Galley Kitchen and Bar, the chic spot that opened in mid-January on Front Street at Scituate Harbor, is the kind of place that leads to table envy. You want what the diner next to you has ordered.
Luckily, the restaurant is small and informal enough that you can lean over and ask what it is you are coveting. (Or, if you’re shy, ask the friendly wait staff to inquire.)
And since the menu focuses on small plates, you can easily indulge your cravings and add another item to your meal.
We went to Galley on a blustery weekend and were seated immediately at a table facing the big windows overlooking the street. The restaurant occupies the space previously filled by Phin’s and has been redesigned with lots of light and whimsy.
One wall is covered with oyster shells set in concrete, another with slanted boards. There’s a big wooden bar on one side of the room and a raw bar on the other, some high tables with stools, more low ones with comfortable chairs.
Overall seating is for 59 people. When we arrived, the crowd was a mix of families, 20-somethings, and senior citizens, all surrounded by plates and plates of food.
The menu is a delight – the creation of chef-owner Brian Houlihan, who also owns Tinker’s Son in Norwell and Bia Bistro in Cohasset with his partner, Erica White.
Besides an extensive variety of raw seafood, there is a large choice of traditional and nontraditional tapas, or small plates, as well as daily specials and sandwich options.
We went for the small plates, starting with roasted red pepper and goat cheese arancini ($6) – a beautifully presented pair of classic Italian rice-based balls that were creamy and subtly flavored.
We also ordered the empanadas ($7), light flaky pastries filled with chorizo sausage, potato, and manchego cheese, served with a bright salsa and greens.
A bowl of truffled fingerling and Peruvian purple potatoes ($6) was a fancy version of Tater Tots — if Tater Tots were brimming with truffle flavor and a hint of Romano cheese. The potatoes were crisp on the outside and oozingly soft inside.
Crispy hog shanks with spicy pepper sauce ($7) hardly qualified as a small plate. Two huge portions of meat were smoky, very spicy, and extremely tender. They came with a cooling salad and dressing, and were the perfect companion food for the truffled potatoes.
We also ordered the quinoa and roasted cauliflower salad ($6) with grapefruit, tomato, celery, onion, and pistachios. A big serving of salad arrived on a red cabbage leaf and was as pretty as it was delicious.
As we ate our way through our meal, sipping drinks served in blue canning jars, we cast longing glances at the neighboring tables.
Perhaps we should have tried the flatbread topped with duck confit, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese? Or the sauteed brussels sprouts that looked so easy to eat and smelled so garlicky? The pulled-pork sliders called to us, as did the big bowl of Spanish-style mussels. So many choices, so little time.
Galley Kitchen and Bar also has a large bar selection, which featured such libations as a classic whiskey sour and the “Blue-Haired Lady,” composed of Cisco Grey Lady Ale and Triple Eight blueberry vodka ($8).Johanna Seltz can be reached at email@example.com.