This week in reviews, Devra First takes on Eventide Fenway — the local fast-casual version of a Portland, Maine, institution — for the Boston Globe, giving it two-and-a-half stars out of four (between “good” and “excellent.”)
Regarding the supremely popular lobster roll, she commends the “mild sweetness” of the steamed bun, served warm beneath the brown butter lobster. Her assessment stands contrary to that of Boston Magazine critic Jolyon Helterman, who wrote in a March review he was “not a fan” of the cult-followed roll, finding “the double-squish texture less than ideal.”
But as for First: “This is Eventide’s best-known dish because it is so delicious, but also because it exemplifies what chefs Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor are doing at their seafood restaurants,” she writes; that is, maintaining “its New England classicism while being open to the flavors of the world.” This approach won Eventide a James Beard award in 2017.
While the first Eventide in Portland is a sit-down restaurant, Fenway’s is more casual, with a counter pay-and-pickup system. Oysters are central to the menu, First writes, and the raw fish (especially the tuna) is “as good as ever.” She calls the restaurant’s clam chowder one of her favorites, as it’s “enriched with salt pork,” and praises the cheeseburger with gochujang-tallow mayonnaise.
The passion of the founders comes through strong in the form of Eventide’s rotating specials, from the wild striped bass ceviche to a tart with grapefruit kosho and sumac.
“The specials are Eventide’s soul,” First writes. “They give it away: This is a full-service restaurant trying to pass in a fast-casual world.”