Tag Archives: seafood

Fishnet - From Corduroy to College Park

9 Dec

When I first read on Don Rockwell that Ferhat Yalcin, the former general manager of Corduroy (and one of our favorite restaurants), would be opening a casual restaurant in College Park, I was very intrigued.

The concept: a casual seafood venue offering grilled and fried fish sandwiches, entrees, and homemade sides. Fishnet officially opened its doors on 11/11/11, making it the easiest opening date to remember.

Hake Sandwich and Spicy Aioli

Situated in what used to house Berwyn Café, Fishnet is located on Berwyn Road in College Park, a few short blocks from the major thoroughfare of Route 1 and walking distance from the University of Maryland. It’s a great location since it’s completely separated from the congestion of downtown College Park, and even more importantly, street parking is easy to come by (no meters!).

Stepping inside, the setup is rather simple. You order your meal after reviewing the blackboard menu, pay the cashier, and then they’ll bring it over to your table when it’s ready. Think of it as a no-frills Tacklebox but with much better food.

Ale-8-One and Boylan's

Fishnet offers a handful of fresh fish selections that can be grilled or deep-fried, plus you have your choice of homemade sauces.  All sandwiches are served on ciabatta with baby greens and tomato. They also offer other items such as a beef burger, fish tacos, falafel, and lobster rolls. Housemade sides range from French fries (hand-cut daily) to coleslaw to potato salad.

Opposite to the register, there’s a refrigerator housing a variety of Boylan’s sodas as well as Ale-8-One, a Kentucky-based ginger ale that I haven’t seen elsewhere in the area. Fishnet also carries some rare Italian sodas such as Spuma and Cedrata as well (again, also new to me).

Fishnet MenuDrink Menu

I went with the grilled hake and spicy aioli, as I prefer a milder, flakier fish, along with a Boylan’s cola. I held off on the fries thanks in part to some willpower, but after glancing at someone’s overflowing cup, I immediately regretted that decision.

As for the sandwich, it was simply excellent. The hake was nicely grilled, moist, and full of flavor. The spicy aioli added a pleasant kick to the sandwich and really complemented the fish. The fresh ciabatta was able to soak up the juices and keep the sandwich intact without getting too soggy.

Fishnet is a wonderful addition to the dining-deprived area of College Park. Between the fresh ingredients and great execution, I only wish this place existed when we went to Maryland. I can’t wait to go back with Rachel since she’s more of a fish fan than myself, plus I’ll have some justification for splitting an order of fries next time around.

Fishnet is located on 5010 Berwyn Road in Berwyn neighborhood of College Park, MD.

Fishnet on Urbanspoon

Persimmon: A Bethesda Bistro

26 Oct

I am very fortunate that my parents live only a few hours away up in New Jersey, and whenever they come to visit, they like to see new things in the DC area and go out to fun restaurants. Last week, they visited for my mom’s birthday and I decided that we should go somewhere in Bethesda that has a great reputation for quality food: Persimmon.

We have eaten at Persimmon several times for lunch but only during Restaurant Week. This was our first dinner experience off the regular menu, and we have to admit, we had some high expectations. Tucked away on the edge of Bethesda along Wisconsin Avenue, it is easy to miss this unassuming restaurant. However, year after year, it earns high marks both from critics and diners, so off we went to see for ourselves.

Smoked trout spring rolls

The only tricky thing about eating out with my parents is that my mom is strictly kosher and only eats fish when dining out, so I always make sure beforehand that there is enough on the menu for her to choose from. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many options as I had hoped for, but in the end, my mom enjoyed her meal as we all did.

To start, we ordered a bottle of Bex Riesling. I had first learned about this label from my friend Lisa and we really enjoyed it as a light and crisp wine. We all shared the smoked trout spring rolls and the roasted beet salad as starters.

Roasted beet salad

The spring rolls were accompanied with hoisin barbecue and peanut sauce and paired well with the trout due to the appetizer’s smokiness. It was a dish that I wasn’t sure would work from the description, but it definitely did. Meanwhile, the beet salad consisted of roasted beets, arugula, blue cheese, apples, walnuts and a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette. It was a beautiful fall salad and a nice starter to the meal.

Seared Beef Tenderloin

For our entrees, my mom ordered the salmon, which was served with artichokes, mushrooms, and a basil risotto. The salmon was perfectly cooked while the risotto was so delicious that it could have been a meal in itself. My dad got the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, spinach, and fried onions. It seemed like a very conventional dish on paper but that didn’t mean my dad did not devour his plate.

