Where to Pescador at the Hotel Commonwealth.
Why For seafood and merriment in a bright, beachy room with big-night-out energy and lots of nostalgia. Nothing that a little flamingo-pink Miami backlighting can’t fix.
The backstory Pescador opened in November, created by the New York-based Blue Ribbon Restaurants team. Blue Ribbon owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg opened their first restaurant in SoHo in 1992, and now there’s a (very good) Blue Ribbon Sushi next door, in the old Hawthorne cocktail lair. They’ll open a brasserie in the old Eastern Standard space soon, while Pescador replaces Island Creek Oyster Bar.
The fact that this restaurant is helmed by New Yorkers is notable: Hotel Commonwealth was the longtime fiefdom of Boston restaurateur extraordinaire Garrett Harker. His restaurants closed in 2021, after a landlord-tenant dispute. (Don’t feel too bad for Harker, who has plans in the works farther down Beacon Street.)
Pescador is eclectic and global, but the talent is very local: Dan Bazzinotti and Keith Pooler share cooking duties and a very Boston pedigree. The pair worked together at Pooler’s Bergamot, and they also spent time at Scampo with Lydia Shire. Pooler also worked at Excelsior and Harvest.
Bazzinotti, who was the chef at Eataly Boston’s Terra for five years, thinks that there’s a slight difference working for a New York group.
“You don’t see restaurants designed like Pescador in Boston,” he says. “With Blue Ribbon, they think about more than just aesthetics. What I really like about that dining room is it’s super comfortable. You can hang out there for hours. Of course, they want to make a space that takes a nice Instagram picture, but that’s not their number one thing,” he says.
Bazzinotti says that locals have been welcoming despite the big switch. Former Island Creek staffers have stopped by with positive feedback.
“I just feel really proud to be working in that space, because everybody who’s worked in it formerly just knows that this is a really fun location. [People say], ‘We’re glad you guys are here and not someone else,’” he says.
What to eat Upon hiring, Bazzinotti was presented with an Excel spreadsheet of potential recipes, many of which leaned Mexican.
“It was maybe 770 items long,” he recalls. “We ordered everything for it, and Keith just started cooking. We had no dishwasher, no prep cooks, and a giant kitchen — the old Island Creek kitchen, which is like a football field.”
Over time, the pair whittled the spreadsheet while getting their steps in, branching out to South America, Spain, and the Italian coast.
“Now it’s to the point that we’ll just be a coastal restaurant, as long as people like it and have fun,” he says.
And the menu is fun, designed for sharing and splurging. Prioritize the roasted oysters awash in chili butter, downright drinkable, and the cauldron of saffron-laced seafood paella with Disney-size shrimp, cockles, and calamari (most seafood, pristinely fresh, comes from Wulf’s). This is the kind of place where you should toast the departure of an evil boss or lure out-of-town friends who have a baby sitter, where you’ll have a few drinks and decide that one more round of lobster tacos is a good idea (and it will be).
There’s also a 16-seat ceviche bar where guest chefs will improvise and where Bazzinotti can experiment with whatever’s fresh, like live scallops and Japanese firefly squid. Jamie Bissonnette is slated to appear this week.
What to drink Cocktails are New York strong, too: lots of mezcal, lots of tequila, an abundance of Technicolor margaritas and smooth palomas. The Spicy Piña, with tequila, pineapple juice, club soda, lime, agave, habanero, and a Tajin rim, makes it easy to ask for another smoked shrimp cocktail while canceling your Uber. Service is efficient, and they keep the drinks coming.
The takeaway A respected New York brand executed by local talent sounds formulaic, but the vibe really is anything but. The dining room is happy. The service is unobtrusive but attentive when that Uber is finally idling on Comm. Ave. The flavors are big, unapologetic, and strong, just like the drinks. It’s not cheap — entrees are in the $30-$45 range — but, on a recent weekend evening, nobody seemed to mind.
498 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-532-1050, www.pescadorkenmore.com