tonnato is 'cooked to order' which I believe, is not a good sign (no expert here), since I believe the authentic recipe requires an intensive braising of the beef, usually a day in advance.


    1. The Fried Clams.
      The Neptune Burger.

      9 Replies
      1. re: marcusnaz14

        I believe the * on the vitello tonnato refers to the fact that the tuna is raw (tartare), not that the veal wasn't braised. It's the health warning required by the state.

        I've only had the lobster roll and the pork/fried oyster dish, both of which were outstanding, My DC's have had the clam chowder, the burger, yellow fin, and the raw bar, all outstanding.

        I've been right when the open on weekend days for lunch and within an hour the place was mobbed.

        1. re: Madrid

          The Veal in the Vitello Tonnato is sliced very thin, almost like roast beef then topped with tuna tartare, spicy mustard, and cucumbers if I recall correctly.

          1. re: phatchris

            hmmm chris, thanks for the info. Sounds terrible :)

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              In Italy, it is a fantastic dish :) Thin veal strip with a tuna sauce, not tartare.

              1. re: Trumpetguy

                yahhhhh!! i had just re-watched tony in sardinia w/ this orgasmic spaghettini w/ bottarga shaved on top etc. Shaved as in long thin slices, not powdered :-)

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  That sounds amazing for sure, but I was referring to the Vitello Tonnato :)

                  1. re: Trumpetguy

                    ah yes, sorry. i love tuna tartare but i just feel that the NOyst sandwich in question would not be my idea of good.That robust cooked tuna/anchovy/mayo/lemon flavor
                    so necessary for a great vitello tonnato. But then i am not a surf and turf person much (w/ the exception of bacon of COURSE!)

              2. re: opinionatedchef

                One of my favorite sandwiches in Boston.

                1. re: ILoVermont

                  Vt, i was looking over this post today and am laughing major. I feel really silly reading my vitello tonnato skepticism(i have no memory of tghat post, truth be told) because this N.O. sandwich eventually became one of my 2011 food epiphanies, and my go-to dish there this last summer. So your enthusiasm, and other CHs'- lodged in my mind and got me to break through my close-mindedness- so Thank you so much!!

        2. Our favorites are:

          Fried Clams - homemade tartar sauce is amazing
          Lobster Roll with butter - french fries are incredible
          Scallop entree is always amazing no matter what the preparation is.
          Bellinis are great, flavors change depending on the day/season

          When you arrive they will take your name and phone number so you can go and sit and have a cocktail or a glass of wine down the street.

          Have a great time.

          1. Were were there last night. It was just OK. The oysters were great as usual, we stick with the east coast oysters (I'll eat the west coasters when I am out there). The lobster cocktail was great as well and a decent portion for the $$.

            We also ordered several crudos. The scallop crudo was excellent and I would highly recommend. The special crudo was black bass served over a puree which featured ramps. While the accompaniment was excellent, the black bass was fairly tough. I'm not sure if it was the fish or the way it was cut, but chewy fish isn't my thing.

            We also ordered the special of the day which was a sardine dish. I guess I have never been to Neptune on a Thu, but I did not did the way they did sardines. First of all, the sardines were huge. I always have the ideal of simple grilled sardines in my mind. These monsters were deep fried, however the dish was cold when it hit the table. Also, with the sardines so large, the bones were a bit much and were noticable on the way down. The waitress noticed it was left half eaten and pulled it off the bill, which was much appreciates. She offered to bring something else, but we opted for dessert at Modern. Service was much friendlier than past experiences, but we were at a table and not the bar. Still, order your drinks ahead as getting a 2nd beer was a challenge. Too bad it wasn't Monday as we love the spaghettini. Overall it was a disappointment that both specials were misses.

            On previous visits we thought the lobster rolls were good, but there are better and more generous versions around IMO. They do a great crab louis salad which is not on the menu unfortunately. The crudos are a favorite, and the mussels are always food. We generally don't order the entrees there, specials are usually reliable (just not last night). I would go heavy on the raw bar and maybe split at least one roll to see what it is like for yourself (hot buterred version).

            2-4 should be your best timeframe, but the sun is supposed to come out on Sunday so it might be somewhat busy. Remember, you can leave your name/cell# and walk around the NE. Go on the earlier side and the wait should be less than an hour at worst (hopefully).

            1. Fried clams, for sure. Lobster roll, I prefer the butter version but both are good. The johnnycake dish is outstanding. Fish tacos are pretty darn great as well.

              1. I know everyone raves about the lobster roll there, but I love the burger. It's juicy and topped with three fried oysters on an awesome brioche bun and some of the best fries in the city. Have a great time!

