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My first meal at Island Creek Oyster Bar -- not great

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Island Creek Oyster Bar has been a darling of this board since the day it opened, but for a variety of not very good reasons, and notwithstanding that I have been beating the drum forever about the fact that Boston was in desperate need of a higher end seafood restaurant, I hadn't made it to ICOB until last night.

Last night I found myself with an unexpected free night, so I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to see if I could get a seat at the bar at ICOB to see what the fuss was all about. Everything was going perfectly: no traffic on the drive from Cambridge, no hassle (and free) parking on Deerfield St., and the last seat at the bar when I walked in the door.

The menu is beautiful, with virtually everything sounding appealing. I really wanted the fried clams -- haven't had any in a long time -- but since this was my first visit, I didn't want to make any decisions without soliciting advice from the staff. Paul at the bar ("is a friend of mine, he gets me my drinks for free"; if he got the reference, he showed no humor about it; maybe he's heard it too often) touted the oysters (of course), but also said the oyster sliders were a "signature item." As for the entrees, he raved about the lobster roe noodles. If I wanted something lighter, he suggested the halibut with whole grain mustard spaetzle, grilled red onions and fava beans.

I liked the sound of the halibut, and paired it with a duo of oyster sliders and a glass of delicious (and strong) Belgian ale. The oysters were delicious, albeit without a lot of "oysterness" to them. Certainly for those wanting a more intense briny experience, raw oysters are the way to go, but perhaps the combination of generously buttered and grilled brioche buns, lime chile aioli and tabasco sauce (I can't eat fried seafood without tabasco sauce!!) overwhelmed the poor little bivalves. Yet they were delicious nonetheless, and when my plate was cleared, I commented that I thought I wanted another dozen of them. A good start to my meal!

Next came the halibut, the most disappointing part of my meal. The moment my fork touched the fish, I knew it was overcooked. Instead of yielding to the slightest touch of my fork, the fish required firm pressure to penetrate it. And while it wasn't completely devoid of moistness, it just wasn't what it should have been. If I were the type to send food back to the kitchen, this would have been the time. (We could, of course, have a many-post-long debate on sending food back to the kitchen, but irrespective of your position on the matter, my view is that this piece of fish never should have come out of the kitchen in the first place. Although I have no training in professional cooking, I have to imagine that any well trained line cook would know by the firmness of this piece of fish that it was overcooked.) The spaetzle was fine, although probably overcooked, too, and the whole grain mustard flavor was perhaps too subtle.

For dessert, I ordered the donuts with lavender pastry cream and red berry coulis. They were very nice, but would have been much better if served warm. (They were served at room temperature with refrigerator cold filling.) Like the mustard flavor with my fish, I found the lavender flavor of the filling to be too subtle (although I'm willing to admit that I might not be the best judge of these things, as I constantly overwhelm my taste buds with rivers of hot sauce, strong beers, and strong coffees). Also the red berry coulis smacked to me of the sauce that gets served with the cliche flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce; my view is that a velvety chocolate sauce would be a great improvement.

I'm sorry if I sound overly critical. I enjoyed my overall experience -- the vibe of the place, the service, the action at the bar -- and certainly will go back. But it wasn't as good as I expected, and unless my future experience demonstrates that my meal was an anomaly, I'll go back to lamenting the lack of good, higher end seafood restaurants in Boston.

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  1. i've also never been a fan of their fish (which i described as overcooked in my post when they opened), or the lobster roe noodles. I go mainly for their raw bar, fried food, and drinks (not necessarily in that order :) I find the seafood much more reliable at Bergamot, where at least they dont overcook it.

    1. they keep changing the sauce served with the donuts. The first time I went, it was caramel sauce and it was perfect. Then the last time I believe it was a pumpkin butter sort of thing which was okay but not as good.

      I wish they'd go back to caramel!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChinaCat

        Yes, caramel (and warm donuts) would've been nice!

