Revisiting A Classic
By Matt Quinn
Few will dispute The Sole Proprietor’s eminence in Worcester. For nearly 30 years it has set the bar for seafood in town. Like many classics, however, sometimes a few annotations can help. Here, then, is a guide to Worcester’s best seafood restaurant.
The host couldn’t accept a reservation before nine. We went anyway (and were seated immediately at peak hour) and, asking, the host clarified that reservations were accepted, but full for those hours, adding that reservations for weekends should be made before mid-week.
The Sole has several classy, clean and continually updated rooms, each with its own character. The bar area features bright lights and a tile mosaic floor with wall-height window views of Highland Street, and a festive, convivial atmosphere. The open-floor-plan dining rooms are noisy, too, but less so, and darker. The complete menu is available in each room. Be sure, however, to specify where you would like to be seated, as the host defaulted to the bar on our past few visits. On this occasion, requesting a change, the host graciously led us into the dining room.
The Sole’s comprehensive menu offers everything a seafood lover could want, in up-to-date recipes. Everything is fresh, in all senses of the word. Vegetarians, as well as poultry and meat lovers, will be satisfied, too. Wine Spectator has recognized the outstanding wine list for excellence every year since 2002. We started with two cocktails, though: Arnie’s Mojito ($8.99), the usual fresh mint leaves and sugared rim, with substitution of citrus vodka and lemon wedges for rum; and a Mai Tai ($6.50), which was frothy and delicious.
For appetizers, we chose panko-crusted Maryland soft-shell crabs ($8.99), two crisp and delicious crabs topped with a zesty orange salsa; and the Sole Roll ($6.99), maki rolls of sliced salmon, avocado, cucumber and asparagus with a chili drizzle. It may not have been as delicate and ornate as, say, Baba or Haiku, but it was fresh and delicious nevertheless.
Many entrées come with a choice of The Sole’s outstanding fish or seafood chowder or salad. Consider this before loading up on appetizers. The seafood chowder is a meal unto itself, a delicious, creamy roue loaded with hunks of fish of all types.
My wife came for lobster – baked and stuffed. The Sole, of course, offers it. According to the dictates of “Lobsterfest,” The Sole’s lobster special, my wife could get a one-and-a-quarter-pound lobster for $17.99 stuffed with scallops or shrimp for another $6. She ordered it, and she got it. However, she got a lobster (more boiled than baked, I think) stuffed with scallops, but not with scallop stuffing. In and of itself, it was delicious, but not quite what she had anticipated.
My dinner saw The Sole at its best: parmesan-crusted ocean catfish ($18.99). The menu explained the fish’s dietary habits and qualities, and presented a fresh recipe, full of color and creative ingredient combinations. Then, the colorful plate was expedited to my table, a gorgeous, light filet, beautifully crusted with cheese, atop purple rice (Thai black rice), mixed greens and sprinkled with pineapple chunks. This delicious dish matched the best seafood I enjoyed all summer.
Fully sated, we passed on dessert and coffee, and called for the check, which Kristen, one of our attentive, tandem servers (along with Elias) brought: $94.45 before tip (or about $63 without drinks). The Sole still rocks as long as you know what you’re doing.