WHO’S IN CHARGE The tightknit team behind the Mission Oak Grill in Newburyport has worked its magic again, this time oceanside in Swampscott. Joining co-owners Marty Bloom and Wellington Augusto is chef David Buckley, an eight-year Mission Oak Grill veteran who they brought over to the kitchen.
“Finding someone you can trust is key,” said Bloom, the founder and former CEO of Vinny Testa’s. Augusto has worked with Bloom for 22 years. From Brazil, Augusto adds his South American influence to dishes like the homemade paella. Bar chef Mohammad Momeni dreams up seasonal concoctions to match Mother Nature’s moods. A third partner, Robert Hoffman, is behind the 120-plus bottle wine list, winnowed down from 900.
THE LOCALE Wow. Formerly the Red Rock Bistro, that restaurant was demolished in 2014 to allow a new structure to be built. Opened in May as Mission on the Bay, the restaurant is wedded like a tight cluster of periwinkles to the rocky ledge of Black Wills Cliff overlooking King’s Beach.
The main dining room, open year-round, seats 230, has two bars, and an open kitchen, with 100 of the seats sectioned off for private meetings and parties. Teal-blue leather bar chairs pop with vibrant color against deep ocean blue-painted walls. The dining room’s 100-linear foot stretch of windows can open to the sea breeze in season, but offer a spectacular “indoor alfresco” year-round.
Upstairs is the Ocean Bar, a 170-seat deck (closed until spring) looks out to staggering views of the Boston skyline. Tucked into an outside corner downstairs is the casual Cove for takeout.
ON THE MENU If you can’t release your grip on summer, this is your go-to place. Coincidence or not, as we made our selections, “Summer Breeze,” Seals and Crofts’ 1972 anthem, played quietly overhead as we made our selections.
A Kurant Affair ($11) started us off, a light, bubbly, sun-kissed cocktail with Absolut Citron vodka, cassis, lemon, and Prosecco (bubbly white wine). A fan of local craft beers, my husband liked his draft of Bent Water Thunder Funk ($7) from the neighboring Lynn brewery.
The New England clam chowder ($6 cup, $10 bowl) is one of the best we’ve ever tasted. Not too thick, not too thin, chock-full of clams, bite-sized white potatoes, and applewood-smoked bacon. It was so good that we ordered a bowl to go from Alex, our attentive French waiter, for lunch the next day.
The menu constantly evolves. Some “hall of fame” dishes from Newburyport also star here, like the fried calamari ($12), now Mission on the Bay’s top-selling appetizer. It’s accompanied by fried lemon, fried cherry pepper, and a fiery citrus-pepper tartar sauce, all adding a little extra zest. For next time, we made a note to try the hand-rolled short rib empanadas ($12), an Argentinian classic featuring braised boneless beef short rib, which is oven-roasted daily.
The bibb lettuce and beet salad ($14), served on a long tray, was as colorful as it was delicious, sprinkled with dried apricot, candied-spiced pecans, and goat cheese and drizzled with a citrus-beet vinaigrette.
Though it usually comes with fries, onion rings, and broccoli, the Delmonico steak ($36) was a special the night we visited. It was served with asparagus and a tempting pot of mashed potatoes with blue cheese melted throughout, accompanying the generous portion of tender meat.
Also generous were the scallops and risotto ($32), seven good-sized scallops seared golden on the outside, leaving the inside tender and moist, served with a cheesy risotto and peas.
Ending the night on a sweet note, we shared a creme brulee ($7).
Dinner for two can be pricey: our bill was $180, including tax and tip. But the quality of food, decor, service and the million-dollar view makes it worth the splurge.
Mission on the Bay, 141 Humphrey St., Swampscott 781-691-9277, missiononthebay.com.