A Taste of the Sea at the Captain Daniel Packer Inne
The Captain Daniel Packer Inne in Mystic, CT, sits tucked away down a windy downtown side street, just across from the Fort Rachel Marina. All three floors of the restaurant offer a blazing fireplace to cozy up to, but my Mom’s favorite spot is the DPI pub, located on the first floor. The historic building was built in 1756 and remained in the same family (descended from the Captain himself) until the 1970s. In 1979, the current owners bought and restored the building, turning it into a spectacular spot for a bite to eat. The delicious New England-style fare lives up to the building’s charm and atmosphere, making this one of those rare venues frequented by locals and tourists alike.
After a blustery walk on the beach, we gladly settled into a half-booth in the pub for a late lunch, relishing the heat from the fire. On our continuing quest to expand our beer palate, the Midwestern Gentleman and I both ordered a pint of the Blue Point Smoked Lager, a deep amber-colored, light but nuanced brew.
My Mom ordered her standard favorite, Lemon Peppered Chicken with mashed, red-skinned potatoes. “I know it sounds boring, but wait until you taste it!” she admonished. And she was right: this was no run-of-the-mill lemon pepper chicken. The boneless breasts were coated in a thick, crunchy breadcrumb coating intensely flavored with lemon and just peppery enough. A lemon beurre blanc sauce enriched the dish, while the generous portion of red potatoes was roughly smashed with the skins, at once creamy and textured. A bit of cress garnished the plate, but the focus here is hearty fare, wasting little effort on vegetable sides.
The Midwestern Gentleman, sharing my obsession with fresh seafood while we could get it, ordered the Seafood Risotto, a medley of shrimp, scallops, and lobster meat atop a substantial mound of creamy arborio rice flavored with sundried tomatoes, herbs, and parmesan cheese. (“Next time,” said my Mom, “I’m getting the risotto.” But I could see the doubt in her eyes as she took another bite of her Lemon Peppered Chicken.) While the whole dish was well-balanced in texture and flavor, the Midwestern Gentleman particularly enjoyed the fresh, sweet shrimp.
My lunch was also a seafood triumvirate: sushi-grade Ahi tuna served over a shrimp-and-crab cake, and dressed with a swirl of chili sauce and beurre blanc. The chili sauce was reminiscent of an asian sweet-and-sour sauce, and its bright zing paired well with the rich beurre blanc. The only green in sight was what the menu called a “scallionette,” apparently the small branch of scallion garnishing the plate (see my above comment about vegetables). No matter — vegetables would have been a paltry distraction here. I requested the tuna “very rare,” and was delighted to be taken seriously. The deep red fish came mostly raw, with a pleasantly seasoned, thin, seared crust. The shrimp-and-crab cake was moist and complexly flavorful, barely holding together as I scooped up a forkful. It provided a playful contrast to the fresh, clean flavor of the Ahi tuna.
After a considered comparison, the Midwestern Gentleman and I agreed that neither of us had won the entree game this time — it was a delicious draw. I’m still thinking about that tuna, though…