Thursday, April 17, 2014

Phillips Seafood Restaurant Food Review

"Out with the old, and in with the new" sounds good in theory; but letting go of the past ain't so easy in practice. Phillips Seafood Restaurant has been a mainstay on the Southwest Waterfront since 1985, but plans to close its doors for good on April 28th... victim to the District's $2 billion Wharf project (due to finish in 2017.) Upon hearing the news, I decided to return for one last buffet... All-You-Can-Eat lunch for just $19.99. The final verdict? Nobody offers more for less; but the quality of food is so poor across the board, I can't imagine anyone will really miss it.

I have many fond memories (nobody eats more steamed spice shrimp than me... nobody!) but today's visit was marred with disappointment. Before I dive into the food, allow me to heap praise upon my server Aretha. She's been here for five years, and still tackles her job head-on, smile first. You think it's easy to clear away multiple plates of food away from tables full of thrifty customers? Dream on. Outside of Aretha, there's an undeniable feeling that Phillips is on its last legs. It certainly shows in the food, most of which I wouldn't touch again with a 10-foot fork.

Cole Slaw

To be fair, you get a ton of choices; and if you're not picky about how your food tastes, you may think you died and went to Heaven. They have everything here - fresh seafood (but no steamed spice shrimp today... drat) a carving station with roast beef and pork loin, fried chicken, jambalaya, meatloaf, pasta, pizza, salads... and that only begins to scratch the surface.

Fried Chicken, Clams and Hush Puppies

I opened up with a plate of cole slaw, and some fried chicken, clams and hush puppies. The slaw was a bit thick, with hardly any taste (more mayo please.)  My clams were slightly underdone, but quite tasty... Hands down, the best fried item on the menu. Unfortunately, the fried chicken was gross, had practically no meat and was way, way overdone: Even the batter tasted awful. Quite possibly the worst fried chicken I've ever had in my life. Hush puppies were... hush puppies: What did you expect?

Fried Shrimp, French Fries & Corn Bread

From there, it was on to a makeshift combo of fried shrimp, french fries and corn bread. Fried shrimp were generously sized and well-cooked. My slice of corn bread was a bit dry, but had a nice corn flavor (not too sweet) and the french fries tasted better with cocktail sauce (what doesn't?) That said, the fries were bordering on cold (a recurring theme at this buffet, even though it was before noon) and far from crispy.

Meatloaf and Redskin Mashed Potatoes

After that, it was on to the hot food bar with southern classics such as collard greens, fried plantains and sweet potatoes. I settled on meatloaf and redskin mashed potatoes... both of which were above average (helped a lot by a thick, flavorful gravy.) Too many lumps in my mash; but it's the only plate I finished, so there. Needless to say, I passed on sausage & pepperoni pizza, garlic bread & what appeared to be some kind of ravioli. Ditto for paella and crab mac & cheese (yuck.)

Roast Beef & Pork Loin

I did however make a quick stop at the carving station; and got one slice of pork loin, as well as two slices of roast beef. The pork loin had some zip to it; but was overcooked and too thick. On the other hand, the roast beef was poorly cooked... medium rare on one end, medium-well on the other (same slice.) Both meats were bone dry. The accompanying gravy (au jus) added nothing in terms of flavor: In fact, almost every item I tried lacked any kind of seasoning (most importantly salt & pepper.)

Dessert anyone? Say no, trust me.

Full (even though I left most of my food on its respective plates) and disappointed to no end... I pressed on, and selected four desserts. Strawberry shortcake tasted days old (and subsequently got tossed in the shrimp bucket) and the three remaining choices weren't far behind in awfulness. The funnel cake was greasy and undercooked. Phillips' chocolate cupcake was dry and bitter, wasting a rather tasty cream topping drizzled with butterscotch sauce. Last (and certainly least) my chocolate tart broke apart in my hand, thanks to an overcooked crust and a chocolate filling that had zero sweetness. I can't remember the last time I limited myself to single bites of dessert before... Ugh.

Not quite the last hurrah I envisioned, but truth be told... Phillips Seafood Restaurant (at least the one in DC) has always been more about quantity than quality. The mistakes I encountered today were inexcusable, and showed me that the kitchen quit caring some time ago. Prince's Diamond & Pearls followed me out the door, an early 90's hit song that brought back fonder memories of Phillips in its hay day. Hopefully, those are the ones I'll remember... and not what I saw (and tasted) today (Aretha's friendly customer service notwithstanding.) Bon voyage.