The Restaurantour: The Daily Catch
In Boston, there is a great, lovely aquarium right on the harbor. Inside, there is a penguin exhibit and a giant cylindrical tank where sharks and rays glide around and tiny little seahorses bob. There is almost always a line to get in, but even if you can't make it inside you can always walk by their outdoor exhibit of harbor seals, where you can watch them swim back and forth and learn all their names (I am particularly fond of Smoke). I don't go as often as I like, it being expensive and usually crowded on weekends, but a few years ago Dave, his sister, and I made the trip. We watched the penguins' feeding time and the shark's feeding time, learned about local shoreline birds, and held starfish in the touch tank. When we finally left and decided to get some dinner, we all sort of thought for a second where we should go before Dave said, "You know? I kind of have a craving for fish."
And as soon as he said it, we had to agree. Despite the bad lesson that we left with (fish are food, not friends?), I'm grateful for that excursion for introducing me to the best fish restaurant in the world--the absolutely incomparable Daily Catch.
I wish I could say I discovered the Daily Catch, but with many of my favorite Boston restaurants (oh how I still dream of Marche, Kebab n Kurry, and so many others...), I was tipped off by my brother, a Bostonian 7 years and running. I called and asked him for a good fish restaurant near the aquarium and he immediately had the answer. Just a few short blocks away, in Boston's famed North End, we found the tiny little restaurant, huddled between Italian sports bars and across the street from Mike's Pastries, one of the favorite places to pick up overpriced gelato and cannolis.
From outside, it doesn't look like much. Most of the tiny restaurant (I'd estimate it's maybe 15'-20' wide) is taken up by the stove, grill, and chef's area, giving you the feeling that you're sitting inside someone's kitchen. The fact that the restaurant is family run as well, with nieces and siblings stopping by to wait tables or just chat, only emphasizes this, as does the extremely limited seating (no reservations, and if you're seated at the window, you're likely to feel the hungry eyes of waiting diners on the sidewalk outside). The food, fish and seafood so fresh it was swimming in the harbor that morning, is absolutely fantastic. From your seat, you can watch the chef prepare your food and see the flames shoot up as it hits the grill.
No menus in this Sicilian restaurant. Instead, you order off a nearby chalkboard--not a problem as the place is so small it's always easy to read (also easy to read: the many, many reminders that the place only takes cash, no credit card. A nearby Bank of America ATM probably has a lot to thank them for). Most of the food is pan-fried or broiled and served directly in the pans in which they were cooked, meaning you don't lose a single bite of flavor or texture. My favorite is the pan-fried salmon, usually a special and not on the main menu, which comes drenched in butter and breadcrumbs. The best thing on the menu, however, and a unique dish to the restaurant, is their black pasta. Spaghetti pasta made with tinta de calamari comes out, yes, black. Although unusual-looking, it is perhaps the best pasta ever--high praise from a pastaphile like myself. The long, round, fat strands are silky and thick--you can literally taste the fresh flour and eggs and the homemade effort.
Although the Daily Catch is pricey (Appetizers: $3-$10 per person, Entres: $18-$23, with the show-stopping Lobster Fra Diavolo at $69 for two), it's worth every penny and could easily be worth more. If you want more of the standard amenities for your buck, the little North End eatery has a more upscale cousin on Boston's Harborwalk, where an expanded menu and wine list, as well as a larger setting (it also takes reservations) make a dressier setting.
Still, I am partial to the cramped and cozy space in the North End, where you can watch ancient Italian men debate the latest soccer match and chat with your chef about the best kinds of fish. Of course, if you really wanted to learn more about your dinner, the aquarium is still just minutes away.
Posted by Kendall Kulper Toniatti at 12:32 PM