      2. Over/under cooking, while regrettable, happens. You weren't at a Michelin 3 star type place, so on occasion food cooked like that is occasional going to come out of the kitchen. Your only recourse is to send it back. If you are dining solo, you don't even need to worry about messing up the cadence of your DCs. Sorry you had a bad experience. Our experiences at ICOB have been very good (not anything to gush about), except for on Sox game days when it is a crap shoot.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Gabatta

          While I hear what you're saying, this is a place that specislizes in fish and charges a price point where poor execution should be a very rare occurrence. That said, my sample (n=1) is not large enough to make any generalizations, other than to say that overlooked fish at ICOB should be an exceedingly rare occurrence, irrespective of their lack of Michelin (or any other) stars. I'm not going to judge them a bad restaurant based on this single experience, but it was a disappointment. I absolutely will give them another shot. Soon. It is a place I'd really like to like.

          1. re: Blumie

            agree totally. if they overcook my haddock dinner at courthouse for 13USD because they are slammed, ok. if they are charging more than twice that ANYWHERE ,especially at a place that considers itself one of the top 3 or 4 seafood places in Boston, it should come out dead perfect.

            but then what do i know, i cant discern the difference between the 27usd seafood dinner at morse seafood in the south end, which looks to me able to feed a basketball team and the same 27usd for the lobster roll at neptune oyster. everybody's got their thing.

            1. re: hyde

              Fortunately, you could buy the $14 lobster salad roll at Morse and compare directly to the $25 roll at Neptune.

            2. re: Blumie

              Russell house tavern is another place that does fish better than ICOB and they don't even claim to be seafood specialists.

          2. I've probably had 4-5 meals now at Island Creek and they have all been good to very good but none that I would describe as excellent. One time it was a service issue (the dreaded team of waiters instead of one waiter assigned to your table) and another time I ordered wrong. The only items I have had that I would describe as outstanding are the fresh oysters, the oyster sliders and the lobster roe noodles. Perhaps I got a bad batch but I did not care for their fried clams.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gordough

              Had brunch there yesterday and definitely had service issues, like: hovering over us while we were eating our oysters to get us to order our bruch items (place was not full), when we did order and waited and waited until we flagged down the waiter to check out where our order was - came out immediately (clearly had been sitting in the kitchen) and finally haveing to flag down the hostess to get our bill processed. The fresh oysters were great but the rest of food was good but not worth a special trip.

            2. Next time try the arugula salad with pickled rhubarb, pistachios and pecorino. Salad perfection.

              1 Reply
              1. re: peelmeagrape

                Lineage is pretty much the same cast & crew and for my money, the fish is better cooked. It's smaller and smarter food.

              2. I've been to ICOB three times now, and have never really understood the fuss. I found it ok, but nothing special. It's not my habit to trash restaurants (really, isn't there enough of that on the 'net these days?), but I guess I would say I feel like they're trying too hard, if that makes sense. Or, rather, in Blumie's case, not hard enough if the fish was overcooked. I'm glad other people like it (makes it that much easier to get into Neptune), but it's not my cup of tea.

                7 Replies
                1. re: purple bot

                  In what sense do you feel like they're trying too hard? Not disagreeing, just curious. I feel like Happy's menu is definitely trying too hard. But with ICOB it's less clear...

                  1. re: maillard

                    I'm not sure I can put my finger on it, but I'll try. First I should say, though, that aside from the clam chowder (which I enjoyed) I can't remember anything I ate there. Nothing made an impression one way or another, although I do recall my entree the last time I went being incredibly bland. Though again, I don't remember what it was! I suppose this doesn't answer your question though. The team of servers thing kind of bugs me, like they're not sure if they want to be a fancy restaurant with over the top service, or more of a fun place. The menu graphics are incredibly hard to read (at least to me) and strike me as a little cutesy, with the partially "handwritten" items. The giant mural photo being upside down bothers me. Yes, I get that it's supposed to abstract the image and all, but I don't know, it just bugs me. These are all very tiny things, but for me, it adds up to great big "meh". If the food was amazing, I could overlook all this. Honestly, until you asked me to explain I don't think I had ever considered why I wasn't so impressed. I'm still not sure I've explained it, or even know the answer entirely myself. Sorry if this is wishy-washy. All I know is that every time I've been, I leave thinking that it wasn't all that I'd hoped it would be. I know many of you disagree, and that's fine. Maybe I heard too much hype and built it up in my mind. Who knows? Like I said though, I'm happy other people like it and have had great experiences there.

