Opening a new seafood restaurant in a city like Boston takes some chops. But if there’s anyone likely to hit it out of the park in the shadow of Fenway Park, it’s Pescador chef-owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg.
The James Beard Award-nominated duo is the team behind famed restaurant group Blue Ribbon Restaurants, which they founded 30 years ago with just one tiny, 48-seat restaurant in New York City’s SoHo. Today, their brasserie and sushi establishments have spread across the country to Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and beyond.
No matter what the marquee outside says, there’s one philosophy that ties the Blue Ribbon concepts together: hiring locally but thinking globally. Staffers at the Blue Ribbon restaurants are deeply involved in their neighborhoods. Several employees from the original SoHo location are still with Blue Ribbon. Pescador co-executive chef Dan Bazzinotti, an alum of beloved Boston restaurants like Scampo and Terra, grew up on the North Shore. Pescador’s other chef and Bazzinotti’s mentor, Keith Pooler, is a native of Gloucester.
“Our focus is always to create a really positive environment for our employees, and that’s the underlying mantra that’s held together Blue Ribbon all these years,” Bruce Bromberg says. “I think that’s resonated with a lot of waiters, busboys, chefs, and the neighborhood.”
The second of their three Boston concepts, Pescador, opened in November in Kenmore Square. The coastal grill features local seafood with a menu inspired by international coastal cuisines from Andalusia to Argentina, Bromberg says.
Don’t walk into Pescador expecting the ubiquitous Boston lobster roll—the Brombergs’ menu skews a little more adventurous. “Eric and I wanted to create something we’ve been discussing for years, which is a Latin American, vibrant food culture that you don’t see much on the East Coast,” Bruce Bromberg says. “And then you have all of these amazing Boston products.”
New Bedford sea scallops are on a menu that also features Mexican street corn and crema. The city’s favorite crustacean appears on the plate in the form of lobster tacos with grilled corn and tomatillo salsa, as well as in a decadent lobster pizza with chorizo, Oaxacan cheese, and bechamel sauce.
One of the highlights is a ceviche bar in the center of the restaurant, where dishes include tuna poke with spicy mayo, shrimp aguachile with jalapeño, and coconut scallop crudo with chile, orange and pistachio. All of the seafood here showcases the diversity of Boston’s famed fish markets.
At Pescador, one dish will most assuredly have chef Bazzinotti’s stamp on it: a Peruvian-inspired ceviche featuring red snapper, shrimp, calamari, garlic, chile, and corn, a composition inspired by his travels to South America.
Pescador’s robust cocktail menu continues the globetrotting trend with a focus on Latin America.
Tequila connoisseurs will be delighted with an extensive list of drinks inspired by a Bromberg brothers research trip to purveyors in Mexico. There’s also a margarita and paloma selection that plays off the food menu. “I want the bar to shine in this restaurant and be part of the ambiance. And it’s what just makes this place really fun.”
Both he and beverage manager Frieda Hor favor “citrus juices, bold flavors, and interesting ingredients” he says. Those include an agave and olive oil-infused cocktail, and the jamaica margarita with spiced hibiscus and naranja liqueur. All of the margaritas can be upsized to serve three people, complementing the Brombergs’ vision for Pescador. “The whole approach is you can have 10 different things to share instead of just a bottle of wine, app, and main dish,” Bromberg says.
Pescador is located on a storied block that was the former home of Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard, renowned for their cutting-edge cocktail programs. The 195-seat restaurant has been reimagined by New York City-based firm Guzy Architects, who the Brombergs have worked with since their first NYC restaurant.
There are cozy banquettes for date night, or communal tables for lively experiences evocative of Mexican tequila bars, Bromberg says. Warm lighting captures a feeling of being on the coast, with colors as vibrant as the cuisine: sunset pinks and oranges, with warm blues.
Those who can’t find a spot at the 18-seat ceviche bar can angle for a stool at the 30-foot-long cocktail bar and toast a lively day or night out.
“We’ve never overdesigned, we always keep it casual and timeless,” Bromberg says. “We want to make restaurants that are open for 30 years and beyond, not three to five months or three to five years.”
To that end, the Bromberg brothers debuted Blue Ribbon Sushi at Hotel Commonwealth a couple of months ago, and a brasserie is planned for the former Eastern Standard space next year.
Pescador is open Tuesday to Sunday, 5 pm to 10 pm for dinner (the cocktail bar stays open for drinks until 11 pm). Lunch service will be offered soon, and expanded hours are also on the horizon.
Carley Thornell-Wade is a Boston-based food, travel, and technology writer who’s been to more than 70 countries and delighted in tasting the regional delicacies of each.