Pan-seared rockfish

I went with the pan-seared rockfish, which was accompanied with shrimp, zucchini, exotic mushrooms, crispy polenta cake, and a lobster beurre blanc sauce. There was a lot going on in this dish, but somehow it all worked. I really enjoyed the rockfish and it was fun mixing all the flavors together in the dish. The sauce was very salty, but overall, I really liked all the components both apart as well as together.

Sautéed lump crab cakes

Brett went with the sautéed lump crab cakes with bacon mashed potatoes, roasted corn hash and a sweet corn sauce. While it was an adequately-sized portion, the crab cakes were rather ordinary as they had a bland flavor and lacked the lump meat consistency that we’ve found at other restaurants (see Jerry’s Seafood). On the flipside, he really liked the roasted corn hash and sauce as it was a nice complement to the crab meat.

While we were very stuffed at this point, my dad ordered a crème brulee for my mom, which we all happily shared. All in all, it was a terrific meal that did not disappoint. We also noticed that Persimmon offers a sunset dinner special that features a three-course menu for only $30. The only caveat? It’s offered Sunday through Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm. We’ll definitely have to take advantage of that deal at some point. We have also been eying their brunch for some time, and if our dinner was any indication, it will definitely be on our list to visit again soon.

Persimmon on Urbanspoon

An Autumn Lunch at Addie's

18 Oct

Rachel and I have dined at several of the restaurants operated by the Black Restaurant Group, yet we had never been to Addie’s until a few weeks ago. We had a Groupon that was expiring (surprise, surprise) and were scrambling to redeem it before the week’s end. Due to not being on top of it sooner, we were only able to make a reservation for lunch. Then again, combined with the discount it made for a more affordable meal than going for dinner.

Located between Bethesda and Rockville along Rockville Pike in a quaint house, Addie’s is the oldest and smallest of restaurants owned by Jeff Black. The outdoor patio was full of patrons as the weather was perfect for a fall day. As much as we wanted to sit outside, the next available table was located inside the dining room. Oh well.

Seasonal Vegetable Salad

We split the seasonal vegetable salad which featured arugula, red onion, butternut squash, potatoes, and bleu cheese and was accompanied with a peppercorn ranch dressing. We both liked the combination of vegetables and felt that it really associated with the autumn weather outside.

Shrimp and Grits

For our entrees, I ordered the shrimp and stone ground grits. Compared to the last time I had shrimp and grits, which was at The Cheseapeake Room back in June, Addie’s rendition was much, much better. The sautéed shrimp were prepared in a sweet pepper-tomato butter sauce, topped with grilled Benton ham, and surrounded by a bed of thick herb grits. A very hearty lunch and atypical to what I usually eat in the middle of the day, but I enjoyed it.

Rachel ordered the pan roasted Atlantic salmon, which was accompanied with green beans, fingerling potatoes, as well as a dollop of corn tartar sauce. The fish was excellently cooked at medium-rare temperature, nicely seasoned, and by the looks of things, much healthier than what I ordered. Not that I didn’t like my dish, but I’m sure Rachel felt a little less guilty leaving the restaurant than I did.

Pan roasted Atlantic salmon

All and all we had a great meal at Addie’s. It’s a charming restaurant in an area where you would least expect it what with downtown Bethesda down the road along with the bustling activity of Rockville Pike just minutes up it. While all the buzz right now is focused on Black’s newest venture, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, don’t overlook their oldest establishment either.

Addie's on Urbanspoon

Grapeseed American Bistro and Wine Bar

30 Aug

After years of living in Bethesda, whenever someone has asked for recommendations of nicer places to eat, I generally think of Grapeseed as an obvious choice. We had been there several times for dinner, mainly for Bethesda Restaurant Week, and have always enjoyed our meals there. Earlier this year, we had purchased a LivingSocial deal for Grapeseed and were finally able to use it before it expired.

We arrived early for our reservation hoping to be seated, but they were still busy so we got a drink next door at Freddy’s Lobster and Clams, Chef Heineman’s new venture and one of our new favorite spots in Bethesda. After some tasty beers we made our way back and were seated by the front of the restaurant. It was nice to be able to see the full menu rather than a limited Restaurant Week one. One thing I noticed right away was that some of the dishes that stood out on the “sample menu” on the website were missing. I understand that many restaurants do this to only show a taste of what they offer, but I had to change my game plan and it threw me off a bit.

