July's Can't-Miss Dish

By Ellen Bhang · 07/06/2021

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it.

On the plate: Tempura East Coast Oyster Tacos

Where to find it: When Liam Mackey, Clinton Terry, and Stephen Bowler established The Nautilus, their Asian-fusion eatery on Nantucket, none of them dreamed they would one day launch a second location on the Boston waterfront. But less than a decade later, the trio has done just that, opening The Nautilus Pier 4 on the ground floor of a luxury multi-story condo. If you remember this part of Seaport before gleaming office towers characterized the skyline—when the area’s venerable seafood destination was Anthony’s Pier 4—you might be surprised how much the pier has changed. But you would definitely recognize the contented expressions of folks taking in the ocean view—only now, they’re doing so while dining on Nautilus’ spacious patio. 

If you’re acquainted with the menu of the flagship location, however, you’re sure to spy a familiar dish.

Notes on the nosh: Tempura East Coast Oyster Tacos arrive at the table on a lacquered rectangular block. The tacos themselves resemble lightly constructed handrolls rather than anything at a Mexican cantina. Naming the dish, according to Mackey, the culinary director of both Nautilus locations, was less about playing fast and loose with tradition than it was about coming up with a description on the fly. He created the tacos years ago as an off-menu item, back when he was head chef at The Pearl on Nantucket. “I made the dish one time, handed it to a server, and said, ‘Hey, take this out to Table 12.’ And they were like, ‘What do I call it?’ And I said, ‘Uh…tacos?’”

A pat of seasoned sushi rice rests inside a hammock of toasted nori seaweed, its edges skewered by a slender bamboo pick. A Duxbury oyster, battered and fried tempura-style, sits on top of the sticky white grains, anchored by a dab of zippy wasabi aioli. Pickled carrot and daikon radish lend a juicy-crisp crunch, while a sweet-spicy barbecue drizzle—made with the Korean chili paste gochujang—rounds out the presentation. But there’s more here than just good looks. Mackey is spot-on when he calls each morsel “a super-tasty bite.”

Sip alongside: To make the Coco Loco, a perfect summer cocktail, beverage director Terry starts by blending lime juice with pisco, the iconic Peruvian brandy. Terry pours that herbal-citrusy base into a small rocks glass, then pipes on coconut foam infused with lemongrass, kaffir lime, and agave. The final touch is a sprinkle of toasted coconut on the libation’s creamy top. Like The Nautilus’ unconventional tacos, this warm-weather refresher reminds you of another dish: Viewed from the side, this cocktail looks like the liquid version of key lime pie.

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