                    I haven't been to Happy's, so I can't comment on that. But your comment pretty much sums up what I've heard.

                    1. re: purple bot

                      I really enjoyed this response.

                      1. re: purple bot

                        Thanks for the explanation, that makes a lot of sense.

                        Yeah, Happy's menu makes me embarrassed for them. "This was an okay piece of toast, but it was described as God's Own Toast on the menu so I'm a little disappointed by it." The food (aside from a very bad chicken soup) is pretty good, though.

                    2. re: purple bot

                      Have you seen a drop off in Neptune wait times since the opening of ICOB?

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        Personally, I haven't seen a drop off. They always seem plenty busy. In theory though, many of the people that in the past were steered directly to Neptune for great seafood are now being directed to ICOB. And, some people that felt Neptune didn't quite do it for them are now going to ICOB as well, so...

                        1. re: Gabatta

                          Definitely no drop off at Neptune Oyster. I stood in line to get in for lunch yesterday at open, and the place was jam packed in no time.
                          Having eaten several times both at Neptune and at ICOB, I'm glad we have both places and that both move down different paths but are both very good. I've greatly enjoyed the raw bar at both sites, and while I give ICOB the edge due to fine barcraft (which Neptune, being beer and wine only, doesn't have) the raw bar is what I go for in the two and have been quite pleased, never disappointed.

                      2. Well-written and fair review - thanks.
                        I think I have read near universal praise on ICOB of late, so good on you for being honest, to allow everyone else to give their accurate assessment.

                        1. This is a great review and I think we need more reviews that do criticize restaurants. That's the whole point of these boards. We're starting to get more of them, but I think while we all roll our eyes at yelp style reviews that say, "Worst food Ever!" and say it's unfair to the restaurant to post on the internet, we still need to hold restaurants accountable. I use this board because I trust most of the regular posters opinions and use that to help shape where I do eat out and what to expect or to look for. I don't think there is any reason to apologize for a well written and thought out critique. Anyway...

                          I am a big fan of ICOB and go often because I love getting a platter from the raw bar along with some fried clams and maybe a side of vegetables and being able to enjoy them in a nice atmosphere along with good wine and cocktails. I do think the wine list is something that is not talked about but ICOB has a great list and the prices are (somewhat/relatively) reasonable. I love that they have a selection of Cru Beaujolais, wines from Jura, good rosés, and some great value wines from the Loire. Well-made cocktails are also a huge plus for us. I think this is one area that makes the choice for us between Neptune and ICOB as well as the reservations.

                          Because it is the sister restaurant to Eastern Standard (whose desserts we find sub-par compared to the rest of the menu), we have never tried the desserts at ICOB (although we have been comped ice cream a few times). I'm not surprised to hear that the dessert wasn't a slam dunk. I've always felt dessert is the weak spot of the franchise.

                          As far as bartenders, I definitely have found the ICOB bartenders not as friendly or warm as the Eastern Standard ones, but the drinks are definitely of the same caliber which is all that matters to us. A couple of months ago I attempted to strike up a conversation about the glasses used (vintage) and the bartender just glared at me like I was talking about his mother. When the bar manager came around (Not the wonderful Jackson btw) he seemed taken aback that I would ask such a question and conveyed a kind of misplaced pretension about the fact that they were vintage and not sold in stores. But that was an isolated incident and we rarely sit at the bar anyway. Service at tables, including our most recent experience where we brought a group, has been wonderful. We haven't felt the up-sell feeling at all, but if people have I can relate to being sensitive to this in restaurants as a light eater and it's something I can't stand (particularly if we're ordering expensive cocktails/wine).

