Early Thursday evening, the place is packed, not that it takes much: about 20 bar seats, another 20 at small tables, pretty close quarters. This is a venue that needs the space from the patio out back, though it appears that this won't open until next year.
Short menu: 5 or 6 kinds of oysters, including a couple from Cali, all at an eye-popping $2.25 a morsel. A few salads, three soups, and handful of hot apps (fried mussels, fried oysters, steamers, etc.), and 6 or 7 entrees, including some robust-looking fish like wild salmon. Skip this place if you're allergic to shellfish or want some land-based animal protein: there's a seafood-free salad or two, and the lone other option is a BLT (lobster optional).
Wine list is heavily slanted toward seafood-appropriate whites, many by the glass. Not cheap, but it looks well-chosen: lots of interesting, too-rarely-seen options like whites from Spain and Germany, and thankfully almost no Cali chards. Glasses hover around $10, average bottle is probably in the high-30s/low-40s.
I order the lobster roll and a glass of a Basque white with an unprounounceable name and a slight after-fermentation. The lobster is in big chunks, very lightly dressed, served in a 5" split-top roll (which, thanks to Chowhound, I now know is a uniquely New England touch). Sides are a vinegary slaw, very nice frittes (with hints of garlic and fresh tarragon, yum), and some sweet-pickle chips. I have to say, this is maybe the best lobster roll I've ever had, though it won't make you forget the size of the one at Mashpee's Raw Bar.
Did I mention it's pricey? $21 for the lobster roll, $11 for the glass of wine. I'll be saving my nickels for the next trip, where I must sample some of the amazing-looking oysters that flew around the room all night, and test the skill of their deep-fryer with squid. (On the way out, I ran into friends who raved about the oysters and the spicy seafood stew.)
Not exactly Chowish at this tariff, but an interesting addition to the South End mix. I hope the Silver Line Kitchen opens up soon.