By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
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By Laine Doss
Upperdeck has only a few nonshellfish seafood offerings: Ahi tuna with ginger-balsamic vinaigrette and blackened or grilled mahi-mahi topped with fruit salsa. A thin, rare slice of that tuna is likewise included as a component of the "seafood mixed grill" -- it was the best thing on that platter, which also featured, in order of descending appeal: a quintet of flavorfully spiced shrimp, a small lobster tail quartered and grilled to a dry consistency, and New Zealand mussels, which this cooking method causes to lose all moisture (if mad cow anxieties persist, Boston's might think of forging these smoky, desiccated mollusks into sticks to be sold as a seafood substitute for beef jerky). Rice pilaf and a vegetable du jour come on the side, the latter usually a broccoli/carrot/zucchini triad that is the trademark of unimaginative kitchens.
The same vegetables are matched with a pair of Maryland crab cakes the size of hockey pucks. There are more bread crumbs than lumps of crabmeat in these crusty cakes, but the seasonings exude authentic zest. That's more than you can say for the accompanying starch, a cafeteria-style scoop of "garlic mashed potatoes" with not much cream, butter, garlic, or flavor. Other main courses cover predictable terrain: strip steak, filet mignon, broiled half-chicken, the obligatory "surf and turf," and pedestrian pastas such as penne à la vodka with chicken, sausage, or lobster.
To finish up with a scrumptiously creamy rendition of key lime pie was akin to watching your team hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a blow-out loss -- too little too late, but at least something positive to talk about on the walk to the parking lot.
The food upstairs may be no better than down below, but the dining room is quite a bit uglier. The bare-knuckles space contains a long bar, nondescript wooden tables, a few incongruous prints on the wall, and two giant TV monitors -- one of which was regrettably next to my table. It was a Sunday evening, and when I first glanced up at the looming screen, I thought I was watching two squirrels on a trampoline -- I had never before seen Andy Rooney's eyebrows so magnified.
Upperdeck's saving grace is the outdoor patio, where weekend diners are privy to the beach's full panorama of ocean and sand. The restaurant is closed for lunch during the week, however, so on those evenings, you'd better arrive early or the view will be as unimpressive as the food.