                1. The tacos are HUGE and really good. Don't remember them being cornmeal crusted, more like the same light fry as their awesome fried clams.

                  1. Hmmmmm. wicked happy campers were we. Walked into a waiting table at 4pm.Man i hope they are going to physically expand a bit. That 'aisle' to the back just HAS to be 'not code' (imagine the horrors of having to work the floor there. made me feel particularly justified in tipping well.)

                    The fried clams were unique for any i happen to have had in the past. Very strongly , but bright and cleanly, flavored- as if they had jumped right out of the sea. very meaty and very big bellies. the fried crust(flour based, not cornmeal) was clean tasting, not greasy. i am not a tartar sauce fan (i'm lemon, lemon and more lemon) but theirs was a notably superior one.

                    The oysters were a treat. I guess i have finally found some east coast oysters that i like ( Island Creek and especially Summerside from N.B. today)where before i have been exclusively a PNW oyster girl(the kushi were just good today.)

                    My Love's Scallops with corn and mushrooms on pork -were just tremendous. May have been the sweetest scallops i have ever tasted. My 2 apps. were equally perfect>> the Johnnycake w/ smoked trout and maple butter and the raw Tuna and avocado crostini w/ piquant citrus drizzle. really appreciated the commendable proportions of everything. And such a great treat when food is perfectly seasoned. As My Love said, "These dishes don't need anything but our mouths."

                    With the above foods plus one beer and fries,we walked away, post tip, for $ 126 . But the service was excellent and the food was both inspiring and luscious. Can't wait to go back. (gosh that feels good to say. i want MORE of these places.)

                    i found ruth tobias' blog review of NO, with lots of good photos, to be terrifically helpful. scroll down for it:


                    Neptune Oyster
                    63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      we went again, yesterday, sunday 5/1/11. 4:30pm and waited an hour for a deuce. repeated dishes from before. terrif food again but i will say that i think that that amount of fried clams for $19 ,is ludicrous. and w/ no fries?! i mean, REALLY, that just seems unadmirably measly. And I would not recommend the burrata roasted pepper battarga app., simply because the battarga amount ['shaved'? how 'bout 'dusted' :-( ] was also ludicrous. Now, the talented always-there- except- tues/wed chef was off site yestday so maybe that affected our plates..........I did have a chance to ask our super helpful waiter if the owner was a nice guy (just curious because someone dissed him in another thread). Both waitstaff rolled their eyes and sparkle smiled and said he was:" 'the best' and would 'do anything for his staff'; that's why no one leaves." So now i'm really glad i asked. I think next time (3rd time's a charm?) i'm finally going to get the fish tacos and simply ask for more tortillas (they serve 2 huMONGous pieces of fried fish in each of the two not- big- enough tortillas) and bring my own chipotle mayo if they don't have it there. Silky unctuous Skate is one of my all time fav fish so i guessing i will love it fried.

                    2. The razor clams are perfectly prepared and something you don't see on many menus. The blue crab cocktail will have you licking the bowl.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: rouxmaker

                        roux, i know not from razor clams. can you compare them to anything else in taste and texture? Appreciate the lesson.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          Texture like braised or steamed calimari (firm yet tender). Taste is like a scallop but sweeter.

                          1. re: rouxmaker

                            There's a really good razor clam app at Island Creek Oyster Bar. The texture is a little tenderer than calimari, iMO, but in that range. The flavors more clammy, more like a grilled littleneck.

                            Island Creek Oyster Bar
                            500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                If you look at your own Ruth Tobias link, above, you'll find a nice picture of the razor clams in her review of ICOB!

                                1. re: justbeingpolite

                                  I really love Neptune and prefer it to ICOB. Although there is much to love about ICOB, Neptune has more progressive, creative dishes which are always executed and seasoned perfectly. It's always a bit of a revelation in flavor pairing when we try stuff other than the old stand-bys. Inspiring and luscious is a perfect way to describe their food, OC.... And I find the staff to be great as well, casual and relaxed, know their menu well and are attentive enough, but aren't putting on a show or hovering over you. I actually don't mind the cramped, loud space. I totally dig the parisian bistro vibe and always feel transported when we go there. I too wish there were more restaurants I could gush about like Neptune.

                              2. re: rouxmaker

                                roux, thanks to your educating me, i have had razor clams at a few spots now.Island Creek Oyster Bar's were just so perfect- succulent and simple- garlic, lemon, parsley.
                                The ones at Myers+Change last week were disappointingly gritty and i didn't care for their treatment (scallion butter).So fun to learn about these. Maybe i can return the favor>> fresh Portuguese sardines at Rendezvous.