                          Your fish should be cooked correctly in a fish-centric restaurant. That said, mistakes do happen at any level (even 3*s) and it's tough to say if this is an isolated incident or not. As I said, we always stick to the raw bar (we love the selection of oysters), something fried, and then a salad or a vegetable. I guess we've never been too tempted by the entrees. I ordered the Lobster roll once and was disappointed. The bun needed more toasting, the lobster filling seemed stingy and bland, and the potato chips on the side were good but there were only 10 of them. This is a bummer because I recently had a lobster roll at grand central oyster bar for the same price that was a much better executed version. Golden brown buttery roll, heaps of large chunk lobster held together with just enough mayo but not too much, well spiced and served with a mound of chips.

                          Like I said to start, I'm excited that we're getting more in-depth reviews on the Boston board recently and criticism is a good thing.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Klunco

                            Great review and I concur with most of your comments. Like you I have gone to ICOB and ES many times and enjoy both places. I agree with you that desserts are one of their weak points but ICOB is much worse than ES. At ES the Butterscotch Bead Pudding is excellent and whenever we go there we always order it whereas when we go to ICOB we never order dessert. The bar staff is great in both places and in fact some of the ICOB staff were previously at ES but all of them are very professional and make some of the best cocktails in the city.
                            The raw bar at ICOB is as good as it gets and overall many of their other menu items are good too. I tend to stick with the daily specials but have tried some that just didn't work too well. I still feel that both ES and ICOB are two of our better restaurants but like all places are are areas where they could get better,

                          2. I had my first meal there last night - I thought it was quite good, in fact. Based on rec's from CHounders, I stuck to the classics. We had a dozen varied oysters (East Coast of course....), some Oyster Sliders and some fish ceviche (comp'ed by the kitchen as we were already on our 2nd bottle of wine....). The oysters were excellent and nicely chosen by the waitstaff, the slider delicious but predictable. Cevice was fine. The standout on the evening was the Lobster Roe Noodles. The braised short rib give it an unctuous mouth feel that the seafood alone could not deliver. Nice sized portion, fresh peas and a lobster knuckle. Wonderful. The 3rd bottle of wine helped as well.
                            I'll definitely go back.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Cork

                              Try some west coast oysters as well. The Kumumato (sp?) and Blue Points are especially yummy. Both better than the Chatham oysters IMHO.

                              1. re: kimfair1

                                Blue Points are East Coast - Long Island sound I think. Kumamotos are Japanese and are cultivated on the West Coast, but are not native. But they are excellent.

                                1. re: Cork

                                  There's another west coast oyster then that I'm spazzing on the name of. I thought it was the Blue Points (excellent, though not correct).

                                  1. re: kimfair1

                                    Blue Points are from Long Island Sound between NY and CT.

                                    http://www.oysterguide.com/new-discov...

                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                      Or anywhere along the eastern seaboard. ;)

                            2. when I ventured there (and it was a trek) I didn't particularly enjoy it either.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                What did you not like about it?

                                1. re: Klunco

                                  I'd heard about it so was wired to go. Opportunity came, took different transportation(s) to get there and it just didn't measure up. The wait staff was obviously harried and it showed, I don't like being passed over just because I'm only one diner, the clams were good but not memorable. (3 different kinds of clams > suggested by server) It was a jaunt getting back as well.......but....
                                  As with all things exactly like this.....it's all about the mission which I accomplished.

                              2. I agree with your general premise that ICOB does not offer consistently excellent and innovative dishes across its whole menu. But I also think you're kind of missing the point.

                                If I compare the food at ICOB to the seafood dishes at say Craigie, then I also end up somewhat disappointed. However, ICOB is a big restaurant in a tourist-filled part of the city (near Fenway), filling the niche of special-occasion seafood restaurant quite nicely. As we see from these boards, the nice seafood restaurant is also a big draw for tourists. I don't think you're ever going to see a place like that offering food that will blow you out of your seat on a nightly basis.

