Amuse-bouche: Saint James Seafood | Food
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Amuse-bouche: Saint James Seafood

Posted by on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 8:57 AM

click to enlarge A view from the "captain's quarters" at Saint James. - PHOTO BY VICTORIA BOULOUBASIS
  • Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis
  • A view from the "captain's quarters" at Saint James.
"Amuse-bouche" is INDY's new, sporadic series where we give you our hot take on a recent restaurant opening. It’s not a critique or a review. Just a taste of what to expect.

SAINT JAMES SEAFOOD AND RAW BAR
806 West Main Street, Durham
www.saintjamesseafood.com

The popular idea that oysters are fresher in months ending in “r” is actually a myth. Still, those of us who love the funky bivalves have stronger cravings for them the colder it gets. Thankfully, Saint James has blessed us with a raw bar of heavenly proportions and an inventive menu blending Southern gourmet touches and Calabash-style fish plates. Matt Kelly’s long-awaited seafood-focused project opened a week ago. Praise be.

Here’s what to expect.

Vibe: The only hint of seafood-shack kitsch in the former Fishmonger’s space is a classic plastic marlin hanging on one wall. The rest: marble bar top, globed hanging lamps, black and white checkered floors, canary yellow low-backed bar stools, and regal upstairs captain’s quarters with dark lavender wallpaper in a subtle, metallic fish pattern. It’s polished, but not annoyingly so. The space feels comfortable but tidy—an inviting playground for grown-up eaters who know what they like.

Menu: Like in all of Kelly’s restaurants, the Saint James menu is fit for big appetites ready to indulge and willing to share.  The bar offers raw selections—oysters to ceviche and crude—and seafood towers with lobster and shrimp and fish dips. The plated menu includes gorgeous entrees heavily inspired by seasonal Southern ingredients, and fried fish camp style catfish and shrimp, too.

Price Range: From a ten-dollar snack to ninety-five-dollar seafood tower. Entrees hover around thirty dollars.

What to Order: All the raw oysters (go light on the mignonette). Of the seasonal entrée items, try the black bass with smoked mussels, chorizo, and butter beans, the red drum with a gravy-like crawfish butter, dirty rice and okra, and the hearty seafood stew. If you’re feasting with a group, splurge on a market-priced tower ($95+) for a sampling of it all, including lobster. And as my server reminded me, Chamblaise goes with everything.

Perfect for: a blind date, a big birthday, a solo adventure at the cozy bar.

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