Chatham Raw Bar serves up seafood “in its purest form.”By Colby Radomski
For some, celebrating the silver anniversary of your business means throwing a party. But for Steve Vining, owner of Bistro on Main, commemorating 25 years as part of Chatham’s dining scene meant doubling the size of his already popular restaurant, Bistro on Main, to include a Raw Bar.
Vining, who’s owned Bistro since 1991, felt it was the right opportunity to open the Raw Bar last May, when the lease of the adjoining property became available. With local seafood the mainstay of his comfortable, fine-dining restaurant, it made sense to expand the menu to include some raw offerings.
Along with bar manager Andrew Bowman and an interior designer, Vining constructed a space that stays true to the eatery’s nautical theme. Its entrance (which it shares with the Bistro) is accessible by way of a porthole door that features a ship’s cleat handle. A massive neon sign reading “BAR” lights up the entryway’s wall, and a hand-painted mural on the ceiling pays homage to Chatham Lifeboat Station’s CG-36500. Inside the dining area is a nearly 40-foot-long bar topped with acid-washed copper. An ice mound showing off the day’s briny offerings, as well as a shucking station, is in full view to diners seated at the bar. Perhaps the most unique feature, though, is the giant wheelhouse replica, located on the south wall of the eatery.
Emphasizing the “local” concept, the Raw Bar features Cape-caught seafood and bivalves harvested straight from Oyster Pond in Chatham and Big Rock Oyster Company in Harwich. (More than nine varieties of shellfish are listed on a rotating menu). Culinary mastermind and executive chef Tim O’Brien also sources a majority of the produce from Dennis’ Not Enough Acres Farm and Hemeon’s Farm, located in Harwich. With its motto, “Offering local shellfish and seafood in its purest form,” guests can expect a menu full of raw and simple, yet inventive dishes, including jumbo white prawns with housemade cocktail sauce, tuna tartare, fish ceviche and a lobster roll made with fresh claw meat served in an Iggy’s brioche roll.
In addition to the raw menu, diners can order from the Bistro. On my last trip, my companion and I sampled several of the Bistro’s hot dishes, including the grilled wild Coho salmon and the Cioppino, an Italian-American fisherman’s stew. The salmon was out-of-this-world delicious—covered in a sweet, miso-soy lacquer and served alongside a decadent royal Thai crab cake and tender jasmine rice. The Cioppino was equally noteworthy. A heaping pile of Manila clams, Chatham mussels, swordfish, salmon, striped sea bass, scallops and shrimp were smothered in a flavorful lobster broth and served atop al dente penne. Our trip to the Raw Bar would not have been complete without knocking back something raw. We had our bartender whip us up two tasty oyster shooters, made with Old Cape Cod Vodka. The cocktail menu also included a number of Cape-themed libations—most mixed with Massachusetts-made spirits, including Cape Cod Great White Rum and Triple Eight Vodka. The Raw Bar even has its own exclusive beer, aptly named “The Finest Hours,” brewed by Wachusett Brewing Company.
Despite being the new kid on the block, the Raw Bar has already proven itself a welcome addition to Chatham.