                                What ICOB does offer, as others have said, is a fun atmosphere, a place where you can get a table without too much trouble, good drinks, a great selection of raw oysters, and some generally pretty solid seafood dishes. That's enough to keep me happy to go back.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: nickls

                                  " I don't think you're ever going to see a place like that offering food that will blow you out of your seat on a nightly basis."

                                  Why is it too much to ask for a consistently good and delicious seafood restaurant in, of all places, Boston?!?! If you ask me, your expectations are way too low. And if my single experience is any indication (caveat: I hate to jump to conclusions based on a single experience), ICOB does a terrible job of filling the special occasion seafood niche. A special occasion restaurant should have consistently excellent food.

                                  1. re: Blumie

                                    Here, Here! I totally agree with all you've said. A good restaurant will blow you away every time you go. Why shouldn't they?
                                    Enjoy,
                                    CocoDan

                                    1. re: CocoDan

                                      Ditto.

                                    2. re: Blumie

                                      I'm with you on this, Blumie. My parents came in from out-of-town to take me to a special 50th bday dinner back in Jan, and I had the single worst lobster roll of my life. 75% filler with onions mixed in, of all things! My cocktail (one of their specialty drinks) arrived half-full, and a second round never showed up, despite asking several servers. Everything else was good to great, but I'll never forgive such a horrific blunder on what should be a simple and easy dish. Really ruined the night for me!

                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                        sciencechick, totally agree.
                                        I hate that you got your cocktail half full and another one never appeared either.
                                        mom took me to my special birthday dinner after seeing Phantom in San Fran.
                                        we dined for dinner on a ship.
                                        so beautiful.
                                        I ordered my dirty martini extra olives please, he finally brought it 1/2 full, WUT? > it's already only a 1/2 full drink, they're so small,then he swiped it up before I was finished drinking the 3rd sip. my swordfish was very dry "we're on the ocean" and they never brought the comp dessert that mom made sure to mention it being my birthday. + the bill was GI-NORMOUS.

                                        your birthday bash seems like it would and could have been so much better with a small amount of effort on the resto's part. oh and the servers too who are always there with their hands out looking for their tips.

                                        To
                                        Insure
                                        Prompt/proper/professional
                                        Service

                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                          iL Divo, it seems you have a bone to pick with ICOB, was there something else that happened that night that might explain your posts? I'm trying to understand your reviews but in your first one your main complaint is the transportation you took to get to the restaurant (not sure if we can fault a restaurant on location, ICOB is pretty central, and as far as other chow recs we've travelled far outside of the city where the chow was worth it). You then complained about 3 different types of clams? Were those from the raw bar? I've only ever seen a single type of clam offered alongside the oyster selection.

                                          When you say a dirty martini is already a 1/2 full drink, what do you mean? The amount of gin (or possibly vodka) in a drink is going to be jiggered at a place like ICOB where they take the bartending seriously. If I was looking for one of those 8-ounce free poured "vodka" martinis, ICOB is definitely not the place for that. But those types of places are not going to make reliably well mixed cocktails with quality liquors.

                                          As far as the bill being "GI-NORMOUS," did you look at the menu prices before you went? I find ICOB a reasonable value in comparison to more high-end places in the city and certainly in comparison to the steak-houses in town where truly large bills are the norm. Saying that the restaurant made no effort and the servers were standing with their hands out looking for tips seems like a mean spirited jab at a restaurant. I've never seen a line of servers standing in the restaurant with their hands out waiting for money to be put in their hands anytime I've been there, but if someone else can chime in and validate this then I'm happy to be wrong. It's a restaurant in America, tipping is part of our culture and if you mean the tab had a line for "gratuity" and equate that with servers having their hands out then you may be shocked by most restaurants and coffee shops in America.

