|Paul Carvallo shucks oysters at the raw bar at Papa Beau’s. (Paul E. Kandarian for The Boston Globe)|
Piper Beau’s is lighter and airier than the dark, moody Webster Hall that used to occupy the space. Gone are the black-painted ceiling beams (now white). The walls are painted island-bright pastel blue and light tan, with one wall boasting a massive hammerhead shark sculpture, while a trio of surfboards serve as another wall decoration near the small lounge.
Though it’s been open just since December, the restaurant is showing signs it could be a player on the local food scene with its decidedly mid-Atlantic culinary flavor.
A sizable raw bar is located near the kitchen, serving icy-cold creatures of the local waters, including oysters, a half-dozen for $8. We tried them and found them salty and succulent, with a deliciously smoky flavor. Watch for Maryland crabs this summer, said co-owner Nick Jeppi.
The calamari ($8) made with cornmeal batter was good, not great, and neither was the Buffalo shrimp toast ($10), a soggy brioche with flattened tiger shrimp in the middle and served with Gorgonzola aioli that was more toast than shrimp.
But that’s as bad as it got - everything else was superb, especially a signature appetizer, crispy lobster ($8), generous hunks of lobster meat made crispy in tempura batter and served with Cuban marinade and caper remoulade. Eat one of these and you’ll want more.
We also tried a stuffed quahog ($2), absolutely loaded with quahog chunks in a sweet, moist batter that is a major cut above some of the less clam-heavy, drier stuffies that many restaurants in New England serve.
Sit at the bar with a couple of these and a Pirate Juice cocktail ($7), made with seven kinds of rum that stew in a jar of fresh fruit, the resulting brew poured into a glass and topped with Sprite and acai juice. Be forewarned: It is a sneaky drink; it doesn’t seem strong until you’ve had one. Or two.
The bar is also home to jars of other fruit-infused vodka for the daring, all of them good. And though a pair of TV screens hang at the bar, don’t expect them to be on much, unless customers request it.
“I always leave them off unless someone wants to watch something,” says Billy Hughes, Jeppi’s business partner. “I think that TV gets in the way of good conversation.”
Our party of six tried a couple of salads, both good, cold, and crunchy, particularly the Caesar with shrimp ($13), the greens bountiful, the shrimp nicely seasoned with a delicious house dressing.
Then we turned our hungry attention to the heartier dishes such as the seared scallops ($16), two sizable sea scallops seared crisp on both sides and with a sweet, moist middle - the fat, succulent meat served atop a fantastic potato cake and surrounded by a sea of creamed spinach.
We loved that, but loved even more the roasted chicken ($14), low- and slow-roasted to keep the quarter-chicken serving crispy on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside, made with orange-sage seasoning and served with sweet corn mash.
And the hits just kept on coming, finishing up with what we thought was the best of the night, the crab cakes entrée ($26), dual dollops of jumbo lump Chesapeake Bay crab served with mustard aioli and mashed potatoes. All six of us declared them the best ever. The cakes aren’t cakey at all, but rather huge amounts of thick, sweet crab that mixes nicely with the mustard aioli, a tangy balance.
Hughes says he goes twice a week to T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island to pick up the Maryland crab flown in for the restaurant, and it’s a worthy trip indeed.
Fresh fish is huge in this area and will be at Piper Beau’s, Hughes said, particularly seasonal offerings served whole. Something about cooking a fish with head and tail intact, such as a crispy Japanese-style red perch, preserves the moistness of the meat, he says, so look for those specials on a regular basis.
Hughes and Jeppi are partners with Demetrios Kalkanis, whose family has run Minerva’s Pizza, just a block away, for 41 years.
Already, Piper Beau’s has built a loyal clientele frequenting the place three or four times a week, perhaps splitting their dining time with Minerva’s. But they’re both in the same business family, offering decidedly different and equally tasty fare.
PAUL E. KANDARIAN
Correction: Due to the reviewer's error, the Dining Out column in last Sunday's Globe South misstated the name of the restaurant. The correct name is Piper Beau's.