Food and Wine

Best Restaurants of 2011: #8 The Whalesbone Oyster House

Whalesbone’s popular “Chicken” and waffles: Cornflake-crusted albacore tuna with cornbread waffles, fresh whip, Jerry’s syrup, and blueberries. Photo by photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde.

When I think of The Whalesbone, I think organic. But not in the sense of chemical-free certification that, say, government agencies or veggie buffet restaurants wish us to define it. It’s easy to forget that organic also refers to that gritty, primal, sometimes messy stuff that goes on below the surface of life. Somehow, dining at The Whalesbone connects me to that place: a delicious, raw, and vulnerable place.

I’m not talking just about the act of slurping fresh oysters out of their shells, though it’s an apt analogy for the letting-go attitude that permeates this place. Experimentation and a more-is-more ethos has always been the domain of the young artiste, and there is no doubt that the creative burn of youth is the source of the energy in this kitchen.

Chef Charlotte Langley, who led the crew until leaving for Café Belong in late November, is one of the most audacious young chefs in the city today. Her menu is Maritime chic, featuring imaginative items such as Arctic char bouillabaisse and mackerel lasagna. Who else would think to reinterpret the soul food classic chicken and waffles as chicken-fried tuna with fluffy herb-flecked cornbread waffles infused with boozy syrup and slathered with whipped butter? It will be intriguing to see how the menu develops in the wake of her departure.

Yes, we all know Whalesbone as the source for sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood options, but it is also one of the few places that pulses with genuine vitality. Love to see that its gregarious servers equally embody the hedonistic vibe.

430 Bank St., 613-231-8569, www.thewhalesbone.com.

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