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The folks who own and operate The Cooked Goose, an upscale yet casually beachy breakfast, lunch and catering establishment at 92 Watch Hill Road in Westerly, do a lot of things well.
The food is consistently and expertly prepared; the place is spotlessly clean; the staff, even when the place is hopping, which it usually is at this time of year, seems to know exactly what you need just before you were thinking of asking for it, and are, to a person - including the owners - always happy to serve.
In short, they know what a restaurant-goer in 2013 wants, and they're always prepared to deliver.
So when these same folks decided to open a seafood restaurant in the Dunns Corners space that had been, for nearly 20 years, WB Cody's, my expectations were high. And apparently, so were everyone else's because the Sea Goose Grill and Raw Bar has been busy ever since its soft opening May 31.
Our first visit was to celebrate with a friend, who, by a series of miracles, had found herself child-free for the weekend. We made a reservation for dinner on a Sunday night and, upon arrival, were led down a few steps to the window-filled, sunroom dining area.
In the previous establishment, this room was a dead end, closed off from the rest of the place. Despite its wall and ceiling of windows, it could feel stifling and isolated. But no more. The new owners have opened up the interior, and the atmosphere. The walls now stretch to the exposed roof rafters, which are painted a striking, dark blue-green. A large, U-shaped bar is the centerpiece of the main dining room. White ceiling fans high above turn gently, adding to the open-air feel. The owners have kept the sunroom more private and quiet, with a half wall separating it from the main room and the bar. The sunroom ceiling now sports a layer of corrugated tin roofing painted white, hinting at the clam shack that lurks somewhere in the Sea Goose's ancestry.
We ordered drinks from the fancy martini menu ($10 each), and pondered the specials and regular menus, featuring both traditional raw and fried, and inventively prepared crustaceans, bi-valves, and fish, plus some intriguing vegetarian, chicken and beef options.
Although we were very impressed that there was a local bluefish entree on the specials menu, we all ended up choosing from the regular fare, with my friend selecting the Local Flounder Grenobloise with browned butter, capers, parsley and lemon ($23); my husband, the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with béarnaise sauce ($29); and me, the Bucatini & Local Littleneck Clams with garlic, olive oil, parsley and chili ($17).
Everything was delicious. The flounder, served with crispy, roasted potatoes and fresh green beans, was brown, buttery and perfectly cooked. My husband's meal consisted of two generous cakes that really were nothing but crab, with the roasted potatoes and some asparagus on the side. The béarnaise seemed an odd choice, but was tasty. My pasta was incredibly messy but oh, so good. The clams were small and tender and the clear sauce, intensely flavorful.
We splurged on desserts that night, ordering not only the special, chocolate pot de crème, but also the Tollhouse Bar Sundae (yes, it was as good as it sounds) and a slice of key lime pie. The Cooked Goose is known for its pastries and desserts, and the Sea Goose will be, too. Stopping in just for dessert has been tempting several times since.
On our next visit, my husband and I dined alone, again on a Sunday night, and again, the place was busy. We arrived a bit late for our reservation, but our table awaited, this time in the main room, near the bar. It's a different experience eating here. It seemed quite noisy but not enough to interfere with our conversation. In this room, you really feel like you're in a happening place, a bit festive, a busy tourist spot on a summer evening, a vacation meal even though you live next door.
This time, we admired the good size wine list, with suggested pairings, but chose from the large selection of draft beers, 12 on this night. We went with the Goose Island Honkers ale, a surprisingly light and crisp amber. Delicious.
Our meal began with the Pt. Judith Calamari with cherry peppers, olives and spicy marinara ($10), a dish by which all Rhode Island restaurants must be judged. No rubber bands here. This squid was perfectly fried to a light golden hue, sweet and tender, and the olives, battered and fried right along with the cuttlefish, were a nice twist.
Our entrees came from the specials menu. I chose the Day Boat Scallops from Block Island Sound, seared and topped with pesto, served with a baby arugula, bulgur wheat and tomato salad, drizzled with "balsamic syrup" ($28). My husband found the beef, "Creekstone Grilled Prime Rib," a garlic- and herb-rubbed, "all natural" rib eye with a Parmesan and goat cheese crust, served with red bliss mashed potatoes ($25).
The scallops were silky, buttery, gently seared and perfectly cooked, their richness offset by the delightful bulgur salad, with its peppery arugula and sweet, tangy balsamic dressing. The steak was decadent, its fat-tastic meat boldly charred and bathed with goat cheese. The mashed potatoes were luscious.
If seafood's your thing, then so will be the Sea Goose. It's a wonderful addition to the region's dining scene.
265 Post Road (Route 1), Westerly
Cuisine: Seafood, glorious seafood
Atmosphere: Upscale beachy and family-friendly
Service: Welcoming, knowledgeable
Prices: Sandwiches and Poor Boys, $9-$16; entrees, $13-$36
Hours: Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Reservations: They take them, and you should make one.
Handicapped access: No steps at the entrance. There are steps down into the sunroom dining area, but the main room, bar and restrooms are at the same elevation as the entrance.