WHO’S IN CHARGE A week to the day after Island Creek Oyster Bar opened in Burlington (on Nov. 3), we had to check it out. The place was packed. The welcoming hostess took our name; then, when our table was ready, we were too settled in the cushy stools at the bar to want to leave.
This is the essence of ICOB in Burlington, an upscale seafood restaurant that feels like it’s been open longer than it has.
“We had a little bit of a road map,” said chef and partner Jeremy Sewall, referring to the first ICOB in Boston’s Kenmore Square. That space was designed by Bentel & Bentel of New York, which also built Burlington. “[It] feels like it just fits.”
It does, like a well-tailored suit.
Top restaurateur Garrett Harker, renowned oyster farmer Skip Bennett of Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, project management guru Shore Gregory, and Sewall — whose specialty is New England seafood — are the quartet behind the upscale oyster-focused restaurant.
They also operate the oyster-and-craft beers eatery Row 34 in South Boston and in Portsmouth, N.H. A fifth restaurant is in the works for Harvard Square.
THE LOCALE ICOB occupies a warehouse-like building in The District, a new office and retail development in Burlington.
The cavernous space is made intimate with ceiling panels (You can really have a conversation here) and flickering candles. A floor-to-ceiling display of stemware divides an area of high-tops from one with tables and banquettes. A hallmark wall made of thousands of oyster shells behind a gabion cage nods to Bennett’s oyster farm.
Retro tunes (Jackson Five, Barry White) lend a classy party vibe.
Our bartender kept us watered and guided us through the menu. “I love what I do,” she said. We could tell.
ON THE MENU If a review needs to find fault, you’ll be disappointed in this one. Each dish — from the bread with honey-cayenne butter to dessert, all made in-house — shows a balance of creativity and comfort. The menu changes daily to capture the best of what’s available.
The raw bar, smaller than the wet bar but just as packed, has a wide variety of shellfish and crudo, but the oysters — eight varieties, most locally sourced, including the restaurant namesake farm — are the stars.
The appetizer of smoked bluefish pâté ($10) was rich yet easy to polish off with thick rye bread triangles that were fried and accompanied by pickled vegetables. The locally caught halibut ($32) was a gorgeous, perfectly cooked pan-seared filet, a tad crisp on the outside, flaky inside. It sat atop sautéed parsnip, Swiss chard, and maitake mushrooms with a truffle aroma.
My wine, the Wimmer Czerny St. Laurent ($14), was a light earthy red from Austria and carried the meal nicely.
Dessert was Banoffee pie ($9), a graham cracker-crusted sophisticated banana-whipped cream pie dusted with cocoa and with just enough dulce de leche to bring it home (some of it, we did).
We left happy into the night.
Island Creek Oyster Bar, 300 District Ave., Burlington. 781-761-6500; islandcreekoysterbar.com.