BOSTON - At Oak + Rowan, people are falling in love with fine dining again because there is no pretense, just passion.
"We're really trying to do something special here," owner Nancy Battista Caswell said. "We're all really passionate about what we're doing, and I think it translates to the guest experience."
Nancy has been a restaurant dynamo on the North Shore for years, with Newburyport mainstays like Ceia and Brine under her belt. In her latest installment, she decided to take the best of both places off the North Shore, and into Boston.
"Oak + Rowan is actually located in Fort Point Channel. It's right off of the Seaport area, and I really fell in love with this particular building, just because of the natural architecture behind it."
The space itself really is special, with high ceilings and big windows. A beautiful 20-seat bar greets you as you enter. There are cozy booths to enjoy a meal with friends, and tables set in small nooks for something more intimate. When customers want something truly special, they always request one of the two booths perched just upon the open kitchen.
At lunch, the Oak + Rowan menu is lined with upscale, yet approachable, options. For a light bite, there is perfectly grilled squash, served on house bread with whipped goat cheese. For something heartier, try housemade sausage on sesame brioche. Of course, there is a burger, topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickles and a secret sauce that will fill you up, without weighing you down.
"The interesting thing about that burger is we didn't want it to be too heavy," Nancy explained. "We wanted it to be fulfilling enough and savory enough that it really got you excited about it, but left you wanting to finish it."
No lunch menu in Boston's Seaport area would be complete without a lobster roll, and the one at Oak + Rowan is a must-try.
"We're using the knuckle and claw meat, and then we're actually tossing it in a flavored style aioli base, versus doing something that's traditional mayo. Then we're finishing with this radish, really to provide it with some crunch and a little bit of watercress, so it kind of gives it a nice balance," Nancy described.
After 5 p.m., Oak + Rowan offers supper, where a rolling bar cart travels throughout the space, and craft cocktails are stirred right before your eyes. While you are taking down your drink, some oysters are always nice. Here, they shuck a showdown in a nightly east coast/west coast bivalve battle.
The Pork and Clam Chowder at Oak + Rowan is that classic New England standard, done with sophistication, poured tableside.
"It's not a heavy New England chowder," Nancy assured. "You've got the pork belly and the bacon, and then you've got the smoked clam, and then you're finishing it with crispy fingerling potatoes right on top and a little bit of chive."
Seafood entrees are also abundant, with dishes like Halibut served alongside mussels and spinach, or their interesting take on Carbonara, made with lobster and uni. For meat eaters, the bone-in Ribeye is where it's at.
"It's got tons of flavor. It's heavily marbled. It's prime beef," explained Nancy. "It's our signature cut."
When it comes to dessert, the ice cream is a must, with an ever changing flavor selection that includes options like Maple Pecan, Chocolate with Smoked Sea Salt and the nostalgically delicious Peanut Butter and Jelly.
While it may be fine dining, Nancy and her team have taken the fuss out of it, keeping it casual and inviting, something customers seem to enjoy.
"It's been a blessing for me to be here in Boston and to showcase what I've been passionate about all my life, but it's really exciting to share it with such a great team and more importantly, with guests that are really getting it."
You can find Oak + Rowan at 321 A Street in Boston and online at oakandrowan.com.
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