When Edward and I were growing up, people flocked to Old Original Bookbinder’s in Society Hill and Fisher’s Restaurant on North Broad Street. Both restaurants are gone, but Stephen Starr has resurrected good simple fish and shellfish fare, albeit pricey, at Route 6.
The décor has captured a Cape Cod feel with soft gray and beige tones. The ceiling looks like a wooden deck, the lighting is just right and we were fortunate on the night we visited that the noise level was perfect.
Edward and I settled into a black, wood-top table for four and were surprised at the simplicity of many dishes on the bill of fare. Starr is known as an innovator when it comes to fine dining, but I was happy to see classic, raw, bar offerings.
Edward sipped a martini ($10) and I had a Rob Roy ($12) while we chatted about the menu. A selection of wood-fired fish, including wild Atlantic swordfish and Scottish salmon intrigued me. There were so many dishes I wanted to sample, Edward and I decided to see how Route 6 chefs prepared classic dishes from our childhoods.
A dozen cherrystone clams ($21) were nestled onto a big platter of crushed ice with lemon wedges and a terrific cocktail sauce topped with a bit of horseradish. Sometimes cocktail sauce is too sweet, but this one hit the mark. Edward said it was the best he had ever tasted. A Mason jar filled with small, round, crispy nuggets, which looked like Irish potatoes, provided a savory crunch. Take care with the horseradish, however, as it is truly sinus cleansing.
Big, hot steaming bowls of New England clam chowder ($8) warmed us up. Traditional recipes call for bacon or fat back to be crisped before the fresh clams, potatoes, onion, celery, stock and rich cream are added to the pot. Route 6’s version was spot on. The smoky flavor of bacon enhanced all of the small, diced vegetables.
Route 6 just might be the only restaurant to offer a fried seafood combination dish. The large, round fisherman’s platter ($26) was covered in brown paper to blot up any excess oil, but none of the fish and shellfish was one bit greasy.
This generous dinner, which two people could easily share, consisted of a mound of fried calamari; a piece of Jersey fluke flounder, a thicker and meatier variety; scallops; shrimp; a small, tin bucket of crispy, piping-hot French fries; the aforementioned cocktail sauce; homemade tartar sauce; and a ramekin of homemade coleslaw. Much care was taken in frying the seafood, although Edward thought it was a tad too salty. I especially liked the seasoned crumbs used to coat each piece of fish and could actually see and taste the tiny specks of fresh herbs used in the mixture.
I cannot recall the last time I saw flounder stuffed with crab imperial on a menu.
My stuffed Jersey flounder ($26) was carefully prepared with large lumps of fresh crabmeat mixed, lightly seasoned and formed into an oval shape. Fillets of flounder were wrapped around the crabmeat, which had a delicately creamy texture, and baked in the oven. The fish sat on a pool of butter sauce and came with a small mound of simple sautéed spinach.
We noticed a choice of two sides were on offer with any wood fired entrée. Although Edward and I did not select a wood-fired item, curried carrots ($5) caught my attention, so we ordered them a la carte. One taste and I thought this was the most innovative use of carrots since I sprinkled some ginger on cooked carrots and thought it was fancy. Chunks of orange, yellow and purple carrots were doused with a proper curry and heated in a cast-iron pan in the oven. Curry can be overpowering, but the chefs got it right with a light hand.
Edward sipped a glass of Long Trail Double Bag ($5), brewed in Vermont, while our server recommended a glass of Gruner Veltliner ($13), a light fragrant white wine from Austria, for me.
Our dinner at Route 6 brought back childhood memories for us. Starr has brought back the classics served in a friendly and professional atmosphere.
Three tips of the toque to Route 6.
600 N. Broad St.
Contact the South Philly Review at email@example.com.
The pleasurable aroma wafting through the room at Society Hill Society immediately put me in good spirits. The restaurant recently replaced The Artful Dodger, which had been in business at this classic Headhouse Square location for many years.