Last night a friend and I decided to try Menemsha in Venice (on Washington blvd.). My friend is from Cape Cod and was very enthusiastic about the opening of this New England style seafooder. We got there at 6:30 and aside from two people at the bar, the place was empty. When we left at 8:00, all the tables were filled.
We started with a 1/2 dozen Hama Hama oysters and an order of fried Ipswich clams.
The oysters were very fresh and tasted just as good oysters should. They came with a cucumber/vinegar sauce, regular cocktail sauce, a malt like vinegar and the hottest fresh horseradish I have ever tasted. On the down side, the person shucking the oysters definitely needs some practice. Nothing can kill a great oyster like the crunch of oyster shell fragments. It wasn't bad enough to complain, but we both noticed it. They were $10 for the 1/2 dozen. Not bad.
The fried Ipswich clams were fantastic. If I had to guess, I'd say that there were about five or six clams on the plate. They were served with a tasty homemade tarter sauce and a small bit of salad. The only problem for me was that for the price ($12), the portion seemed a bit skimpy. Aside from that, they were crispy and not greasy at all, with a thin coating of batter that flaked off the perfectly cooked clams within. The salad was also tasty but simple. Just lettuce with a sweetish vinaigrette. While we both thought they were delicious, my friend commented that he thought the Ipswich clams at Jar were better. I liked these ones better (but it's a very close call).
For a main course we both ordered the Lobster Roll ($14). On the menu it was listed as an appetizer, but our waitress was so enthusiastic about it that we decided to order it and go from there if we were still hungry. She was not wrong. At the risk of sounding like a shill, the Lobster Roll might just be the best thing I've tasted this year! For those who have never had a lobster roll. It is essentially just lobster salad in a hotdog bun (not really a hotdog bun, but close). Here, the roll part was heavily buttered and toasted until golden and crispy. The lobster salad on the inside was made of freshly cooked, huge, juicy chunks of truly unbelievably good lobster meat. It was perfectly seasoned and not overly mayonnaised like seafood salads can sometimes be. The Lobster Roll was served with a small portion of tasty, very thin, fried onion rings and a bit of equally good coleslaw. To be sure, this was an appetizer size dish. We both wished the roll had been bigger. I can't really complain since it was listed as an appetizer, but I'd like to see a larger version added to the menu as a main course. If you have a big (or even normal) size appetite, you will be hungry if you do like us and order this as a main course.
Even though we were still hungry following the Lobster Roll, we decided to head straight for deserts rather than order anything else. In my opinion, if the meal had any real weakness, it was the desert. All desert items were $7. I had something called a Chocolate Lava Cake. It was your typical chocolate sponge cake with a warm chocolate goo on the inside. Supposedly there was a vanilla sauce on it, but I couldn't detect anything. There was a small drizzle of something on the plate. It might have been some kind of sauce, but I couldn't tell. I would not recommend this desert. Where most dishes are too sweet, this one was not sweet enough and the warm goo which is usually the highlight of this sort of thing, didn't seem to have any flavor. My friend ordered the Maple Crème Brule. He liked it quite a bit. I thought it was tasty by Crème Brule standards, but certainly nothing unusual or noteworthy. I definitely thought it was better than the Lava goo cake.
We both agreed the service was very good. The staff seemed unusually efficient for a new restaurant and our waitress certainly contributed to the enjoyment of the meal. She was very enthusiastic and didn't hesitate to make recommendations. The owner stopped by and seemed genuinely interested in our comments. The bill for the two of us came to $120 (which included several drinks).
Considering that Menemsha is virtually a brand new restaurant, I was very impressed. I will definitely be going back. I can't wait to see what it's like in six months after they've smoothed over any rough spots (not that we noticed many).
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