Joseph Gencarelli, aka "Smokey Joe," and Jimmy Love, formerly of the popular Jimmy's Seaside Restaurant and Bar up the road in the Cove section of Stamford, recently joined forces in creating The Boathouse.
The New England'esque restaurant on the Post Road at the Darien-Stamford border now calls the top floor of Smokey Joe's BBQ home.
Renovated Bar and Dining Room
The upstairs makeover is classy, comfy and understated. Dark wood furnishings are matched with burgundy fabrics, partial booth seating and a slightly separated bar area.
Happy Hour is popular and the crowd is a wonderful mix of ages, guys and gals, locals, and folks loosening their ties. A few congregate outside at the patio tables, thinking warm thoughts of summer. You can hear the river water gurgling faintly on the side of the building.
BBQ Segues to Seafood
That's right, the great ribs and pulled pork remain in the casual dining room downstairs, while upstairs there's some serious seafood going on.
We got an early glimpse into the menu, which will expand going into the summer months (fried whole belly clams, shrimp baskets, fish and chips, lobster rolls, etc). The goal is to slowly morph The Boathouse concept into the existing food culture that Smokey Joe's has created. While all the dishes from the BBQ menu are available upstairs at The Boathouse, we decided to go full-on with the new menu items.
Chowder to Start
The Boathouse Deep Sea Chowder was a great introduction to the new menu.
Chock full of baby shrimp, bay scallops, mussels and chopped clams, the soup itself is silky, flavorful, and has a great balance of potato, onions and spices. It is slightly darker and richer than a classic New England clam chowder. This will surely be entered into the next chowder contest and it will get my vote.
Shellfish Mussel in on BBQ
What are PEI mussels meant to be swimming in? Tomatoes, leeks, and garlic, sautéed in butter and olive, then splashed with white wine!
At the Boathouse these plump crustaceans are steamed open by the flavorful broth and served with a toasted wedge roll. I would have preferred heartier French or Italian bread, sliced thick, brushed with olive oil and toasted. But overall, this is another dish done right.
A classic Caesar salad and house salad are offered, but it was the Iceberg Wedge with hickory smoked bacon, Maytag bleu cheese, and chopped sweet red onions and tomatoes that caught my eye. It's fresh, crisp, clean, colorful and with great texture and flavor contrasts, and more than enough to share. I'm already envisioning a chowder and salad lunch in my future.
Tempting Seafood Offerings
We skipped past the Ahi Tuna Burger with chipotle aioli, the NY Strip Steak, and Slow Roasted Half Chicken, though all of those sounded mouthwatering, and went for the Seafood Stew served over basil (green) fettuccine with a saffron broth.
Likened to a fra diavalo preparation with tomatoes and subtle spices, three jumbo shrimp, mussels and scallops are generously served atop al dente pasta. It was tasty, but lacking the aromatic saffron that I was looking forward too. Turn up the saffron, Chef, and ya got me on this one.
The Chef did, however, lure me in with the Shrimp Scampi sautéed in lemon, garlic and wine, served with fluffy "dirty" rice and my favorite vegetable, broccoli rabe.
Once again, the shrimp were large and meaty and not overcooked (thank you). What I personally liked about the dish was the gorgeous, lemony sauce. The garlic was there, but not overbearing, which let the fresh lemon shine through. Plus, there was plenty of sauce to soak into the rice.
Desserts are old-fashioned favorites like chocolate lava cake, brownie sundae and apple pie.
But after the waitress bestowed fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate-chunk cookies upon us, we could eat no more. The cookies come complimentary–a wonder sweet treat that made us smile.
There's a lot to smile about at this "new" restaurant. The space received a welcome (needed) face lift, outdoor dining will also be a fun aspect to the place, and the food is quite good.
The Boathouse is off to a great start.