Cru Oyster Bar opened about 5 years ago and received deserved praise from diners and the food press. In fact, Chef Erin Zircher was even invited to cook at a James Beard Foundation meal. The restaurant, at the end of Straight Wharf (site of the former Rope Walk) has a fantastic harbor view through the huge glass windows, some of which open when the weather permits.
We’ve eaten at Cru 4 previous times, and described most of the meals with high praise, as an elegant family restaurant with a terrific view. We remember seeing young people coloring on the provided menu pages with crayons, and seeing our own brood eating from children’s portions.
No more. The menu is simpler than it was formerly, but certainly not cheaper. Three minutes after we were seated at a nice window table, a group of about 8 men (ages 30 to 50) came in and began shouting to their comrades at the bar, which was just behind the window tables. This continued unabated. While this certainly showed a lack of consideration, it was apparently not unexpected, as the restaurant management did nothing to quell this disturbance.
We immediately asked to be moved to another table where we could actually converse, and they did move us to the second, darker dining room, where the noise was still substantial but more diffused. Here we were able to converse by cupping our hands behind our ears. In fact, this racket never really subsided during our entire meal. Cru is no longer a classy restaurant, but a raucous bar that serves some of the same food, albeit with less care.
For starters, we ordered a Blue Crab Cocktail ($23), served over lettuce and a horseradish crème sauce. There was plenty of crab, but it was kind of a dull presentation. On the other hand, the Shrimp Cocktail was priced a $5 a shrimp. (Really? Five dollars each?). It turned out that these shrimp made jumbo shrimp feel completely inferior. Each of them was gargantuan (we ordered 3 and couldn’t finish them). Something a considerate waiter might have alerted us to. Honestly, shrimp that big are just preposterous, and as you’d expect, not as tender as smaller ones would be.
One of our entrees was a really fine Nantucket Lobster Roll on a warm, buttered, toasted brioche roll for $36. There was a tremendous amount of lobster in this roll, and it was tender, buttery and delicious. In fact it was more than one of us could finish. This turned out to be fortuitous considering the other entrée.
Taking a turn away from the Nantucket’s emphasis on fine local seafood, we ordered their Chicken Under a Brick ($36). This is essentially half a spatchcocked chicken roasted under weights to help with uniform cooking, and served over a “summer bean salad.” Here is how Mark Bittman describes this recipe. In this case, it didn’t work very well. While the dark meat was good, the breast meat was tough and dry. When the waiter checked on us, we told him it wasn’t very good and he said he’d “tell the chef.” This did not, however, result in any changes. Fortunately, I was able to eat the rest of my wife’s lobster roll instead.
As soon as we could finish we asked for the check without even considering dessert in that din, and were shocked to find a bill of $171. OK, we had 4 glasses of wine, 2 while we waited interminably for our entrees, but they had offered no price adjustment on the terrible chicken dish. The waiter protested that my wife had “finished the chicken” so we weren’t due a refund. When we set him straight, he went away and eventually came back with a $139 bill. This is still a lot of money for at best middling food with none of its former distinction, and no dessert or coffee, but we paid and left.
If you’ve ever been hired for a job that turns into quite a different one after a couple of years, you can understand the chef’s predicament. She is doing a huge business with a rowdy crowd not really there for the fine food, but probably making a lot of money. And the waiter assured us that this was a quiet night after Labor Day and that it has been louder than this all summer. But this is not a place for comfortable dining and we won’t be back.