                                          All this is to say, I'm all for criticism on this board and well written, well thought out criticism is important. We do need to hold restaurants accountable. But I also enjoy chowhound because it isn't yelp where anyone can post, "WORST RESTAURANT EVER" or complain about dishes a restaurant doesn't serve or make blanket statements without specifics.

                                        2. re: Science Chick

                                          at a place this expensive; i would have sent the food back.

                                        3. re: Blumie

                                          I was referring more to the large size of the restaurant. I'm not saying a consistently excellent seafood restaurant is too much to ask for. Apparently, though, it is hard to pull off or else we would have one (or more) already.

                                          It takes a lot to blow me out of my seat, and I don't expect that to happen every time I visit even my favorite restaurants. I think ICOB is a good special occasion place because I like the decor, I think it has a fun vibe that is accompanied by an excellent bar program and serves good food. Out of the about 25 people I have dined there with over 4 occasions I have not heard a single complaint and around half the people remarked how good it was.

                                          Now I personally had a couple quibbles, but I am a very critical person. I think that argues for my standards being too high rather than too low. I am sorry your experience was not better, but I would recommend you give the place at least one more try.

                                      2. I would also say that I wasn't to impressed with ICOB, but I am willing to give them another chance. I think I ordered wrong since my 3 dining companions all enjoyed their meals. I should have followed my instincts and stuck with the raw oysters and fries or ordered the oyster sliders.

                                        Here is my review from last summer:

                                        I had the Grilled Razor Clams icob tasso ham, garlic butter, parsley as an app this past spring. Flavor was good, but unfortunately the clams were really gritty and I couldn't finish them.

                                        For the OP. When I went I made a mistake when ordering my oysters. I should have asked for a description of the oysters and then chosen 1/2 doz. Instead I just told the waiter that I wanted 6 different oysters. I guess he misunderstood me because I ended up with 3 pairs, one of which was the Island Creek. They were tasty and well shucked, but I was hoping to try a larger variety. And if you are like me and love a good dessert you may be disappointed. The dessert list isn't that interesting. We ended up going home and eating left over Petsi pies.

                                        1. After reading the mostly glowing reviews since ICOB opened, I had been looking forward to trying it. I finally had the opportunity on Monday evening before the Red Sox baseball game when myself and my daughter went. I had not been in the venue since it was Great Bay and I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and vibe, I really liked the look and feel of the restaurant. I also thought that for the most part, the service was excellent. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the food. I am not a raw oyster fan so I cannot comment on the oysters. As I had heard mostly great things about the oyster sliders, both myself and my daughter tried an oyster slider. While it was good, it was nothing terribly special, one nice, large, fried oyster on a cute slider bun with a dab of aioli (mayo). I ordered the Lobster Roe Noodles and my daughter a Burger. Others might object to the size of the lobster dish but I am not a big eater so I did not mind the small portion. My objection was that I found the flavor combination to be kind of just ok, the overwhelming flavor was that of the short rib, with no distinctive flavor from either the lobster, the exotic mushrooms or any seasoning or spice. I have had some great pasta dishes in my life and this was not one of them. As far as the burger, my daughter ordered the burger medium rare and it came out pretty raw. This was our fault for not mentioning it or sending it back so I cannot fault them too much for that. Overall, loved the vibe, atmosphere and service but food...meh. Don't think I will be back.

                                          1. Sorry you had a bad experience, but I have to weigh in that we are pretty particular about cocktails, wine selection, raw bar, service, and seafood quality at spot like ICOB that do have high price points and .. they have always hit all the right notes on everything in our bi-monthly or so visits there.

                                            The only raw bar at the same level is Neptune and they DO get the very best Island Creeks here (surprise...no) along with other top shellfish.

                                            Vik behind the bar is at the same level as some of the top bartenders we love at Drink, BackBar, Brick & Mortar, etc. - he's personable, attentive, and mixes great drinks on and off the menu. His wine recommendations are also spot on and the glass / bottle markups are very fair (the 2010 Moreau Chablis is incredible at the $48 price IMHO).

