Early in my career my employer, NYNEX, sent me up to Boston for a meeting by myself; usually we traveled as a team, but they just needed a token member to attend a meeting. I'd never been to Boston, and I spent most of the evening before the meeting just walking around. This was well before there were things like Google maps, or the internet at all, so I had little guidance as to where to go. I ended up at Legal Sea Foods; at a time before they were a national chain. I got into a bit of trouble because of that; I ordered a lobster and a couple of Heineken's on the company's dime and it was more than the usual meal. But it was some really good Boston seafood. The New England clam chowder was particularly good.
So perhaps my expectations were high, although I'd eaten at a location on Long Island a few years ago that was pretty good if not as good as the one in Boston. The decor in this location is old and dated, with green vinyl booths and decor that has long since been abandoned by modern mankind. "Music" fills the air by Bobby Darin and Big Bang. jump-->
Legal Sea Foods Boca Interior
No matter, I was here for the food. I figured a place known for clam chowder could make a decent conch chowder, so I thought I'd try it. My server was bubbly and attentive to start out; I ordered a cup of chowder while I pondered the menu. She dropped off some rolls; nice, slightly warm rolls with packaged Land'O'Lakes butter. The soup came out pretty quick.
Legal Sea Foods Boca Conch Chowder
It looked like the same kind of stuff they were serving everywhere else; and I have to admit I was wrong. This was pretty lousy; with hardly any conch, too much corn and no flavor. I'm not sure what the deal is, but nobody can seem to make decent conch chowder. I think this is the last time I'm ordering it; I'm just capitulating on the search for decent conch chowder at someplace other than Sea.
A runner brought out the Portuguese Fisherman's Chowder, which has recently replaced their Cioppino on their menu.
Legal Sea Foods Portuguese Fisherman's Chowder
It certainly was a motley collection of stuff; and a decent portion for $19.95. As I dug in, however, disappointment set in. The broth was bland; completely unseasoned. The "fish" (as they call it) was overcooked. The greens appeared to be kale, which didn't add anything positive. I suppose that a dish with clams, shrimp, mussels and a lobster claw is pretty good regardless of the broth, but this could have been really good with a good, flavorful broth. If there was saffron in here they wasted their money on it; canned tomatoes in chicken broth would have had a lot more flavor than this. Also, the bread they provide was just toasted italian bread; garlic bread would have been nice.
I didn't see my server from the time she took my order until I was about ready to ask for the check; my seltzer was empty for quite some time before another server noticed and gave me a refill
The worst thing that can happen to a restaurant is when it becomes a national chain. This restaurant doesn't remotely resemble the landmark restaurants in Boston. I don't mind paying high prices for really good seafood; the problem it that this isn't it.