In 1968, Legal Sea Foods opened its first-ever restaurant in Inman Square — a pay-before-you-ate, paper-plates type of place, said Rich Vellante, executive chef for the company.
Almost half a century later, Legal is bringing back its counter service.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we modernize that a little bit but keep that strong DNA of uncompromising quality fish?’” Vellante said. “We’d enter that market and genre, really focusing on high-quality fish at a very reasonable price.”
Legal Sea Foods’s newest venture, the fast-casual Legal Fish Bowl, opens Thursday within the existing Legal Sea Foods restaurant in Kendall Square. Diners can choose from six predesigned signature bowls or build their own, showcasing the fresh seafood that made the chain a household name among Bostonians.
The Legal Fish Bowl space was converted from the main restaurant’s private dining room. It now features two floor-to-ceiling glass windows to create the illusion of being inside a fishbowl, according to a statement by the company.
The signature bowls range from $8.95 to $13.95 and include vegetarian and pescatarian options, each bestowed with a cutesy name. “Pick Your Hoisin” stars hoisin-glazed salmon; “Chicky Chicky Bang Bang” has grilled chicken breast; “In(man) in the Raw” is a medley of colorful veggies. You get the idea.
Vellante’s two favorites are the “Noodle It Over Shrimp,” with marinated organic shrimp, lo mein noodles, portobello mushrooms, rainbow carrots, spicy roasted sweet potatoes, scallions, basil, cilantro, and mint, with a tahini dressing; and the “Tunanimous Choice,” with sesame-ginger tuna poke, seaweed salad, charred broccoli, kimchi, and nori furikake, topped with a sesame-ginger vinaigrette and a Korean red-chili sauce.
If you’re the visionary type, you can create your own bowl, starting at $7.95.
You begin with a base—jasmine rice, brown rice, mixed field greens, zucchini noodles, or lo mein noodles—then pick up to three of 11 sides, ranging from roasted cauliflower and shallots to chickpea salad to half an avocado. You can add an optional protein—tuna poke, salmon poke, hoisin-glazed salmon, organic grilled shrimp, grilled chicken breast, five-spice tofu, or a hardboiled egg—and finish with one of seven dressings.
“The quality of the ingredients is what stands out when you try these bowls,” Vellante said.
For beverages, rather than spirits and standard sodas, Legal Fish Bowl offers two homemade specials. The restaurant’s organic green tea is infused with mint and basil, with an elderflower syrup on the side if you’re feeling floral, Vellante said, and the haymaker’s punch is a “thirst-quenching” alternative with apple cider vinegar, ginger, and raw honey.
Vellante and his team hope to fill a void in the market with Legal Fish Bowl.
When looking at quick-service seafood options, “there aren’t a lot of high-quality choices that we feel are at the fanatical [freshness] that we have at Legal Sea Foods,” Vellante said. “I think it will really surprise some people when they give it a try.”
Legal Fish Bowl will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Have a look at the full menu below.
355 Main St., Cambridge; legalseafoods.com