                          2. I had dinner at Neptune Oyster this past saturday. My wife and I showed up at around 5pm and were seated in 45mins (they had called earlier, but we didn't hear the phone). We had seats right by the door and after 6pm, we can over hear that the wait would be 2 hours. So it's definitely better to get there before 6pm. I ordered the hot Lobster Roll and it was incredible. The biggest surprise though is what my wife ordered. She is deathly allergic to shellfish, so she ordered the Rib-Eye with Fries. It was one of the best steaks we have ever eaten! It had a nice sear on it and was cooked to perfection. A great non-seafood option.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: demeen25

                              When I read 'fries' in your post, I got very concerned, thinking about all the fried clams they serve there. So this must prove that they have one fryolator for fries and another for seafood.( That might be a duh for many readers but i know nothing of fried food practices. I wonder if the more 'joint-like' seafood shacks have separate fryolators as well....)

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                My wife was fine with the fries because we frequent Fish and Chip joints frequently where they have the one fryer. We were more concerned with the Rib-Eye because they mentioned they only have the one grill.

                            2. In the recent past, the best meal I've had, hands down, was at Neptune. Perfect food. Perfect service. Perfect atmosphere. If there was a heaven, and they were serving, I was there. There were four of us and we had the ersters and the small scallop dish (which meant splitting the scallop four ways which worked for us as the scallop was God's Own Creation) and the steamed clams and, oh it was a while ago so I can't remember other dishes except I also remember the feeling of utter perfection that pervaded me as I walked out and drove home and fell asleep.

                              That all said, following that visit, I went with my family again. They were eager, I was eager to recreate all the above. But when the bar is set high...well...you can imagine.

                              The worst part was, in the visit with my family, that the fried clams had one grit of sand in each clam. Exactly one. I have no idea how the sand was perfectly and uniformly distributed. They must have someone in the back with small fingers doing that work. Has anyone else had such an experience?

                              BTW Sometimes they make their own lemonade and it is some very fine lemonade...and sometimes they don't make their own and it's, well, not interesting.

                              BTBTW Whoever their fry chef is deserves mucho commendation. As has been noted, it seems like everything fried at this place is wunnnnderful. Not what you'd expect from a place known for fresh and uncooked seafood!

                              1. Addendum to my own original post about timing, we usually go Sunday at 4pm and either get in right away, or wait an hour. just fyi , we stopped in when driving back into town late, 9:30, last night (sunday) and they weren't taking any more people.

                                1. Johnny Cakes here were delicious we thought, first time we've heard of/had them!

                                  FYI we went on a Saturday at 3pm with 6 ppl and had to still wait till 6pm to get seated...also it was like 20 degrees outside and nowhere to go to "wait/hangout" in the North End since everything is so tight and cramped but Neptune Oyster was still worth it!

                                  Neptune Oyster
                                  63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: coweepooh

                                    I had that johnny cake (as they spell it) dish recently, topped with smoked trout and caviar (from Little Pearl, gonna guess American sturgeon): superb.

                                    Denied on grilled cuttlefish on another recent trip, though: sold out just before I ordered. Wah.


                                  2. guess i have to give these guys credit.
                                    3 hour waits, bad front of the house attitude (personal experience) and checks that easily hit 100 per person.
                                    people love to be abused.
                                    for fish.
                                    id rather have dental work than go back here.

                                    17 Replies
                                    1. re: hyde

                                      Problem is the food is so darn good. Rats!!!

                                      1. re: hyde

                                        "people love to be abused.
                                        for fish."

                                        I guess it's only fair, after what the fish went through. For our fare. Ugh.

                                        1. re: hyde

                                          hyde, believus meus, i have been in your shoes at other restnts. as to " i'll never go back there ", even based on one experience (which some could understandably criticize, of course). I just wish that hadn't been your experience(s) there, as we have never had that happen there, and the owner is omnipresent. wish you would go with us some time.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            Plenty of people have reported the same treatment despite the owner's omnipresence. We still go on occasion, but only if someone else requests it. The food can be excellent, but the service and attitude sucks more often than not. How many times have you been to Neptune since first trying it 6 months ago?

                                            1. re: Gabatta

                                              six or seven. maybe I have a skewed service opinion because we always sit at a table and try to get Victor for our waiter. He is a sweet helpful fellow. and he has been as effusive about the Neptune owner as the servers at Rendezvous have been about Steve Johnson; both places have staff that feel really well treated by the owner.

                                              i know it has to be one of the most stressful Boston rooms to work in; maybe some people just need a vacation................

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                Do you mean Vinny? He's my favorite!