                                            The slider is a comfort food work of art - simple, perfect, and delicious -every time for me. I have to agree I did NOT love the razor clams the one time I tried them, as there was some grit and an offputting flavor (to me, at least), possibly an herb addition.

                                            My experience with the mains (and dessert) has been limited and seems to be a common source of disappointment in this thread - make me curious but cautious about trying them. The Maine shrimp special (lightly fried) that I did try earlier this year was spectacular.

                                            The hostesses are always welcoming and as accommodating as possible (especially Ashley) even for walk-ins in my experiences, and the manager Tom (also an awesome bartender formerly) always seems to be around, checking in and making sure things are going smoothly and customers are taken care of - given your thoughtful feedback here, I would be very surprised if he didn't go to some lengths to address your disappointment - did you have a chance to talk with him or anyone there about it? My impression is that they would take it very seriously.

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: rlh

                                              I did not speak to Tom while we were there however, I did forward to him my comments about our experience and he responded very quickly, apologized for the experience caused in large part due to the "pre-game rush" and said that if we did come back to let him know so that he could make sure that our experience was better and also offered to send us something for the under-cooked burger. I certainly will give them another opportunity as anyone can have an off night and I appreciated his prompt response which I told him.

                                              1. re: bakerboyz

                                                Being so close to Fenway, you would think they would have a bit more consistency established on game days. However we have found that it is two totally different experiences on game and off days. We won't go into ICOB on game days any more after a few inconsistent experiences.

                                                IMO it's worth another visit on a non game day. We particularly enjoy ICOB for brunch.

                                                1. re: bakerboyz

                                                  Tom is a great guy. We've known him since his days bartending at Eastern Standard. We went to a great course he offered at Craigie on night called "Stirred, Not Shaken, Why James Bond Got It Wrong". I'm not surprised at all that he was so quick to answer, and that he was so quick to offer solutions/amends. I too only go to ICOB on non-game nights, more for wanting to stay away from the madness of Kenmore on those nights rather than due to bad experiences.

                                                2. re: rlh

                                                  Update based on taking out of town visitors to our beloved ICOB for dinner on Memorial Day - a bit disappointed in the food and drinks - seemed like the B team was in the kitchen and behind the bar - service at both the front door and table was its usual very high level of excellence.

                                                  The raw bar was fine, but the prices have really crept up with most of the oysters above the $3 each mark - hope that's seasonal.

                                                  The oyster slider is still awesome and a round was enjoyed by all.

                                                  The three cocktails selected from the menu around the table were all pretty low intensity in terms of flavor and even seemed weak to me in terms of the amount of spirits I'd expect. The rose flight selections were very ordinary and the pours were stingy. I asked if anyone was picking up the Tiki mantle from Vik (now at Sarma) - but sadly only got a vacant stare - so I stuck to the menu for an initial cocktail, and then had a (really good) double IPA from Scotland with my meal.

                                                  While the lobster bisque was a hit, the chowder and asparagus soup were noticeably oversalted. I really enjoyed the soft shell app I selected as my main and the halibut was well-received. The fish and chips was a letdown - an abundance of soggy little potato slivers (was it the bottom of the bin or just tiny specimens? - either way I would not serve them - period.) topped with three very small pieces (think large nugget) of heavily battered whitefish - will not order this dish again. The side of cremini mushrooms was reasonably flavorful but swimming in watery liquid - as if they had been cooked way too fast or left sitting around too long after cooking. They would also benefit from a garnish of some fresh chopped herbs (chives, parsley, etc.) or a squeeze of lemon before serving.

                                                  We elected not to roll the dice with dessert given the mixed experience to that point.

