We were fans of Stephen Bell at Savory Taste in Reading so we were looking forward to trying his new place. "The Ship" on Route 1, Lynnfield. Unfortunately, he wasn't there the night we dined, so I'm going to give it another try because I'd like to think the kitchen was not at its best the night we ate there.
The space is what it is- I mean, it looks like the inside of a ship, with odd angles. However, they've really downplayed the tcotch factor, so it's not obnoxious.
They offer a huge "martini" menu which launched me on my first pet peeve. Call it a cocktail menu, and an inventive one, at that. But just because you serve fruity tooty mixed drinks straight up in a martini glass doesn't mean you're serving martinis. The actual martini we got was good- and potent. I don't recall how much it was, which triggered pet peeve #2- no prices anywhere on the drink menu.
The menu is very seafood heavy, with lots of appealing choices for seafood lovers. It's a bit too widespread though, and I have to imagine it's because they want ot be a fine dining restaurant but fear alienating the Route 1/Christmas Tree Shops crowd. So there's a "fried seafood" portion of the menu, which, while it seems out of place to me, probably is a very smart idea.
We started with Lobster Dumplings, Crab and Lobster Cakes and Mussels Calabrese (requested spicy). Lobster Dumplings weren't particularly good- 3 tough-skinned dumplings with a filling purported to contain lobster (I couldn't taste any). Crab cakes got a thumbs up. The mussels were good but they weren't kidding with the spicy- too much for me but others really enjoyed them.
"Caesar's Salad" raised a pet peeve #3 for me. It's served with "House Dressing", anchovies on request. Suspicious of the "House" qualifier, I asked if it was a "real" Caesar dressing. I was assured that yes, it was. Glad I pressed on to ask "Are there anchovies in it?" because the answer is no. I'm not sure where the disconnect was between my question and the answer in the first case, but don't say it's a real Caesar dressing when it's not. It was a bit odd. But to be fair, the menu doesn't say it's a Caesar dressing. My feeling on this is if you don't like anchovies, don't order a Caesar salad already. I know, I know, people think they don't like anchovies but a proper Caesar dressing is just so lovely- it would be nice to be able to get one around here. And to their credit, the anchovies on the side were very good, although that's not how I prefer to eat them in a Caesar salad. The salad itself was fine.
I had my heart set on the Monkfish Picatta but sadly couldn't eat most of it as it was inedibly salty. The greens underneath were even worse. And, although I'd asked specifically if the rice pilaf had peppers and was assured it didn't, it did. So I was pretty much 0 for 3. The server brought some roasted potatoes that were very good. A Seafood Casserole was very salty (but edible) and the same with a Cajun-style tilapia.
Now, to the restaurant's credit, the manager was right on the ball and offered desserts on the house. And although I was getting some wrong answers from our server, she was still doing a decent job. Plus those potent martinis had me in a good mood. The desserts were declared very good all around.
So on that note we ended our meal and due to the service and other good notes (appetizers and dessert) we'll give it one more try. Hopefully we'll either hit it on a night when Chef Bell is in the house, or he'll whack the salt shakers out of his crew's hands.