I’ve driven past The Red Dory scores of times over the last couple years.

But, oddly, I’ve never given it much thought.

And to be honest, I haven’t heard that much about it. Barbara and I have gotten bunches of restaurant recommendations since moving to the region, but I can’t say anyone has stressed that I HAVE to try the Red Dory.

And now that I have tried the Red Dory, I can’t understand why not.

From now one, when I pass the Tiverton, Rhode Island, restaurant, I’ll do so with a smile, because our recent visit turned out to be one of the most enjoyable dinners we’ve had.

We were relaxing on a warm, beach-day Saturday discussing dinner options when Barbara suggested it. I called to see about a reservation and learned we had two options 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

It was after 4 p.m. when I called, so 5:30 was out the door and a later dinner it was.

I think one of the reasons I hadn’t paid much attention to the Red Dory is the location. The front deck, facing Main Road, has a nice view of the Sakonnet River, but it's sandwiched between a convenience store and a strip mall medical office building.

We parked in a small lot around back and briefly discussed sitting on the front porch, but when we noticed it was all picnic table-like seating, we opted to take a table inside instead.

The decor is an interesting mix of modern and nautical. The modern feel comes from a sleek, clean bar running across most of one side of the room, unfinished concrete floors and stainless steel tabletops. The nautical feel comes from some flags hung in the rafters, giving a soft space to dissipate sound. and a wait staff clad in smart horizontally striped shirts.

We were seated right on time at 8:30 at a two-person table that was plenty large enough to accommodate drinks, water, bread plates and entrees. A nice thing when compared to some cramped spaces we’ve eaten in.

We quickly had a couple glasses of water and with an attractive bottle of water for refills before us, we were handed a couple menus. There were no special of the day, however, there was a rosè of the day, which Barbara tried, a slightly sweet Tuscan rosé ($11) to go with the Mediterranean seafood theme of the restaurant. I ordered the Foolproof porter ($7) on tap.

The menu isn’t large, but there is plenty on it. There are raw bar staples like oysters and littlenecks beside a daily ceviche ($11) with chilies, lime and mint; and our choice for a starter, simply labeled tuna, soy, wasabi ($12).

There was a half-dozen salads and soups from simple green salads to a Middle Eastern meze platter ($12).

As we looked through the menu, our wonderful server, Viennia, brought three slices of sourdough bread with some unsalted butter for us to warm up with. She told us it would be addictive and she was right. The slices were thick and moist and the bread was tangy and delicious. When we asked, she said it was delivered fresh from the well-known Pain D’Avignon bakery in Hyannis.

There are another half-dozen or so appetizers. I thought the shrimp and grits with spicy peppers ($13) sounded good, as did the spicy Jonah crab cakes with a cool cucumber salad ($12).

But I decided to try the smoked haddock and clam chowder ($9) while Barbara opted for the chilled shellfish salad with shaved fennel, cannellini beans and anchovy vinaigrette ($13).

Further down the menu are seven entrees with a nice mix between seafood and land-based proteins. The grilled swordfish with charmoula spice, salsa verde and couscous salad ($24) was very tempting, As was the rather southern-sounding chicken picnic with fresh green beans, potato salad and bread and butter pickles ($18).

Barbara picked the bucatini with cauliflower, garlic, anchovy, capers and toasted pine nuts ($15). I picked the pork and veal meatballs with crispy orecchiette, oyster mushrooms and piave cheese ($18).

It didn’t take long for Viennia to bring our starter. The poke-style tuna was nicely plated the the fish was buttery and tender and delicious. There were some surprises. For one, some bites were very salty. The soy is inherently salty and tuna, cucumber and avocado all need a strong salting, but some bits walked the line on being too salty.

Also the dish was quite spicy. The menu says it includes wasabi, but both Barbara and I thought the heat came from a chili oil. Wasabi heat is back-of-the-throat, sinus-clearing heat. This was front-end, lip-burning heat. The dish was quite good and everything played well together, but it wasn’t exactly what we expected.

Our soup and salad came next and any concerns we might have had were immediately put to bed.

On the chowder front, I’ve always fallen on the side of the creamy New England style over the brothy Rhode Island variety. That was until I had the Red Dory’s chowder. It was brothy but incredibly rich and flavorful. While not creamy, it was almost buttery in texture. The potatoes were uniformly diced and perfectly cooked — tender but not at all mushy. And the seafood shined through.

Many chowders rely on bacon for an extra punch, but the bacon flavor can easily dominate everything else.

Using the smoked haddock was a great choice. It gave the perfect amount of smoky flavor to the dish without losing its seafood flavors. Here all the pieces played well together to create the best chowder I’ve had since moving here.

Barbara loved her chilled shellfish salad just as much. It was loaded with squid, crab, lobster and scallops. It was brightly acidic, with the beans and fennel balancing everything out with their earthiness.

We were still exclaiming over our dishes when the entrees arrived.

Again, these were not exactly what we expected, and I mean that in the best way.

I’m fairly certain every meatball I’ve ordered in a restaurant came with a fairly heavy sauce or gravy. And that’s what I thought I would get.

But the Red Dory version was something more akin to a meatball version of frutti de mar — frutti de terra I guess. Three good-sized meatballs were served in a broth, surrounded by mushrooms, a hearty kale-like green and orecchiette (little ears in Italian) pasta shells. The pasta had been crisped and slightly charred under a broiler, giving the dish needed texture and adding another layer to the flavors.

The meatballs were tender and wonderful. I started out eating with a fork, but after tasting the broth, switched over to the spoon that came with the dish. Again everything worked well together. The mushrooms added to the umami-loaded flavors and the pasta was a great balance to the richness of it all. I ate every single bite.

Again, Barbara was just as impressed with the bucatini. What the chef did here was char the cauliflower — including bigger steak-like chunks in the pasta while also sprinkling crispy cauliflower bits on top.

Charring the cauliflower added an extra dimension to the dish, giving it a savoriness you wouldn’t expect from a meatless dish. The capers were added with delicate touch and didn’t overpower any other element. It was rich without any heavy cream sauce and savory without any meat. An excellent dish.

Barbara took part of her pasta home. I should have done the same with the meatballs, as I was too stuffed to listen to Viennia’s dessert options.

But that will just give me a reason to go back. The hard part will be not filling up on chowder and bread.

Our bill came to $67 without the drinks and before tax or tip, a good value considering the quality of the food.

Check out previous Dine Out reviews below