Coast Guard House: elegant dining by the sea

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I was looking for that special restaurant to take my wife for her birthday. Living in Rhode Island for over 50 years and doing restaurant reviews for this newspaper for almost that long made the decision very difficult.

It was late October. The tourists have left, and Narragansett was holding their Restaurant Week.

Last year, we celebrated at the Matunuck Oyster Bar. It was wonderful.

How could I top that?

The lightbulb went off, and the Coast Guard House flashed before my eyes. That beautiful structure sitting majestically by the ocean, where surfers could be viewed year-round from a camera on its roof, seemed like an ideal setting.

We arrived at 5:30 p.m. and were seated overlooking the ocean, with a view of the Newport Bridge and a cruise ship slowly moving across the horizon.

Elizabeth, our friendly and always smiling waitress, brought fresh bread to the table and drinks were ordered from a bartender who knew his trade.

Three of us ordered from the special Restaurant Week Three-Course Dinner ($27.16), which included appetizer, main course and dessert.

Daughter Robin ordered her favorite Linguini and clams ($19) from the regular menu. The large dish was filled with tender, juicy, native little necks and the linguini nestled in a delicious sauce of fresh herbs, garlic, white wine and butter.

For appetizers, Joyce and son-in-law Mike chose mussels cooked in red bell peppers, garlic, shallots, saffron, fresh herbs and butter. The portion was large enough to be shared by Robin and me ($12 on the regular appetizer menu).

I chose the shellfish fritters, deep fat-fried just like a clam cake but including clam, crab and lobster, with a spicy aioli dipping sauce.

Joyce and Mike chose the swordfish, perfectly cooked with romesco, pickled vegetables and cauliflower ($26 on the regular menu). The dish was accompanied by smoked potato. Fortunately for me, Joyce doesn’t like anything smoked, so I was the recipient of a unique method of cooking potatoes, which I loved. Now, if I could only find more chefs brave enough to do it.

I chose the North Atlantic salmon, which was prepared to perfection and accompanied by blood orange, miso-soy glaze, spaetzle, snap peas, carrots and radish turnip ($23 on regular menu). The combination of ingredients created a taste that would be difficult to duplicate, and I savored every mouthful.

Dessert special was carrot cake (my favorite), but Joyce craved chocolate, so our wonderful waitress “found” a flourless chocolate cake for her to enjoy.

We’ll be back to the Coast Guard House, especially this winter when there are no Connecticut cars in the parking lot.

Their lunch menu includes an Angus Burger ($11), linguini and clams, and a salmon club that I’m dying to try ($14). There are a half dozen appetizers I just have to return for, including octopus, calamari and beef short-rib dumplings.

While the food is certainly the main reason for reserving your table at the Coast Guard House, the atmosphere comes in a close second. Most tables are overlooking the water. If you arrive early you can enjoy the waves breaking a few feet from your table. A plaque on the wall shows the water level not that long ago that shut the restaurant down for a while.

As darkness fell over the shoreline, floodlights caught the seagulls soaring nearby, watching for fish that are attracted by the squid that come close to shore. The contrast of the gulls flying against the dark sky, caught by the lights is almost otherworldly and quite mesmerizing.

After all these years of fine dining in Rhode Island, we’ve added the Coast Guard House to our list of best restaurants in Rhode Island.

Open daily for lunch and dinner, plus a large bar and wine list. Call 789-0700 for reservations, or check them out at www.thecoastguardhouse.com.

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RISchadenfreude

"We’ll be back to the Coast Guard House, especially this winter when there are no Connecticut cars in the parking lot."- sums up Rhode Islanders' xenophobic attitude towards "outsiders" when they should be celebrating that a few people actually come "all the way" to RI to spend money.

It was a good review until that remark- how about confining your personal opinions to the food and atmosphere?

Thanks in advance.

Monday, November 21, 2016