Well, I can't say I have a new favorite restaurant in Sturbridge, since Kaizen still claims that place in my heart, but I have a new runner-up: Sturbridge Seafood. Chef-owner Ken Yukimura and family designed and built the interior themselves, and it's very appealing. The ceiling has a weathered-wood boardwalk strip running down the middle, the tables are butcher block (on locking wheels...very sensible: dining room can be reconfigured at will) and the candy-apple red metal flake crab sculpture on the wall was crafted from the hood of a Dodge Durango by the chef himself. One minor quibble...good quality heavy stainless flatware, cloth napkins of a generous size, elegant wine glasses, but water served in a mason jar. Seemed a little incongruous to me, but harkened back to the beach motif, I suppose. No big.
Of course, you go to a restaurant to eat, and I had lunch there today, accompanied by my friend and spouse. Chef Ken had just won the Chowder Fest, so we both tried some. Generous bowl for $5, good flavor, plenty of clams and bacon, smoooth creamy mouth without being too heavy. The smoked paprika garnish was a nice touch. We were just looking for a casual, reasonable priced lunch, so Mr. had the fish and chips ($8), and I had the fried calimari over caesar salad ($12). Fresh flakey fish cooked just right was served with a nice lemony aioli as well as the more traditional sauces and house cut fries. My calamari had a light tempura-style breading with a buttery flavor and was cooked perfectly. Tender as can be. Caesar was fresh and good, had a handful of obviously house made croutons which, although pleasant, were superfluous to my taste. The calamari supplied plenty of carbo crunch. I was too full to finish.
They have an extensive wine and an even more extensive beer list, including Yuengling, a nostalgic favorite for us since we used to live just shy of the PA border in Delaware.
I asked to see a dinner menu. No fancy leather or plastic holder, just a simple printed sheet, since the menu changes frequently--nearly nightly: check their Facebook page for the latest. They have an impressive raw oyster selection (Wellfleets, Strawberry Points and Blue Points this visit) as well as the usual cherry stones and shrimp cocktail. They have "shared plates"--most intriguing to me was the seared scallop, dusted with curry and served with a carrot-ginger emulsion and brussel sprout slaw. Several salads, entrees including paella, fish tacos, panko crusted salmon (forgot to ask if it was farmed or wild caught) and a bistro steak and spicy chicken alfredo for those non-piscatorily inclined.
Nice place, nice staff, tasty food--and they're expanding into the Sal's Pizza spot next door. Next time you're looking for a where-can-we-meet-between Hartford and Boston place, check out Sturbridge Seafood.