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“Sea(food) of Changes at Mare”
Review of Mare - MOVED

Mare
Price range: $35 - $75
Cuisines: Italian, Seafood
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Romantic, Business meetings, Local cuisine
Dining options: Dinner, Late Night, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Neighborhood: North End
Cross street: North
Transit: Haymarket and Government Center T stop
Description: Seafood, crudo, and oyster bar
Boston
Level Contributor
109 reviews
109 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
“Sea(food) of Changes at Mare”
Reviewed February 24, 2014

Stripping things down for simplicity’s sake often works wonders. Take, for instance, MTV’s 90’s Unplugged concert series, where the likes of electric rock and roll legends such as Eric Clapton and Nirvana’s song catalogues were scaled back into acoustic versions and transformed into something almost unrecognizable, even magical. Culinary transformations can work in a similar way when done properly. Mare, a longtime seafood-focused Italian restaurant staple in Boston’s North End, rebranded itself in 2012 into a full-blown oyster bar. Sure, there still exists a handful of intriguing pasta dishes such as parpadelle with wild boar, but it is seafood that dominates the menu. Gone are the neon-illuminated lights that once adorned Mare’s exterior, replaced with an ice-covered display of oysters and glass mirrors above the bar inscribed with daily oyster selections.

More often than not, the kitchen’s cuisine is good, sometime excellent. Starters are most intriguing, starting with a trio of crudos (yellowfin tuna, salmon, and kampachi, $16.99), which surprisingly comes out deconstructed in lieu of the more traditionally layered plating. While each fish was carelessly sliced into 3 pieces, they nicely benefitted from a touch of salt. Even better was the pizzetta di Mare ($17.99), a pizza that possessed an addictively crispy, cracker-like crust topped with fresh tomatine sauce. While the pie was not topped with any cheese, an abundance of grilled seafood – including calamari, shrimp and scallops – was heaped on. This pie would easily rival any of Mare’s North End neighborhood pizzerias, and has the table craving more slices.

Entrees were appealing, albeit inconsistent. The zuppa di Mare (market price) contained generous amounts of fish, including a half lobster, scallops, mussels, cockles, and clams in a light, spicy tomato broth. It was the perfect seafood comfort food on a chilly winter evening. Truffle crusted tuna ($27.99), however, while cooked perfectly rare, was poorly seasoned. The fish’s exterior lacked any hint of that alluring truffle flavor, and was excessively oversalted. If restraint is Mare’s new motto, then the kitchen’s salt application needs fine tuning. Grigliata di Pesce (grilled seafood of day – market price) featured lobsters on steroids, whose meat was tender and succulent. And lest we forget those oysters, the restaurant’s main attraction. We ordered a handful of different varieties, which were beautifully plated over ice and nicely shucked. With the exception of lone oyster selection that was offputtingly fishy and briny, the oysters were smooth and paired nicely with a trio of horseradish, cocktail, and soy sauces.

Creative cocktails infused with spirits ($11.99-$12.99), while potent, were inconsistent like the entrees. A Mare margherita made with Grand Marnier fared better, while an Old Cuban – an offshoot of a Mojito – was far too bitter.

Service, while amiable, lacked polish. A bread basket needs to be requested three times. While the leisurely pace of the meal is appreciated, there exist noticably prolonged stretches between courses.

Overall, Mare offers adequate service and cuisine. When your bill for two, however, exceeds $200, the realization kicks in that the restaurant fails to meet high expectations. Whereas Neptune Oyster delivers on its hype, Mare does not. It’s merely good, and in spite of all of the changes it has undergone to strip things down, perhaps Mare could now use some sprucing up.

  • Visited February 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank PaulsPalate
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

296 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    142
    96
    27
    21
    10
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
West Milford, New Jersey
Level Contributor
21 reviews
13 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Expected more”
Reviewed February 23, 2014

This restaurant was reviewed and rated highly so we wanted to give it a try. The interior is extremely cramped (inches between tables) and therefore little or no privacy. The food selection was average but overpriced for what you received. Our waiter was not very attentive (too many tables to work) and he couldn't handle a simple credit card transaction to pay our bill. He had to ring it up 3X to total our bill. I'm surprised that our credit card company didn't question the 3 separate transactions that evening for one dinner bill.

Would not go back again especially with so many other dining choices in the North End

  • Visited February 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Lisa07480
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
117 reviews
99 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 74 helpful votes
“Disappointing Valentine's Day”
Reviewed February 14, 2014 via mobile

We came here for a Valentine's Day dinner and were disappointed. First, once our waiter noticed that we were not ordering alcohol or the bottles water that they push, he disappeared. We had to flag down the manager to place an oyster order. Second, our order of calamari never came. We ordered the calamari but before we knew it our entrees were served. We had really been looking forward to that calamari. Then we waited for quite a whole for our bill. Food was good but for the price range, service should be on par with cost...

  • Visited February 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Bostontraveler122
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Level Contributor
43 reviews
25 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Land at Mare”
Reviewed January 15, 2014

Mare came highly recommended by a fan of the North End oyster bar, which is, as we discovered, an apt description. Unlike a high-end steak house that comes at you with elaborate starters, salads and side dishes, followed by the inevitable towering dessert cart, Mare is content with sublime simplicity. It's an oyster bar with a limited menu.

This quaint corner eatery on a quiet street screams authenticity from the first moment. Nothing is elaborate. There is precious little room for anything other than customers, and giant platters and bowls of simply prepared, local seafood. Our waiter was young, friendly and short on salesmanship. He gently urged us to look at a list of the day's oysters, which we gladly agreed to do. In no time we were enjoying creamy, fresh oysters with noble names like Moon Shoal and Wellfleet.

There's another advantage to tight quarters in a seafood joint. The two guys seated to my left both had ordered the market-priced Grigliata Di Pesce ($36.99) specialty -- a platter strewn with lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and who knows what else. It only took one look. Despite some other intriguing items -- grilled swordfish, Maine lobster casserole and seafood cannelloni -- there was no resisting the Big Daddy. My colleague ordered the Grigliata; I selected the equally decadent Zuppa Di Mare ($34.99) mainly because I love fresh shellfish in a natural broth. My accompanying photo tells the story. You can't go wrong with either selection.

Best of all, there was no need for or inclination to consider any starches or other sides. Fresh oysters followed by succulent steamed or grilled local catches (headlined by the lobster), with a few pieces of the house bread and a glass of wine, more than sufficed. My only aggravation -- and it is repeated at restaurants of all stripes worldwide -- was that the second glass of wine did not show up until I was well into the main course. I do not object to the suggestive sale (even at $16 per glass), just expedite it. Why restaurant managers don't drill this into waiters' heads is beyond me.

Ultimately, I was delighted we had been directed to find Mare. It is hard to comprehend a visitor being lured into some of the more famous but overpriced, overrated seafood restaurants in Boston given this superior alternative.

  • Visited January 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank ConservativeSoldier
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
32 reviews
18 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Heaven for Seafood Lovers”
Reviewed December 28, 2013

Went to Mare for a birthday and was not disappointed. The food was incredible, with the seafood being unbelievable. Mare's smoked salmon was some of the best salmon I've tasted, as were the mussels. If you don't like seafood, there aren't many options, as with picky eaters. If you love seafood, this is a fantastic pick. Service wise, some servers were terrific and others were poor. The food takes forever to come out so be prepared to spend around 2-2 1/2 hours there for dinner

Pros - Great seafood and atmoshpere. Good starters.
Cons - Hard to park. Not many options for non-seafood fans or picky eaters.

  • Visited December 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank nlazar33
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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