Sometimes a restaurant surprises you, and in the case of Tyler Point Grille, I mean that in a very good way. I really had no expectations, positive or negative, while planning to dine at the Tyler Point Grille in Barrington this month. I hadn’t been to the restaurant in years and knew that there was a new owner and chef, so it was kind of like a clean slate anyway. The menu posted online looked fine, but like a book by its cover, you can’t judge a restaurant by a PDF file alone. A group of us gathered on a Friday night at the restaurant, which is almost hidden by its surroundings among the boatyards and the Barrington Yacht Club at the end of Tyler Point. It’s a great central location and I would imagine during the summer months it could be tough to get near the place on a nice day.
Naturally for a restaurant in the middle of boatyards and a marina, the look of the place was sailing themed. There were all the usual nautical motifs and artwork, with a rather fun sea mural on the wall behind the well-stocked bar – a bar that was busy when we entered and still busy when we left. We were verycheerfully greeted and shown to a table right away.
The menu is a mix of New England American/Italian dishes with traditional seafood fare. While the wine list didn’t excite me, there were some great craft brews on draft and we settled on beers before making our menu choices. We passed on the raw bar selections, wanting to see how the place fared with traditional Rhode Island seafood dishes liked Fried Calamari ($10) and Baked Littlenecks ($9). The littlenecks, which we were expecting to be prepared like clams casino, were actually more like small stuffies, with a whole littleneck on the half-shell baked with pancetta and bread crumbs. They were excellent and we wished we had more.
The calamari was a standout. There are way too many sub-standard platters of fried calamari out there in the Rhode Island restaurant landscape. Often I’ve had calamari that was greasy, or rubbery or lacking in any real flavor. This was a perfectly fried platter of calamari, light and crisp, served with a generous amount of hot peppers. We were off to a great start and it was probably good for our health to have our salads next.
For dinner we tried a number of dishes. There was the Stuffed Sole ($23), Linguine with Clams ($18), Mini Rigatoni ($18) and the evening’s risotto (price varies). The dishes came to our table, and we passed plates around to get a taste of everything. We couldn’t actually decide which dish we liked best, as all of them were very well done.
The Stuffed Sole was the most unique of the plates. The sole itself was done traditionally, stuffed with lump crab meat, spinach and panko bread crumbs. The filets were beautifully rolled and cooked and were very moist and flaky. The interesting part was the Limoncello cream sauce. It was good, but perhaps just a touch sweeter than expected. Thankfully, the dish isn’t swimming in cream sauce – it’s nicely sauced so that you can get as much or as little of it as you’d like. We all liked it, but in varying intensities.
The Linguine with Clams – my friend ordered white clam sauce – is another one of those Rhode Island dishes that can be so badly prepared. Other than perhaps wanting a little more salt and pepper, which is an easy enough fix, the whole table loved it. One friend was thrilled with the whole cloves of garlic and how perfectly browned they were. The dish tasted great with a nice mix of chopped clams and several whole clams in their shell. We all noted how the pasta was just the right al dente texture, which was also true for the Mini Rigatoni dish.
The Mini Rigatoni came with grilled chicken, veal sausage, tomatoes and toasted panko bread crumbs, in a Parmesan Marsala cream sauce. This was a straightforward, delicious pasta dish. The panko added some nice crunch and the veal sausage slices were very flavorful. The Mini Rigatoni probably would have been devoured like everything else, except my wife wanted to take some home for the next day. The risotto may have been the least favorite at the table, but not because it wasn’t good. Again, like the pastas, the rice was perfectly cooked. It was a goat cheese risotto and tasted like it was finished with cream as well, which just made it a little heavier than most of us liked.
We really were stuffed by the end, but in the effort of good reviewing, we ordered Cannoli (which our server said were made in-house) and the Red Velvet Cake. Both were excellent desserts, though the house-made Cannoli was certainly the better of the two. Speaking of our server, she couldn’t have been more attentive and helpful, especially as we asked tons of questions about the dishes while making our decisions.
The Tyler Point Grille turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. It’s conveniently located, with good food and I would happily recommend it, especially if you’re tired of being served sub-par seafood classics.