Has it really been two years since Kevin Nashan opened Peacemaker Lobster & Crab? And how have I managed not to get there? Mea culpa, to be sure. The calm white interior is not stark, merely peaceful, with photos of lobster fishermen by Mark Katz, a simple décor but still clearly a cut above the New England coastal lobster shacks and piers it evokes.
It’s open for lunch and dinner, utilizing two different modes of service. They refer to their lunch service as “deli-style”, meaning guests order and pay at the cash register, are given an order number on a stand and pick their table. The food is brought to them when ready – and we might add, the delivery seemed nice and quick, a significant point at lunch for many diners. In the evening , there’s standard table service. We’d note folks begin to gather fairly early, since there are no reservations for parties smaller than 6. (You can, however download and utilize the Nowait app.)
The clam chowder is a slightly unusual one, tasty, thick but not so thick it falls in glops from a spoon like some of the earliest clam chowders to darken a restaurant bowl hereabouts. It’s a little pink, perhaps with just a wee touch of tomato to add umami, and then that flavor, slightly spicy, a hint of celery, a little acidic – maybe a touch of Old Bay Seasoning found its way into the chowder pot. And it’s hot, smiling happily from its cute tin cup.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell from the menu whether something is sized to be an entree or a small plate. Salads, for instance, are entree sized, at least the house’s take on the French classic, a salade Lyonnaise. Endive in a bacon-y mustard vinaigrette, a beautifully poached egg, good-sized chunks of bacon (although surprisingly cold), all the traditional version – and then arrive fried oysters to top it off, creamy inside and crisp outside, a swell take on gilding lilies. The whitefish salad was slightly smaller, with mixed greens, lots of radishes and shallots, some wasabi peas and a few capers. Not much whitefish, though, and the relatively few pieces were quite dry despite a light gloss of buttermilk dressing.
What the menu terms steamed bun rolls begin with Asian-style steamed buns, those soft taco-shaped bases. Then lobster meat and sour cabbage become the filling, the whole thing drizzled with a tarragon aioli. It’s an earth-shaking combination of textures and flavors, memorable and addictive. That aioli is deeply reminiscent of the classic green goddess dressing with its tarragon theme. A vat of it would cry out for vegetables or pita chips or perhaps just being slathered bodily somewhere….
Also in the “rolls” section are the lobster, crab and clam rolls. The lobster and crab are market priced, $26 for the lobster roll the night before this is posted. But it’s hard to pass up fried clams when the gastronomic event of one’s sheltered childhood was meeting up with Howard Johnson’s fried clams. (Thank you, Judy Merritt, wherever you are!) The breading is spicier, the pieces tender and bigger than those historic clams. Peacemaker has managed to locate those top-sliced rolls that are still used in many clam and lobster shacks, even grilling their sides in butter. A garlicky tartar sauce lined the roll.
The restaurant’s namesake sandwich is an oyster poorboy, Gulf oysters, milder than the cold-water varieties, with that same seasoned batter. Served, as the New Orleanism goes, wit’ - i.e., lettuce and better-than-average tomato plus housemade pickles, it lacked only the cracklingly crusty bread of its hometown to come in a full winner. Note that the peacemaker sandwich comes with a garlicky remoulade sauce rather than mayonnaise, but that’s a more-than-acceptable option. Both sandwiches normally arrive with Cajun-spiced potato chips. They surpass the surprisingly mundane French fries.
The steamer clams one night were middlenecks, larger than the more common littlenecks, and more prone to the rubber-band texture that often marks clams of a certain size. So there was that texture, but otherwise they delicious, perfectly cooked, sweet and moist in a broth with white wine, garlic, shallots and a little lemon. Interestingly, the bread was only grilled on one side, not a big deal, but far less texture than the usual two-sided crunch.
Consideration must be given to the hush puppies here. While they don’t appear to have onion in the batter (alas), they otherwise excel, crisp on the outside, tender and sweet inside, carefully cooked and drained to avoid greasiness. They even come with the green goddess-ish aioli, hooray. They’re a do-not miss. Slaw, on the other hand, even though it’s colorful, with red cabbage and threads of carrot, is pretty uninspired, except for a wee bit of heat in the creamy dressing.
It’s not often this bureau orders the same thing twice before writing about it. The strawberry chess pie has proven to be the exception to the rule. I’d never tasted chess pie before, just read about it. Basically a custard but less firm, with bits of strawberry here and there to provide a little hit of tartness in the midst of great sweetness, the two pies were each a little different, one slightly less sweet and more tasting of rich milk than the other. Both crusts were very good and flaky, managing not to succumb to total sogginess underneath the wet filling, although one was more tender on that bottom than the other. They also clearly had not been refrigerated, but made very recently, another reason the pastry was so successful. Other kinds of pie, housemade soft-serve ice cream, whoopie pies and – prepare yourself – snow cones with housemade syrups. (I considered ordering the blood orange and asking for a few drops of rum over the top.)
Snappy, cheerful service across the board makes things even happier. And there’s free valet parking. All in all, not perfect, but mostly pretty danged charming.
1831 Sidney St.
Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Sat, late lunch through early dinner Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair-to-good
Sandwiches and entrees: $9-$24 plus those market price lobster and crab items