WHO’S IN CHARGE Chef Brian Houlihan has really topped himself this time. On July 4, the restaurateur slung a banner from the former Red Parrot in Hull unveiling his newest restaurant’s new name, The Parrot, and opening its doors. Never mind that three of the enormous restaurant’s reconfigured dining areas were still under construction: The expansive ground floor beach bar dining room was ready and Houlihan was in the kitchen.
Since moving to Boston from Ireland at 18, in 1993, and working in several of the city’s kitchens, including the Four Seasons, the Scituate resident has opened four successful restaurants, starting in 2003 with Bia Bistro in Cohasset. Next, came the Tinker’s Son in Norwell, the Galley Kitchen & Bar in Scituate, and Trident Galley & Raw Bar in Hingham. The long-running Red Parrot, an oceanfront behemoth sprawling over the equivalent of a city block, had gone downhill over the years and Houlihan’s wonderful transformation of it is thrilling.
Asked why he would take on such an enormous venue, Houlihan joked. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s an icon? It was my civic duty?”
THE LOCALE The new restaurant is so completely changed it’s disorienting to people who knew the old place. The beautifully spacious beach bar dining room, with its simple white walls, tin ceiling, and wood floors is an airy space completely open to the sea: The restaurant’s front wall is glass and folds out of the way, accordion-style.
Meanwhile, around back is an entirely different environment: an Irish tavern in dark gentlemanly colors with its own back door. Up a half-flight — Houlihan calls it the mezzanine — is a dining room with large windows. Go up one more flight and you’re on the rooftop patio with its amazing views. Inside, construction is still underway on a dining room that should be open by Thanksgiving. All together, The Parrot will seat 400. Houlihan may develop two menus for different areas, and is likely to shutter the beach bar in the winter and open the pub and the third-floor dining room.
ON THE MENU The Parrot’s starting summer menu smartly mixes $6-$8 burgers, tacos, sliders and other beachy fare with a nicely chosen handful each of raw bar selections, starters, salads, and entrees that top out at $48 for a 28-ounce rib eye for two. On five or six summer visits, we ate up everything: the carefree summer atmosphere of the inside-outside beach bar as well as lots of terrific plates. Among my favorites is the yellow fin tuna poke ($14), a gorgeous, velvety smooth plate of diced tuna in a ginger, garlic, soy, hoisin, lime marinade. The batter-fried Scituate haddock ($20), a.k.a. fish n’ chips, is a gorgeous filet of haddock in a batter crispy enough to let you hold it, and light enough to break apart at the touch of your teeth. The house clam chowder ($6) is a very satisfying cup thick with plenty of tender clams. All the tacos are good: the fried haddock ($8) with its pico de gallo and sriracha aioli, my favorite. The smash burger ($8) delivers a hamburger experience and the pulled pork slider ($6) is better with its smoky meat and bright slaw. Houlihan reminds me most of Houlihan in two entrees. The rustic pan-roasted salmon ($26) is enriched with bits of very crispy skin and served with fingerling potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts over an outstanding light seafood sauce. I loved it. Equally great is the grilled swordfish ($28). The large filet is topped with a small pile of lightly pickled, sweet cucumbers and carrots and served over some sensational chimichurri sauce. All we needed was more!
The Parrot, 1 Hull Shore Drive, Hull, 781-214-9300.
Joan Wilder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.