No Name Fish Restaurant
Pier 4, Boston, MA
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Diana, Diasala, Zit
But it was so good and so reasonable, that people talked and wrote about it. And then the frustration set it ... where is it, if you can't find it? It's in a seamy part of town; like many wharf areas, it's off-limits because of creepiness when nothing is being loaded or unloaded. It's on Pier 4, but can you figure that out from the average map?
These days, "No Name" is the name of the place, and it's so famous that you can tell the cab driver, "No Name" and he'll take you to Pier 4 without further comment. That's the best way to get here, especially since Pier 2 has a misleading sign for a restaurant on it with "Pier 4" as part of its name. If you didn't know better, you'd be wandering around, or perhaps be forced to eat at a lesser establishment!
But we found it, and we were early for dinner, which is a good thing. We were directed to the dining room upstairs, where we got a table right away, and when we asked if we could sit by the water, they didn't mind. The cleaned off the table promptly, brought out menus and buttered garlic bread, and a jug of ice water. There isn't much to the menu, it's very brief that night, they had a sautéed lobster, scallops, and shrimp dinner for $22.95. You can get a chicken lobster (it's a size grading, meaning about 1 lb / 450 g) for that price, and it includes fried bay scallops and shrimp and fries. Also de riguer is cole slaw, the vegetable of many working class eateries, and more garlic bread if you like that. It's not really garlicky ... it's more like toasted buttered subloaf, broiled open face.
There are also just plain fish, broiled or fried, served with fries and cole slaw. One of us got the lobster, one got sea scallops (bigger than bay scallops), one got bluefish (having never tried it before), and one got smelts (that lowliest of fish). All came on a hot metal oblong plate with a small bowl of fries perched atop the food, and coleslaw on a teacup saucer. One of us just said, "bowl of chowder," too.
The chowder was a fish chowder, made of trim, rather than the ubiquitous New England clam chowder which can be found just about anywhere, and it was delicious. The fish within did not display signs of being long- or over-cooked, and it wasn't roux thickened or hyper-creamy. What's trim? It's whatever used to be left on the boat that day, after the "good stuff" had sold, and it's perfect. It's a good soup with vegetables and fish in it, poached in a milk stock.
We confess, we didn't really bother with the fries they weren't bad, but they weren't superlative, nor were they necessary ... maybe they weren't awesome because the fish under them really was! The scallops were surface-seared to perfections, the bluefish was broiled to a nice brown without any char, the smelts were cooked just enough, so the meat stayed moist and whole, and the lobster special was amazing and the scallops and shrimp accompaying the dish were sweet, succulent, perfectly cooked. The whole lobster was enjoyed by all, since some of us enjoy eating the legs and carapace. The meat was sweet and not rubbery at all; it was the fulfillment of a dream! It had been a long, long time since we had seafood so sparklingly fresh and so respectfully and simply cooked without "plating" or "presentation" considerations that could frankly ruin a good piece of fish.
It was so good that we finished up everything but the fries and cole slaw, and opted not to try dessert, though the nice waitress listed the key lime pie, lemon meringue, boston creme pie, and grape nut pudding to sound so wonderful and traditional. The fish was just so good that we didn't want to sully the memory ...
The view out the window was of a bunch of seagulls dropping oysters onto the concrete dock to shatter the shells, and of what looked like a fish processing plant. As the sun set, it looked like it caught fire!
We took a look at the bar downstairs on the way to paying our bill, which came out to $26 per person, including beer, drinks, tax, and tip. Even though the decor is fish shack / bar room for wharf rats, it was worth every penny, for the bottom line was the food, no matter what this place looked like or what it was called. Or not called. The no-frills approach was everywhere, including paper cups on the table for water, stained ceiling tiles, cheap wooden tables ... what a perfect fish shack!
We stepped out of the restaurant, which is actually located on the elevated concrete loading dock which lines both sides of the pier, and a car stopped as we got onto the roadway. "Where's No Name?" they hollered out the window. We pointed behind us and smiled. "Enjoy!" we shouted back, and we knew they would.
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