Making a name for itself
Stylish menu puts Remick’s, and Quincy, on the map
Consider Quincy. Big city. On the Red Line. Off the highway. Near the water. Great location. When was the last time you came here for dinner?
There are plenty of choices. You could have fried seafood at Tony’s Clam Shop on Wollaston Beach, or meet friends for wings and lobster mac and cheese at the Fat Cat after work, or sample Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Filipino, Indian, Middle Eastern, or Italian cuisine. But unless you live nearby, chances are you haven’t been to Quincy for dinner recently, if at all.
The city lacks the reputation as a dining destination that is enjoyed by northern counterparts Cambridge and Somerville. This could easily change, were a few high-profile restaurateurs to open up shop. Marc Orfaly raises that possibility with Remick’s, a collaboration with partners Timothy Collins (a Quincy native) and Bob Palmer. The restaurant debuted at the end of March in the space once occupied by restaurant-pub Finian’s. It’s named for the former Quincy department store owned by the late actress Lee Remick’s family.
Enter and you’re greeted by smiling staff, who do their best to seat you quickly. On a Tuesday, that’s no problem. You’re soon ensconced in a squishy circular booth, from which you’ve only to turn your head a few degrees in any angle to take in the nearest flat screen. The room features exposed brick, sleek surfaces, mirrors, and modern fixtures, with a few photos of old Quincy as a nod to the past. A family eats together in the dining room, and patrons of all ages take stools at the long bar. (In a stroke of artery-clogging genius, Remick’s provides complimentary bacon as a bar snack.)
On a Friday, you’re going to have to wait. Wedge yourself between the bar and several communal tables, attempt to order a drink from the busy bartenders, and try not to get trampled by women wearing jeans with elaborately embroidered back pockets or their fashionably scruffy boyfriends. When there’s live music in the lounge, prepare to yell if you want to be heard. Remick’s falls on the upscale side of casual, or vice versa, friendly and fun. If you averaged together a trendy Back Bay hot spot and Cheers, you might wind up here.
Orfaly, a winner of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chef award in 2004, also operates Pigalle in the Theatre District and Marco Cucina Romana in the North End. That covers French and Italian, respectively. At Remick’s, where he shares the kitchen with chef de cuisine Tim Raines (Back Bay Social Club), things get a little more eclectic. The menu embraces the South, New Orleans, Asia, France, Italy, the Mediterranean, and the good old American bar, all at once. This may be the only place in Quincy offering whole suckling pig roasts for 10 people.
The results can occasionally be all over the place, too. An appetizer of shrimp and grits one night is worth going back for. A skewer of grilled shrimp comes with creamy grits enhanced with bacon, crisp Brussels sprout leaves as addictive as potato chips, and a panko-crusted fried egg that, punctured, runs golden yolk into the grits. But when we do indeed go back for it, the yolk is solid and the egg cold at the center, the pieces of bacon are overcooked, and the grits clump together.
Roasted figs stuffed with blue cheese are served with prosciutto, arugula, and beet syrup. The dish is simple and appealing, the flavors perfectly combined. On several repeat visits, however, we’re told it’s unavailable.
Pork is pounded thin, breaded, and fried for a dish of schnitzel with spaetzle, braised cabbage, and caper-lemon sauce. Also on the menu is veal chop Milanese, with tomatoes, mozzarella, and arugula. Two guests order these dishes, then trade tastes and laugh. The accompaniments may be different, but the fried meat tastes exactly the same.
Some nights the food is intensely salty, other nights it’s fine.
Still, despite the unevenness, the restaurant has plenty to recommend it.
Po’boy sliders feature plump fried oysters with sliced pork, kimchi, coleslaw, and tartar sauce — Seoul food. More kimchi would be welcome, but perhaps the kitchen is treading lightly when it comes to spice.
A salad of avocado, mango, grapefruit, and sliced radishes with goat cheese is light and refreshing.
Tuna au poivre features a generous cube of fish, encrusted in lemony peppercorns. It’s seared at the edges, rare in the center, just right. It sits in a pool of dark broth flavored with charred onions, soy, and yuzu juice, along with (not enough) steamed vegetables. The one real disappointment is that the description promises “fried wonton’’ — rather than a dumpling, you get crisp strips of wonton wrapper.
Half a juicy roast chicken is served with mellow garlic gravy, a scallion-potato cake, and watercress. For a regular, it could become a go-to dish, along with the tuna. Same with sirloin, roasted medium-rare and accompanied by sauteed spinach, thin-cut potatoes stacked with braised oxtail, and red wine sauce.
For dessert, banana wontons with peanut butter sauce are a cute idea, although they taste predominantly like fried dough. So do blackberry beignets. White chocolate mousse has a delicate flavor but grainy texture; an accompanying shot of hot chocolate is piping enough to invite a McDonald’s-style lawsuit.
Quincy is ready for craft cocktails and microbrews. But although Remick’s is inventive with its food, the drinks play it safe. Offerings include Bud, Stella, and Sam Adams, cosmos, margaritas, and “Cape Coddahs.’’ The wine list is as customer-friendly as the servers and hosts. Few of its 40-plus bottles break $40, and many are less than $30. The list offers advice on what foods to pair with each selection; if that doesn’t answer your questions, servers are knowledgeable enough to steer you.
For those who live in Quincy, Remick’s offers a stylish night on the town, without the trip into Boston. For restaurateurs, it offers a reminder of Quincy’s potential. May they follow Orfaly’s example and help make this city into a dining destination.
Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.