Jane Stern: Boca at Steelpointe Harbor is a mixed catch

It feels like a dream. I am enroute to Bridgeport’s new Steelpointe Harbor. I see it in the distance and it does not look like any marina I have seen before. I am on a long straight road heading toward what looks like a black castle in a video game, austere, modern and mysterious but built for executives, not knights.

I have come to dine at Boca, the new and much talked-about seafood restaurant that recently opened. The fact that nobody seems to be around adds to the strangeness of the place. I do not hear seagulls shrieking and flapping nor boats being worked on. It is eerily quiet and the “black castle” is short on signage. I wonder if I am at the wrong building; maybe this is an upscale discrete plastic surgery center.

After I park I head toward what appears to be the entrance, where I use my full strength to open the double set of heavy metal doors that lead to the lobby. I can’t imagine an old lady or child being able to pull the door open. In the lobby I see a small sign that says Boca; and with relief I head in that direction. I want a lobster, not a nose job or a jousting match.

In photos on Yelp, the dining room of Boca looks as large and impersonal as an airplane hanger. There is a massive inside dining room, a large eating deck and an olympic size walkway, all with great views of the harbor.

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Boca Mediterranean Oyster Bar

Steelpoint Harbor Marina

10 East Main St., Bridgeport

In person the restaurant looks more hospitable. I am led to a table by a very pretty young woman who welcomes me warmly. There are a cluster of men at the raw bar, drinking beer and dressed like they just sailed in on a boat. OK, things are starting to look more maritime.

The raw bar is Bocas crown jewel. It is vast, fresh and staggeringly expensive. When you are handed the menu you will probably look at the Raw Bar first. I did. Am I really looking at the “Baller,” a platter of clams, oysters, shrimp, ceviche and two lobster tails for $275? Yes, it is a good amount of seafood, but personally I could eat six shrimp, 12 clams and quite a few oysters by myself. I wonder if anyone has ordered the Baller for one?

The other part of the raw bar menu has seafood priced “per,” meaning one jumbo shrimp is $4.95, one Littleneck clam is $1.75 and the oysters are market priced daily. This too seems a bit extravagant for casual dining at Bridgeport Harbor.

I decide to order sensibly, not including a Baller plate just for me. I start with my favorite summer drink: a Mojito. I get a poor Mojito, overly sweet and lacking in both ice and mint leaves.

I move on to Clams Casino. I am quickly brought a long slim plate with eight or nine clams. Each little clam is awash with garlic butter, wine, grated parmesan and chunks of crisp applewood bacon. I find it impossible to spear the clams with my fork as they are slippery and dainty in size, so I pick them up to my mouth and slurp them down. Looking at me, no one calls the good manner police so I am able to finish my meal. The Clams Casino are fabulous, a solid A-plus. I also try the mussels and they too are first rate, the inky black shells sit in a pool of brandy cream sauce made with leeks and plum tomatoes. You are served toast points to capture the soup on the bottom of the bowl. Yes, this demands to be ordered again.

For my main course, I order the $30-dollar plate of Colossal Fried Shrimp. It is a major disappointment. I could live on fried shrimp, fried clams and fried oysters, because what is better then your teeth going through the snapping crisp crust and hitting a moist piece of seafood.

On my plate sit five gigantic shrimp. I know they will be disappointing before I taste one. The already large shrimp had been butterflied and flattened so their tails touch the middle. Why? They are then breaded and fried, manhandled until they are utterly dry and tasteless. They look like they had been run over by a car, and taste about the same.

I seem to have spotted an algorithm at Boca. Order something bad (mojito or fried shrimp) and something really good will follow (clams casino or mussels). After the fried shrimp I order lobster ravioli, made with lobster, shrimp, scallops, peas and red peppers, bathed in a pretty pink cream sauce. This is a faultlessly fine dish and one I plan to order again. The algorithm holds!

Looking around at my fellow diners’ tables, much of what I see looks wonderful. To my left is a Caesar salad with a nicely charred strip of salmon on the side. I see many orders of tacos, some with sushi-grade tuna, some with flank steak or cod. The diver scallops are made with a ginger glaze and served over vegetable lo mein, a very original concept.

For dessert I order a chocolate layer cake. It is an all-chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache and some sort of cloying liquor. I didn’t like the cake, but I am tempted to order a second dessert, which according to my equation is guaranteed to be fabulous.

Sadly I don’t have the capacity for another dessert. I wonder if there is a statute of limitations on my algorithm? If I come back in a month, will I get the good dessert?

Restaurant columnist Jane Stern co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series.