Monday, January 16, 2017

Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar Food Review

Fish & Chips at Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar

Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar has been around for over a quarter-century... nestled inside the historic Canal Square Building in Georgetown (AKA "the birthplace of the original computer.) It's a majestic spot for a fireside winter lunch overlooking the C&O Canal, one I was anxious to visit for the very first time. Now that I have, it's safe to say I've discovered a new seafood favorite (in terms of food, service and ambiance.)

To be honest (famous last words) I was expecting something stuffier. Not the food, mind you (I cleared every plate, including dessert) but rather the overall experience. I was expecting old men in suits, huddled over Chilean sea bass and steak sandwiches. Far from it. It began with a warm greeting from a familiar face (GM Ryan Fichter, one of the best chefs in DC) a stroll through one of the nicest, most unique dining rooms in the city, and a marble table by one of two fireplaces, with a clear-as-a-bell view of the aforementioned C&O Canal. Color me impressed.

Bread & Butter

Sea Catch is (pardon the pun) drenched in atmosphere. There's a gorgeous raw bar up front, and a long, stately bar on the opposite side. Given the time of day (after 2) it wasn't packed, so I can't say how loud it gets; but there are over 300 total seats in the restaurant and court yard, so it's safe to assume you can find a quiet space somewhere. As for music, think 60's cool ("Satin Doll" by Nancy Wilson, Louis Prima's "Banana Split for My Baby") and plenty of much-appreciated heat from the working fireplace.

Seafood Ceviche

Service is subtle but friendly and ├╝ber-professional. My server Gerbin, even took the time to show me around the other, larger dining rooms in the back, after I asked about the second fireplace. Think about the last time a server gave you a tour. Extraordinary. Across the hour+ I was there, I never once had to ask for anything extra: Plates were cleared quickly & quietly, recommendations given wholeheartedly, in addition to numerous water refills and kindly check-ins from everyone (even Executive Chef Steven Rosenthal, who was actually working (what a concept) as well as saying hello to each diner.)

Crab Cake

Now that we've established how comfortable and inviting Sea Catch is, it's time to focus on the more important quality of food (hint: you're not going to be disappointed.) It opened with tasty bread (well-done crust, pillowy soft interior) and good-quality, room temperature butter. Up first, a Seafood Ceviche to die for... Fleshy corvina, scallops and seafood with cilantro, lime juice, red bell peppers and red onions ($16.) Presentation was bright & beautiful with a fresh, citrusy marinade and generous sized chunks of fish. Even the tortilla chips were house-made and crunchy. I Tweeted out, "Knockout Seafood Ceviche," but looking back, I probably didn't do it justice. It's that good.

White Chocolate Mousse

Ditto for Chef Rosenthal's creative Crab Cake appetizer, atop a sweet corn succotash with a surprise hint of vanilla, that really makes it stand out. It's pricey ($19) but warms you up (hot all the way through) with tons of creamy Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab. Comfort food never tasted so good. My only complaint? Perhaps less micro greens on top, although the color makes a welcome addition. I understand the Crab Cake Sandwich (served with French Fries for the same $19) features two crab cakes. I know what I'm having next time.

I was half-tempted to try the Lobster Frittata for my entree; but I was feeling so cozy, I decided to play it safe with Fish & Chips (a mere $18, and worth every penny.) You only get one piece of superb cod fish, but it's crispy on the outside, flaky inside & hot all the way through, with equally hot fries that were expertly seasoned (the perfect ratio of salt, pepper and Old Bay.) Ditto for the fish batter, which was dotted with the optimum amount of sea salt flakes. A+ for seasoning, across the board.

How I found room for dessert remains a mystery (especially at lunch) but only a fool would pass on a $10 dish of White Chocolate Mousse with a crispy, blood orange-flavored Tuile and blood orange compote. O-M-G. The mousse was silky smooth and rich (white chocolate rules) and the use of blood oranges, creative and tasty.

I'd be remiss, if I didn't mention what I overheard from a table of three ladies sitting a few feet away from me. "That looks delicious," and "That really looks good." That's the kind of reaction one only dreams of; and it only echoed my unspoken thoughts (I was busy clearing my plates.) Sea Catch is a big restaurant, that's relatively hidden (given its capacity) on 31st Street, NW off M Street. I urge you to find it. Whether it's your first time (like me) or your umpteenth visit. History never felt so comfortable, yet alone tasted so good.

Atmosphere: A (You won't find anywhere else like it.)
Intangibles: A (Make sure to walk around and explore... Sea Catch oozes charm & history.)
Seafood: A- (Superb ceviche & crab cake. Elegant comfort food.)
Service: B+ (They bent over backwards to make me feel welcome.)
Value: B (It's not cheap, but as I said... worth every penny.)
Overall: A (I can't afford it on a regular basis; but Sea Catch might be the best seafood restaurant in DC. It's definitely my (new) favorite.)