Nix’s Plymouth, which opened in April on Town Wharf, puts a creative, contemporary spin on the textbook New England seafood restaurant.
Harbor views? Check.
Outdoor dining? Check.
Standard seafood menu? Definitely not.
The restaurant is a spinoff of Nix’s Mate in Boston, which is named after a Boston Harbor island infamous for pirate executions in the 1600s (this explains the prints of antique weapons on the walls). Their owner, the Boston Hospitality Group, also operates the Sea Dog Brew Pub in Nantucket.
Nix’s Plymouth occupies a site used by several restaurants over the years, including the Weathervane and, most recently, Crazy Eddie’s.
The space is soothing — slate gray semicircular booths in the bar area, and reclaimed- wood tables in the dining room manage to look both contemporary and rustic — but the food is the reason to visit Nix’s.
The restaurant prides itself on making everything in-house, manager J. Spencer Beltis told us. “We make our own bacon, smoke our own chicken, and make our own fresh dough,” he said.
While we agonized over the inventive menu, our friendly waiter brought focaccia set on olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar and fresh rosemary.
The menu is heavy on shareable small plates, which it calls “starters.” We chose a starter of fried whole-belly clams ($13), because while fried clams are ubiquitous on the waterfront, really good fried clams are not. Sprinkled with ancho chili “dust,” these were melt-in-your-mouth tender with a crisp, greaseless coating. The ancho added a little bite, which could be increased with a dollop of the spicy red tartar sauce. A garnish of jicama slaw was cool and tangy.
Jerk-rubbed and smoked chicken wings ($10) arrived atop sweet barbecue sauce, with a fruity, pudding-like side dish that turned out to be banana-guava ketchup and offset the piquancy of the wings.
“Quahog” and “lollipop” are two words we never expected to see together on a menu, so we had to try the quahog fritter lollipops ($9), with house bacon, roasted corn, ginger sauce, and corn cream. The fritters were richly clammy, the bacon was delicious, and the corn was fresh off the cob. There were lots of flavors here, all good, but we didn’t taste any ginger.
The arugula in the strawberry arugula salad ($10) was a little limp, but the combination of spicy greens, sweet balsamic, strawberries, candied walnuts, and fried disks of goat cheese was satisfying.
Main dishes top out at $25, with several under $20.
Lobster “knuckle sandwiches” ($19) were lobster sliders on brioche rolls moistened with butter and chipotle aioli, giving them a richer taste than traditional mayonnaise-based lobster rolls. Three sliders were accompanied by crispy fried shallot rings, which I found too salty.
Sea scallops with English pea risotto, butternut puree, and a pomegranate reduction ($25) showed that the kitchen can produce sophisticated entrees as well as genre-bending appetizers. Five large scallops seared in butter were set atop risotto and surrounded by a ribbon of butternut. Attractively garnished with pea tendrils, the dish was as lovely to behold as to consume.
Nix’s offers three “flats,” or flatbread pizzas. Fresh mozzarella flatbread ($11) was topped with fresh tomato slices, pesto, roasted garlic, and chewy cheese. It should be even better when local tomatoes are in season.
Nix’s is clearly meant to be more a gathering place than a fine-dining venue (although we think the scallops and risotto could hold its own in any restaurant). The interior is about two-thirds bar to one-third dining room, and we’re not sure there’s any way to escape eye contact with at least one of the 20 high-definition TV screens. High-backed booths offer some privacy and mitigate noise.
The bar boasts a large selection of draft and bottled beers, with the lineup rotated to bring in local craft varieties, and a diverse wine list. An interesting selection of handcrafted cocktails pays tribute to Plymouth and pirates; “Dead Reckoning,” for example, is made with cranberry vodka, cranberry juice, lime, and rosemary.
A large outdoor patio overlooking the harbor is scheduled to open this weekend. It’s connected to an indoor bar and function area with a brushed metal wall that reminds us of the opalescent underside of seashells. A streetside patio with wicker furniture will offer a lounge menu.
Parking on the Plymouth waterfront was a challenge on a Saturday night. Beltis said the restaurant hopes to secure a spot for valet parking by next year. In the meantime, carpool. Nix’s is meant to be shared.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at email@example.com.