BeetleCat doesn’t take reservations. Guests add their names to the list, then head downstairs to the crowded, 70’s inspired lounge to order a cocktail and socialize. A video of Jaws is on a loop in the stairwell, adding to the vintage nautical theme.
Ford Fry’s “oyster-ette” takes its name from the charming wooden sailboats used for shallow water fishing along Cape Cod. The menu reflects a homestyle New England approach to seafood preparation, with chef Andrew Isabella at the helm.
LC and I arrived early on the Saturday of Valentine’s weekend, making small talk with friends at the counter while waiting for drinks. He tried the Fish House Punch while I ordered a Thumb’s Up, a tropical throwback to ’70’s cocktails, made with cachaca, coconut, banana liquor, pineapple, lime and sea salt.
We were seated along the wall with a view of BeetleCat’s dining room, reflecting pure New England boaters’ style, with a whimsical neon sign and blue formica tables on the striped wooden “deck”. Rope-wrapped poles puncuate panels of sailcloth that sway from the high ceiling.
Our meal began with a trio of refreshing crudos. Diced cobia with avocado and cilantro is scooped up with crisp taro chips. Silky thin slices of hamachi bathed in ponzu sauce get an extra kick from fresh jalapenos and crunchy cashews. My favorite, however, was the delicate tuna dressed with a Thai herb salsa verde, shredded green papaya, jalapeno, peanuts, and crispy shallots.
Oysters have become mandatory on Valentine’s Day. LC ordered the libido-enhancing shellfish baked with parmesan, bacon, and Swiss chard. We slurped them up along with the last drops of our drinks, then promptly requested another round. This time, two Thumbs Up!
A salad of kale, roasted butternut squash, pepita brittle, and marinated feta impressed, but I’m rather certain the greens were mostly arugula. We watched as table after table got the lobster roll, but we decided to forego the New England favorite. This time.
Remember Riccardo Ullio’s Beleza on Juniper? He made a fantastic Brazilian fish stew called moqueca. Since the restaurant’s closing, I’ve made it myself a few times, but never found it on a menu…until now. Isabella’s version combines dayboat fish and shrimp with coconut milk, plantains, yucca, jalapenos and cashews, topped with a ravishing handful of cilantro.
Now if he only replaced the white rice with forbidden rice…
BeetleCat offers an edited selection of seasonal sides, each prepared with as much care as the fresh fish. In addition to the kale salad, we chose the sweet potato, which was sliced and baked with chestnut honey, creating chewy caramalized edges. Fried sage leaves added an herbal note.
Valentine’s dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert. LC and I ordered two, lemongrass cheesecake and the gluten-free brownie sundae. Light and creamy, the cheesecake was accompanied by a riot of surprising textures and flavors: cranberry jam, aloe gel, pistachios, and white chocolate streusel.
The cheesecake was divine, but perhaps even better was the sundae. These ingredients would be delicious served in a shoe, but at BeetleCat the gluten-free brownie salted caramel, roasted bananas, honey black pepper ice cream and almond crumble are presented in a rustic ceramic bowl.
The kitschy, casual Cape Cod vibe really works, but the magic is on the plate. As long as the quality, precision, and excitement of this menu remain, long lines of guests will prevail. Ahoy matey!
299 North Highland Avenue NE 678-732-0360