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A comfy spot gets sophisticated

It’s easy to miss Remick’s, the new restaurant in downtown Quincy at the site of the former Finian’s. The brick building is quietly handsome and the only sign is a flat spread of letters that simply spells Remick’s.


The interior design is similarly subdued and beautifully well appointed. The space feels clean and warm with a big bar, old wood floors shined to a new polish, white Corian tabletops, and brown leather booths. Vintage photos of old Quincy, from the days when Remick’s was a department store owned by the family of movie star Lee Remick, lend an air of ’50s glamour.

This is executive chef Marc Orfaly’s new place, and while the décor is spare, the menu is not.
Many creative plates (shrimp and grits, duck liver terrine, roasted figs) are offered along with standard American favorites (baked chicken, spaghetti, burgers), with nothing priced above $20. Still, a quick glance at the menu registers as “different,’’ which may put off Finian’s long-time customers. Let’s hope, though, that Remick’s, located in the heart of a city undergoing a billion-dollar renovation, is able to hang on while its audience discovers it.
Orfaly, named one of Food and Wine’s top chefs in 2004, has earned a big reputation at his two Boston restaurants, Pigalle and Marco. Now, partnering with Quincy natives Tim Collins and Bob Palmer, Orfaly is bringing his cuisine to the South Shore.
The aforementioned shrimp and grits ($13) starter is a deliciously exciting, creative pairing of unusual bedfellows: Grainy grits are covered with grilled shrimp, Brussels sprouts, bacon, and the creamy surprise of a saucy yolk oozing out of a panko-covered, perfectly soft-boiled egg.
Po’boy oyster sliders ($14) are another winning Orfaly hybrid. A nod to Quincy’s diversity, the deep-fried oysters are served with kim chee, cole slaw, tartar sauce, and pork: One bite brings several worlds together.
Fried calamari ($12) is only adequate one night, and on another the flavor of Orfaly’s Manhattan clam chowder ($11) is briny and spectacular, but the clams themselves are too tough to chew.
The Asian-style grilled baby back ribs ($12) are served with a mound of sticky sesame rice. The meaty stack is satisfying and needs the moisture provided by a sweet cilantro dipping sauce.
We ate at Remick’s quite soon after it opened in late March and found two otherwise delicious dishes — the sole oreganata ($17) and an old Orfaly favorite, cassoulet of duck leg confit, braised lamb shank, and pork sausage ($16) — to be oversalted. Since then, Orfaly and chef de cuisine Tim Raine seem to be nicely orchestrating the thousands of parts that comprise a working restaurant kitchen. (The cassoulet has been removed for the spring, but come winter we’ll be craving it: all that crispy duck skin, roasted meat, and sweet white beans served in a cast iron skillet.)
New to the summer menu is a very good, roasted (hormone- and antibiotic-free) half Bell & Evans chicken ($15). The dish, which I appreciate as a low-calorie, no-sauce, high-protein meal, is served with string beans and a tasty potato cake.
Oddly, a side of spinach ($5) is very buttery yet tasteless, and we can’t imagine how it got to the table.
And then fedelini con pomodoro ($9)! Amazingly inexpensive, this spaghetti is as good as a pomodoro gets. I’ve eaten it twice, and both times it was perfectly al dente, as was the linguine in the shrimp scampi ($17) on another occasion. The scampi’s light sauce is lovely — wine, garlic, capers, cherry tomatoes — and the large shrimp are (needlessly) covered in panko crumbs.
This double starch motif is also evident in the nicely done charbroiled steak tips ($15). Sided with a mess of sweet caramelized onions and peppers, they’re served with rice pilaf and potato strings.
The spinach and ricotta manicotti ($17) is a seductive winner. The crepe-like pasta is served over a hearty Bolognese and pairs a light spinach and ricotta filling with a fluffy fontina and parmesan frosting-like topping. I’d hesitate to order the fried eggplant lasagna ($12), however, although that’s another dish we had before the kitchen had gotten itself fully together.
According to Collins, Orfaly will be in house at least four nights a week for the first six months, working with Raine and the rest of his staff.
The two desserts we had from pastry chef Ashley Sadler were what desserts should be: A special last hit of delicious. The vanilla fluff of Sadler’s panna cotta ($7) is topped with an amazing lemon curd, and a chocolate molten cake ($7) oozes with warm pudding.
Remick’s old world, big-city-center style conveys a sense of permanence — as though it’s been there for decades.
I hope that comes to pass.
Joan Wilder