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Globe South Dining Out

Legals chain extends reach, casually

The Legal C Bar, a Legal Sea Foods offshoot at Dedham’s Legacy Place, simmers with contemporary styling. The Legal C Bar, a Legal Sea Foods offshoot at Dedham’s Legacy Place, simmers with contemporary styling. (Chip Nestor)
By Joan Wilder
Globe Correspondent / February 28, 2010

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Legal C Bar
950 Boston-Providence Highway, Dedham
781-234-6500; www.legalcbar.com
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; : Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight
Accessible to the handicapped

Finding the Legal Sea Foods chain’s new restaurant, the Legal C Bar, in Dedham’s Legacy Place mall couldn’t be easier - if you’re from around here.

After all, it’s just a few hundred yards from Route 128’s Exit 15 interchange.

If, however, you don’t know Greater Boston’s way with highway names, you wouldn’t know that various stretches of Route 128 are labeled Interstate 93, Interstate 95, US Route 1 and even Yankee Division Highway on Internet maps and roadside signs. Not to mention the road that runs past the newly rebuilt retail complex is technically called Boston-Providence Highway, or maybe Providence Turnpike, but is still known by most people as Route 1 years after it lost the designation.

All of which is terribly confusing, and may even send the uninitiated hurtling elsewhere.

But never mind: just get good directions from a human being, stick to your guns, and know that the irregular signage is almost as institutionally Boston as the Berkowitz family’s Legal Sea Foods dynasty, which last week earned chief executive Roger Berkowitz a spot as one of 20 semifinalists for “Outstanding Restaurateur’’ in this year’s James Beard Foundation awards.

The Legal C Bar, nicely situated in the center grouping of buildings at Legacy Place, is a more casual version of the typical Legal Sea Foods restaurant. The C in its name references the casual concept, as well as the customized cocktails made at its very large bar, and that so many of the dishes begin with C - crab, cod, clams, calamari.

The C also refers to the contemporary style of the space, which has lots of windows, blond wood, brushed metal, and angled mirrors that make you wonder whether you’re really seeing tables on the catwalk section of the second floor (you are).

Knowing that about 40 percent of Legal C’s menu items are not served at the classic Legals, we set out to have as many of the new items as we could, starting with the tapas-style Small Plates offerings.

Each bite of the very good whole-wheat shrimp and pesto pizzetta ($8) imparted a different flavor: some were mouthfuls of perfectly cooked, springy curls of medium-size shrimp; some burst with the sweetness of dried tomatoes cured in balsamic vinegar; and some were simply good pesto-flavored crust.

The slow-roasted Vande Rose Farm ribs ($10) tasted much better than they looked - I wanted them to be darkly seared and crispy - but the meat was as tender and delicious as I’ve ever eaten. One of us thought they needed barbeque sauce, but I found them luscious with a sprinkling of salt.

We couldn’t resist ordering a deviled egg ($2.25), which was, well, a deviled egg with a sliver of pickle on one half and a bit of smoked salmon on the other. I couldn’t taste either topping, but I got a kick out of having a deviled egg at a restaurant.

Our only concession to the classic Legals menu was the signature crab cake ($14), which is a single patty with more crab than you get in two at most other places. The irregular mound of clumps of jumbo lump crab is held together with the thinnest crust, with no sign of bread crumbs or other fillers.

It was sweet and delicious, the mustard aioli subtle and good, and the small mesclun salad - a mix of greens, thinly sliced apples, walnuts, and sweet dried cranberries - at its side was so brightly dressed and fresh with piercing flavor it commanded attention.

Instead of main courses, we had the grilled swordfish Reuben ($12) and the lobster wrap ($22), which the kitchen nicely split for us.

The swordfish sandwich totally satisfied the Reuben lover in me. It was built with lightly grilled rye bread, a slathering of coleslaw, just the right amount of Russian dressing, and a lovely grilled fillet of swordfish. Wonderful.

The lobster wrap - not to be confused with the lobster roll - would have stolen the show if only the naan-like flatbread had been as perfect as everything inside it. In any case, even my half portion of the wrap was large, and contained lots of big hunks of tender lobster meat, chunks of perfectly ripe avocado, iceberg lettuce, a bit of chipotle mayo, and bacon. Eaten as a roll, it tasted like a brilliant lobster club sandwich. Unrolled (only because the flat bread wasn’t quite soft or thin enough to reach all the way around), it was a lot of delicious tender meat with bites of flavored sides.

If Chef Patrick Keefe can find a softer, lighter flatbread, this wrap will be a prize winner. (It’s so nice to have the lobster without tons of mayonnaise.)

The sandwiches come with a choice of sides, and we chose well: spinach sautéed with slivers of garlic, and a scrumptious sweet potato mashed.

Dessert number one was a new offering by Legals, a lovely, not-too-sweet Haitian rum raisin bread pudding ($6) with a very stiff dollop of whipped cream on top. Our great waiter, Max, told us the proceeds from its sales go to emergency relief efforts in Haiti through UNICEF and Partners in Health.

The Boston cream pie ($6.75), a standard Legal Sea Foods dessert, was good, and constructed more like tiramisu than a pie or cake. I’d order it again.

By the time we left at about 8 p.m. on a recent Thursday evening, the 190-seat restaurant was packed with people and good feeling. It’s a fine new eatery so close to Route 128 - or I-95, or US 1. Oh, Boston!