CAMBRIDGE – Seafood towers perfect for sharing, an indoor clambake that will make you feel like you’re on the beach, and Lobster so fresh you’re bound to blush. At The Hourly Oyster House in Harvard Square, seafood is taken seriously.
Owner Patrick Lee is no stranger to Cambridge. He already operates a couple other restaurants, but he thinks this is the type of eatery the neighborhood needed.
“We’ve seen great oyster bars throughout New England and the country, and we thought it was time to bring one to Harvard Square.”
Patrick decked this sophisticated space with nautical art, cool white subway tile, and comfortable leather booths. There’s an elegant wooden bar for cocktails, or the fun raw bar where you can see shuckers at work while you suck back some oysters.
“I really want the place to be fun. I want it to be accessible. I want there to be a good variety of oysters. You want to feel like you’re eating really fresh, clean seafood.”
He brought in Executive Chef Taryn Mohan Bonnefoi to head up the kitchen. The New England native has spent much of her career cooking in Michelin starred restaurants in France, and now she brings all of those classic techniques to local staples.
“Bringing French technique to The Hourly Oyster House was extremely simple, knowing my background: French technique kind of paired with New England classics.”
“I think what Chef has been able to do is really combine her classical talent to some of the entrees and appetizers, while also lending a deft touch to more conventional, classic New England dishes, which really elevates the menu,” Patrick said.
While The Hourly may identify as an oyster bar with fresh bivalves shucked and served right before your eyes, the real star of this menu seems to be the lobster served straight out of a 500-gallon tank.
“The lobster is as fresh as it can possibly be, right up until the time it gets onto your plate,” Patrick said.
You will find these craveable crustaceans served in a variety of ways, from the classic New England Lobster Boil alongside littlenecks, mussels, kielbasa, corn and potatoes, to the indulgent Butter Poached Lobster served over spaghetti, to the comforting Lobster Pie.
“It’s basically our play on the traditional chicken pot pie,” Chef Taryn explained. “You have the richness from the crusty puff pastry. You just get a lot of hearty vegetables, rich lobster taste. There’s a lot of large chunks of lobster that you will find in it as well.”
No lobster menu would be complete without that quintessential sandwich, the lobster roll.
“We decided to not do anything drastic to it,” Taryn said. “Fresh lobster tossed with our homemade mayonnaise. A hot-buttered, griddled roll with a little bit of chopped celery leaves, lemon zest, and chives. It’s a very flavorful but simple dish.”
Clams make their way onto the menu: stuffed and served as a starter; fried and presented in a big tin with slaw and tartar for dipping; and loaded into The Hourly’s creamy Clam Chowder with housemade saltines.
“Growing up here in New England, we all love our clam chowder,” Chef Taryn stated. “I like to keep the recipe very simple and basic, just using onions, celery, smoked bacon, a lot of clams, heavy cream, and fresh thyme.”
There are inventive dishes like the Pepper-Crusted Tuna BLT, stacked with fried green tomatoes, avocado and horseradish aioli on sourdough; the light and tasty Tuna Poke served with crispy wontons; and aromatic Curried Mussels served with frites perfect for dunking, dipping and sipping.
“You can use the French fries to go in your mussel juice. You can just dunk them in the mayonnaise. You can eat the juice with a spoon. We kind of leave it to the guest to decide,” Taryn said.
If you’re not into seafood, no problem because there is a Superior Steak served with roasted fingerling potatoes in a red wine sauce. For something more casual, you could go with the burger.
“It’s an 8-ounce Brandt beef patty, two perfectly melted sliced of cheese, thick cut bacon, fried onion strings, soft brioche roll, barbecue mayonnaise,” Patrick described.
For a sweet treat to wrap things up, the Chocolate Mousse is a must.
“It’s a take on a classic chocolate mousse,” Taryn explained. “We layer it with our homemade caramel sauce and some crackly chocolate. It’s a perfect way to end a meal at The Hourly Oyster House.”
With superior service, affordable prices and downright tasty fare, you’ll find The Hourly Oyster House to be pretty perfect as well. You can find it at 15 Dunster Street in Cambridge, and online at thehourlycambridge.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.