PORTSMOUTH, NH – Who needs the ‘turf’ when you can have the ‘surf’? Chef Michael Buckley opened his first Surf restaurant in Nashua, New Hampshire back in 2001. Then he opened a fun and funky waterfront location in Portsmouth in 2011, where the food and the atmosphere are a lot more trendy than traditional.

“When you come into Surf the colors tend to be sea foam greens and light sea blues. We use a lot of colorful lighting. It’s kind of a modern nautical theme,” Michael explained. “If you’re sitting there eating seafood, does it taste better when you can see the water? I think it does.”

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The menu at Surf is wide-ranging, wildly enticing, and full of international influences. There are fresh-shucked oysters, and hand-rolled sushi, Hawaiian style poke bowls, tropical barbecue shrimp, lobster and brie nachos, and chorizo braised mussels.

“This is what people really want. They want everything on one menu. They want sushi; they want raw bar; they want appetizers; they want entrees,” Michael said. “And if you just want to come in, have drinks and appetizers you can have that too.”

Of course, a lot of customers come in for the old standbys, like clam chowder and lobster rolls.

Lobster Roll at Surf (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s fresh shucked lobster meat right out of water. It’s dipped in melted butter and it’s served on a griddled bun. If you wanted to sit there and dip your lobster meat in butter and eat it, you might as well put it in a bun,” Michael reasoned.

“As far as clam chowder, it’s fresh chopped clams; it’s whole heavy cream; it’s whole butter, a little bit of chopped vegetable… You just have to have the right ratio of clams to potatoes and a lot of good heavy cream and butter and you’re good to go.”

If you want a little interactive entertainment to start your meal, check out the Hot Stone Tuna you can sear right at your table. Another popular starter is the New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp served with homemade jalapeno corn bread.

Instead of a traditional baked haddock, they do a Roast Atlantic Haddock with lobster mashed potatoes in a Nantucket-inspired pan sauce. As for the sushi, it’s definitely some of the finest and most colorful on the Seacoast, especially the Wicked Awesome Tuna with avocado and cucumber.

Wicked Awesome Tuna Roll at Surf (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s kind of a combination tuna roll. We have the spicy tuna on top. We have tuna loin in the middle, avocado, plus tobiko caviar. It just makes for a real wide range of flavors all in one bite.”

Another super flavorful dish is the luxurious Lobster Kristina, which starts with a fresh-shucked pound and quarter beauty that gets flambéed with cognac, chives, cream, and a plenty of butter. If you really want to take your Surf seafood experience to the next level, order the Ultimate Raw Bar Sampler.

One layer of the Ultimate Raw Bar Sampler at Surf (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“An Ultimate we would recommend for maybe a party of 10 or so – if you want to come in and really have a celebration.” Michael said. “It’s going to have everything on it. We have oysters; we have clams; we have shrimp cocktail; we have crabmeat; we have lobster cocktail; we have smoked trout, smoked salmon, scallop ceviche. Everything that’s on our raw bar is going to be featured on an Ultimate.”

If you’re not in the mood for something quite so over-the-top, there is an underrated sandwich known as the Flueben.

“Flueben is our version of a Reuben,” Michael stated. “So It’s fried flounder, it’s our own in house thousand island sauce, Swiss cheese, house made coleslaw and it’s on marbled rye. When you put it all together it’s like a Reuben made with fried flounder. There you have it – Flueben.”

A ‘Fleuben’ at Surf (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

For some seafood inspired by Italy, there is the deceptively simple Tuscan Spaghetti.

“You have the seared scallops, the shrimp. We roast a piece of haddock in the oven and right before it gets tossed with the spaghetti we add a couple big ladles of olive oil and chopped olives into the dish, which is what gives it its real essence and flavor,” described Michael.

Tuscan Spaghetti at Surf (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“What we try to offer is seafood at its finest. We have great purveyors of fish. We work with people locally. We take that seafood, treat it with respect, not over complicate it. It can be flavorful but that doesn’t mean it’s over complicated. We try to showcase the fish itself.”

You can find Surf at 99 Bow Street in Portsmouth, 207 Main Street in Nashua, and online at surfseafood.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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