                                                1. re: yumyum

                                                  yes, i guess i'm tired. Vinny, of course! what a great guy.

                                            2. re: opinionatedchef

                                              appreciate the offer, thank you, but this place will never receive another dollar (or 200 for that matter) of my money. to many deserving places for a LOT less money. the tourists can have it.

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                You wrote off Oleana for 10 years for a couple bad experiences, now it's your favorite place.

                                                One or two bad experiences is not enough to write off a restaurant in my book. Waiting 2 or 3 hours for a table and then having to deal with an attitude is enough for me, and I've been to NO dozens of times over the years although this is the first year I haven't visited thanks to ICOB.

                                                134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                                  i don't get the attack. i like neptune oyster.

                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                    No attack.

                                                    If you've been in those shoes of "never going back there", (the Oleana reference) then you understand where they are coming from Why try and change their mind with your experience.

                                                    Aside from the dishes at Neptune Oyster, because everything I've ever ordered there has been great, but my experience over the years have gone from good to not enjoyable at all for wait and attitude.

                                                    My point being, if you give up on a place for one or two bads, you could be potentially missing out on many years of your favorite, instead of just 6 months. Where as I just didn't give up on Neptune because of the wait and attitude. I put up with it because they serve food that I liked.

                                                    Now that there is a place (ICOB) that makes my stomach happy, and can handle the volume of customers better, I don't have to put up with the wait or tude anymore.

                                                    Neptune Oyster
                                                    63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                                    134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                    1. re: Infomaniac

                                                      not at all trying to change their mind; my experience was intended for all readers.

                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                        We know your experince here, but my initial response was to your reply directed to only hyde about judging based on one experience. Thats all. Maybe you weren't following the trail.

                                              2. re: hyde

                                                I'm with you. Insufferable attitude.

                                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                                  I don't get it. I've never had attitude at the bar at Neptune Oyster, quite the contrary. The servers there are efficient, personable and enthusiastic about what they do. As a semi-regular (I try to go once a month or so) I'm remembered and made to feel valued as a guest. Maybe it has something to do with the beatific smile I can't help when eating those extraordinary cherrystones with Muscadet, or the tuna ribbons (yesterday with fabulous watercress instead of microgreens, nice changeup), or in season their beautiful lobster caprese salad.
                                                  Yes it gets crowded and noisy in there, and if you're not first in line when it opens you might have a wait, but the food is worth it and the good service I've always gotten is a plus.

                                                  Neptune Oyster
                                                  63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                                  1. re: marais

                                                    respectfully disagree. its all yours.

                                                    1. re: marais

                                                      I agree with Marais. Never had anything but great service and food.

                                                2. We all have places that hit our sweet spot or our crazy bone. And, this can happen for dozens of reasons– atmosphere, sound levels, staff attitude, the chef's seasoning levels, price point, or "who knows why?" (That's often the case with my husband who can take a dislike for a place with no obvious reason.)

                                                  Neptune has been a favorite for me and my husband since it opened. We get there often because just thinking about it makes us smile. If either of us suggest it, it's an easy sell.

                                                  We have an entire North End routine built around the wait for a spot at the bar. But, being freelancers we can often slip in at odd times. We've had a couple of times when we've had less than perfect service but that was usually because we were sitting near the door and the place was mobbed.

                                                  On the whole, over years of visits we've been treated very well by everyone. Or, perhaps we've just learned to enjoy the varied personalities who exist companionably in the tiny room. I make a habit of watching the interactions.

                                                  For us, Neptune is a delight-filled food choice laced with the possibility of meeting interesting characters, in line waiting, at the next table or barstool, and among the staff. We always seem to come away with something to talk about and think about.

                                                  If a place puts your nerves on edge, for whatever reason, you should stay away. And, it's good to share that here because there are others who will appreciate your point of view. For me, it's some types of music and sound levels that prevent quiet conversation.

                                                  Popular places often bring about these polarized reactions from those who think and care about food. It's one of the prices a restaurant pays for being near the top of the charts.

                                                  When I read discussions like this, I always click on the names, read more from the people with opposing views, and try to decide whose taste and foibles are most like mine. Over time, you figure out enough background information to be able to say, "Ah, but price is really important to her," or "But, he likes the cocktail scene and I don't," or "Yes, if he thinks this pizza is great, I will too."


                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: BostonZest

                                                    Very nicely and eloquently put, Penny. We should point to this post whenever this type of discussion comes up again... which it will! :o)

                                                      1. re: BostonZest

                                                        penny, that is one of the best and most articulate posts i have read on CH. Thanks so much, and more power to you.