Saturday, August 1, 2015

DC Coast Food Review

Tempura Soft Shell Sandwich

Few restaurants come close to matching DC Coast for atmosphere, elegance and food. Its spacious dining room oozes romance; and lunch feels like a trip back in time, when power lunches reigned supreme. Make no mistake, it's not the least bit old-fashioned (Executive Chef Miles Vaden's modern take on American cuisine makes sure of that) but if price is no object, you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer, swankier lunch in town.

Given a choice, I usually prefer fast casual food (at least until dinner time) but every now and then, you have to spoil yourself. That's when it's time to visit Jeff Tunks’ flagship restaurant. If you do, call ahead and make sure you're placed in Gerard's section. He's the kind of person you wish would follow you from restaurant to restaurant... Without a doubt, one of the top two or three servers in all of DC. Once seated, it's time to get to business (eat, drink & soak in the deco-styled architecture/ambiance.) Gerard offered wine, but quickly switched to fresh-squeezed lemonade when I told him I don't drink until it's dark. He was also wise enough to recommend a Ginger & Carrot Lobster Bisque (soup of the day) in addition to my ready-made order of Coconut Crusted Shrimp and Tempura Soft Shell Sandwich... quite possibly the best warm-weather soup I've had in years.

Ginger & Carrot Lobster Bisque

Before that however, it's time for bread. Hot mini-ciabatta rolls, served with a delightfully salty, rich butter. I thought Kerrygold Irish butter was divine, but this could be as good/possibly (shudder) better. The lemonade was tasty too; and within a few minutes, my bisque arrived. Talk about gorgeous. Pumpkin in color, it was sprinkled with chives, and a wonderful center of shredded carrot and little chunks of fresh lobster. It went down fast (not too hot) and I was literally tilting the bowl to get every last drop. For a summer soup... A-.

Coconut Crusted Shrimp

Next up, a plate of Coconut Crusted Shrimp ($15) atop a bed of Napa Cabbage Salad with Carrot Ginger Ponzu Vinaigrette and a scrumptious Apricot Mustard on the bottom. The slaw/salad was wonderful... littered with cabbage, onions and red pepper; and the shrimp, crunchy and succulent. Next to Outback Steakhouse, these are the best coconut shrimp around. Fried fish at a top seafood restaurant? Hey, I like what I like: No apologies.

Complimentary Bread & Butter

From there, it was on my second course. DC Coast is known for their crabs (check out their Summer Crab Fest, it's supposed to be a-mazing) so I went for their Tempura Soft Shell Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries for $18. The crab comes breaded, tucked inside a toasted brioche bun with a thick slice of tomato, butterhead lettuce and a creamy, delectable Spicy Pickle Remoulade. The fries were expertly seasoned, and just crispy enough. The sandwich had plenty of flavor, but got messy in a hurry (must be those claws, they're an awkward fit.) Looking back, perhaps a bigger, softer bun would be better served? Soft shell crabs usually don't have a lot of meat, but what's there is very, very tasty. The batter was light, flaky and almost buttery in texture (and taste.) I can't wait to come back and try one of Chef Mile's crabcakes. When I do, I hope it comes with the same remoulade (it's terrific.)

Fresh Doughnut Holes

Dessert after lunch is nothing short of indulgent; but Gerard sold me early on, for a special Beet Ice Cream (just a scoop... he promised!) Just a scoop? Well, yeah... especially when I had already asked for Fresh Doughnut Holes (with three different dipping sauces, $8.) That's right America, two desserts. Toss me in jail if you have to: It was worth it. The ice cream was absolutely extraordinary. Soft, not too sweet with a perfect hint of beet. Don't like beets? Try 'em with sugar. It might be my new favorite flavor, assuming I can find another chef clever/daring enough to serve it. The doughnuts were predictably delightful (seriously, how do you mess up a doughnut?) Make sure to dip them (all?) in the Raspberry Coulis... it's like a jelly doughnut, without the mess.

Beet Ice Cream

I suppose it's easy/possible to be a little bit intimidated walking in; but don't be! Yes, it's fancy. Yes, it's (a little) expensive; but the service is top notch, and Gerard literally did everything right without an ounce of stuffiness. The music is comforting, almost playful (Mambo Italiano, Minnie the Moocher... even the theme for Austin Powers!) The dining room... palatial, yet soothing.

Bottom line? DC Coast is a more comfortable, more relaxed version of its 90's self. You certainly won't confuse it with a quick-stop (although they do offer an Express Lunch at the Bar, two courses for $22) but restaurants like this are supposed to be special. It's also worth bragging about (trust me, nobody cares if you ate at Subway.) My only suggestion? Try pairing it with a half-day at work: All this (good) food and pampering deserves a nice little nap afterwards.