                                                  With the increasingly high price levels (most mains $30 or more) and the acrobatics required to secure a reservation well in advance, ICOB needs to ALWAYS deliver at a very high level - that did not happen for us this time - hopefully it's a one-of experience....and I do plan to politely bring it up with manager Tom (assuming he's still there...) when I see him next as he was not on the floor that evening and it wasn't bad enough to merit a request to speak to someone.

                                                  1. re: rlh

                                                    "With the increasingly high price levels (most mains $30 or more) and the acrobatics required to secure a reservation well in advance, ICOB needs to ALWAYS deliver at a very high level"
                                                    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

                                                    I agree with this and I've had pretty sloppy showings from ICOB recently and they've moved down my list of places I frequent due to this. I get that they're crazy busy but things like overcooked fish (last 2 times) and wickedly oversalted, well, everything (last time) keep me from going back - that's not even factoring in the ridiculously difficult reservations.

                                                    I can get the IC oysters at Lineage without the wait and for the same price (and for a $1 during the week from 5-7).

                                                    1. re: rlh

                                                      I have considered starting a thread about oyster farming. It is a racket of highway robbery seasoned with cheap leases of public waterways, and subsidized government funding. Leaves plenty of money to open restaurants to market the subsidized product.

                                                      I recently refused to go to a Tom Collichio place when I saw he was charging $4 an oyster on his menu. Food movement my ass.

                                                      1. re: Bellachefa

                                                        Sure an easy life where the red tide rolls in or too much rain runoff with dog/human feces will shut down your production. Plus all the other things that target those tasty morsels. Isn't it a business where free market should control the prices?

                                                        1. re: lc02139

                                                          are you an oyster farmer? I hope you would share that with us.

                                                          Would you care to address cheap water leases, subsidies and tax breaks? of course farming oysters in february during a nor'easter is not fun. That was not my point.

                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                            No I am not, but I am sympathetic to those who make a living tending crops.

                                                            What was your point? Other than oyster farming is a racket to make money, because of the government subsidize.

                                                            Not sure how much of the profit the oyster farmer gets from a place that has $4 dollar oysters, or when a place runs a $1/oyster special since they probably wholesale for about a dollar.

                                                            I’m sure that there is no pork left in the 3 trillion dollar budget for agriculture other then oyster farmers.

                                                            Like you I do vote with my dollars.

                                                        2. re: Bellachefa

                                                          After so many articles recently about oyster beds in our area being shut down because of various bacteria that can really make you sick I just avoid them altogether. I don't trust any entity to test enough to make sure I'm not ingesting something that is going to totally mess with my system.

                                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                                            I have to say that I read your declaration 3 times to make sure you were being serious. You ARE being serious,yes? You think oyster farming is a racket where farmers make big bucks and lounge around ,Hollywood - style, dabbling in stylish restaurants?

                                                            Have you read Shucked, written by a local woman who spent 1 1/2 yrs farming oysters at Island Creek ? I just finished it and I will never look at an oyster again in the same way that I used to. Woooowee! Talk about labor intensive. Unbelievable. The general rule in producing any product is- the more times you touch it, the more expensive it is to produce. In their lifetime, those Island Creek oysters get touched more often than you would ever imagine!

                                                            Another cool thing i learned about the company is that their Island Creek Foundation has partnered w/ the Woods Hole Oceanographic people to help teach and set up a commuity owned shellfish farming industry in Tanzania.
                                                            Last week, ICOB had Island Creeks for $2.50; Kumamotos (WA) for $3 and Hama Hamas (WA) for $4.
                                                            Freight costs from the West Coast have skyrocketed along with gas prices of course.

                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                              I read your post once...

                                                              " You think oyster farming is a racket where farmers make big bucks and lounge around ,Hollywood - style, dabbling in stylish restaurants?"

                                                              wow

                                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                I have zero knowledge about this topic so I am admittedly talking out of my a$$, but it is entirely possible that it is both labor intensive and lucrative for management. Not saying that this is the case with ICOB, but I'm sure somewhere someone in in oysters for the money. That said I find charging 3-4 for one shrimp more troublesome than oyster prices.

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