Worcester Magazine
By Paul Bernard

The Sole Proprietor has been the business backbone of the Highland Street scene for more years than I can remember. What started out as a simple fish shack has, under the ownership of Robb and Madeleine Ahlquist, been converted into one of the state’s premier dining establishments, rivaling many fine Boston restaurants.

The place is stylish but funky, from the giant crab on the roof in the warm months to the stuffed fish in the main dining room. Booths line the perimeter of the main dining room and several small dining rooms are suitable for small parties or functions. The large bar area is a very popular spot for the after-work professional crowd.

Once seated, our waitress quickly took our drink order. I had my standard Tanqueray and tonic ($5) while my guest enjoyed a Bloody Mary ($6), which was garnished with a celery stalk, a cucumber wedge, an olive and a shrimp. There is an extensive list of “Buster’s Favorites” listed on the menu (Buster is the large inflatable crab on the Sole’s roof). My guest chose a “Buster’s Favorite” as an appetizer. The medium soft-shell crabs ($8) came two to an order, lightly sautéed and served on a rice cake that is made on premises, not one of those dry store-bought rice cakes that only dieters eat – it was thick and fluffy.

I ordered off the regular menu, selecting a half-dozen cherrystone clams ($6) as my appetizer. A full dozen of sweet mollusks goes for $11. My half dozen medium-size clams were arranged on a platter with a wedge of lemon, some cocktail sauce and a dollop of horseradish.

The appetizer list contains about three dozen selections, with everything from calm chowder to sushi. The appetizers run from $3 to $30, the latter being a chilled seafood platter with a whole chilled lobster. Most choices are in the $6 range.

All dinners at the Sole include salad, seafood chowder or cole slaw. We both chose the salad, a combination of various greens, tomato, cucumber and red onion, and, in our case, topped with a very good blue cheese salad dressing. The Sole’s rolls that accompanied it were delicious – crunchy and crusty on the outside, but like feather-filled pillows on the inside.

Entrees at the Sole run from $16 to $22, exclusive of lobster, which can go up to $57 for a four-pounder. The Sole offers almost four-dozen dinner entrees on the regular menu. Only three entrée selections are something other than fish. Both my guest and I ordered from the regular offerings. I chose the Maple-glazed sea scallops ($19) and my dining companion ordered the Cape bluefish ($16).

The large sea scallops were dredge in flour, sautéed and finished with a maple glaze then topped with a red wine demi-glaze. These were piled atop a mound of red bliss mashed potatoes and topped with julienned vegetables, which had been lightly fired. The meal was fantastic. The maple glaze was subtle enough as to not mask the scallops’ sweetness.

My guest was presented with at filleted half of a Cape bluefish. Before baking, the fish had been brushed with a horseradish and Dijon mustard sauce, served on a bed of fresh vegetables in a balsamic vinegar sauce. It was delicious.

The Sole’s extensive wine list has almost 100 bottles available priced between $15 and $170, with the low end represented by a Woodbridge Zinfandel, and the top end by Opus One. Many wines are also offered by the glass. I ordered a glass of Labure Pouily Fuisse ($8), while my guest enjoyed a glass of Napa Valley Silverado Chardonnay ($9).

We concluded our meal by splitting a dessert from more than a half-dozen selections, all priced between $4 and $5. We split the chocolate terrine with two sauces ($5), a sinfully rich chocolate mousse flavored with rum and glazed with semisweet chocolate cream, served on a bed of white chocolate and dark chocolate sauces. A luscious and decadent ending to a very good meal, which totaled $85 before the tip.

The Sole Proprietor is one of the area’s finest restaurants. I would put it against any restaurant in Boston, for quality, ambiance and all-round value. The Sole should be on everyone’s list as that special place to go for great seafood.