Sautéed calamari

We already had some drinks so we appreciated that you could order half glasses of wine, so we each ordered based on the sommelier’s recommendation on what to pair with our entrees. To start, we shared the sautéed calamari. I’m a sucker for grilled or sautéed calamari (as opposed to the fried stuff), so we had to try it. I enjoyed the lemon and caper flavors but the calamari rings themselves were fairly thin and limp. I guess I’m used to calamari when it is the thick tubes you have to cut, not the smaller rings. It was still a nice dish, but I’ve had better.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops

For the main course, I opted for the scallops that came with a lobster sauce, asparagus, and curried mashed potatoes. Overall I liked the scallops, but the lobster sauce was too salty for my taste and it in turn made the seafood taste overwhelmingly salty. They were definitely generously-sized scallops, but something was lacking in the dish overall. Interestingly enough, the dish listed on the “sample menu” came with roasted cauliflower and mustard greens as opposed to the asparagus and potatoes that I received. I’m not sure when it was changed but I’m wondering if it would have been better if I had tasted the dish as it was originally intended.

Pan Roasted Filet Mignon

Brett ordered the pan-roasted filet with horseradish mashed potatoes with an oxtail-mushroom ragout. Just like scallops, he thought the filet was good, not great. He ordered it medium rare, but it was unevenly cooked and just wasn’t as flavorful as anticipated. Meanwhile, the mashed potatoes were something we could have made at home and were a tad dry. Brett was also surprised how there wasn’t any sort of green found on the plate. Granted, you can order a side of mustard greens (for $7.50), but this was strictly a meat and potatoes dish that really needed a vegetable.

Overall we were slightly disappointed in our meal at Grapeseed. It’s not that we had bad service or the food was horrible, but it just didn’t wow us in the way it has in the past. We met a nice couple next to us who had never been before and they too were underwhelmed with their dinner. Maybe we were just there on an off night. Maybe we’re just tougher critics than we were when we last dined here years ago. I’m sure we’ll be back again, but I think we’ll be sticking to Freddy’s over Grapeseed.

Grapeseed on Urbanspoon

A Wicked Dinner at Hook

30 Jun

Editor’s note: Today’s post was written prior to last night’s devastating fire at Hook and Tacklebox. Our hearts go out to the staff and owners and we hope for a speedy recovery and swift reopening.

While running through a list of restaurants to have a pre-theater meal at before seeing Wicked at the Kennedy Center last Thursday, Rachel had the brilliant idea of redeeming our Groupon we bought earlier this year for Hook and eat there instead.

Given its proximity to the theater as well as not having to be tied down to a prix-fixe menu, it was an ideal choice. Our 5:30pm reservation turned out to be absolutely unnecessary as we were evidently the first ones to be seated for dinner. Had we arrived earlier, we could have participated in their happy hour which featured dollar oysters (!!!) and $4 cocktails.

Bread Basket

When we were seated, we soon received a basket of warm, fresh bread. We have dined at Hook before and I simply love their bread basket. Between the focaccia squares, buttery biscuits, and garlic aioli spread, you’re in for a treat before you even receive your first course. Due to time restrictions, we kept our meal straightforward and went right for the entrees.

I ordered the yellowfin tuna while Rachel got the scallops. The tuna, which was served on a bed of lentils, bacon lardons, and a side of kale, was excellent. It was a sharp contrast from the mediocre piece of fish I had at Jake’s American Grille a few weeks ago. Granted Hook is more of an upscale establishment, but there was a substantial difference in quality between the two restaurants and it goes without saying: you get what you pay for.

Yellowfin Tuna

The tuna was flawlessly cooked and was so delicate that a knife was barely needed. The lentils brought a nice balance to the dish, but it was those amazing pieces of bacon lardoons that nearly stole the show. These thick chunks of pork were packed with flavor, so much so that I wish (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the kitchen held back on the quantity. It was just a tad overpowering when you already have one piece of protein already sitting on the plate.

Rachel decided on the scallops, which came with a carrot puree and a carrot and peanut slaw in the middle. These were definitely a delight as they were some of the largest scallops she has ever seen on a plate. The carrot and ginger sauce was a perfect complement as it didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the beautiful scallops. The slaw added a nice crunch while overall she said they were the best scallops she has had since Corduroy, and that was one of her favorite dishes ever.

Scallops

For dessert, we were torn between the passion fruit semifreddo and the Fluffer Nutter. Because we were already so full from our main course, we went with the former as it sounded like it would be on the lighter side. It turned out to be the right choice as it was sweet, satisfying, and not overly heavy.

We were genuinely amazed by the texture of the semifreddo – it was like a semi-frozen sorbet, but with a thicker consistency, almost like a mousse. The slice was situated above three pieces of white chocolate ganache sitting in caramel sauce which made this dish even more of a treat. Then you throw in the roasted macadamia nuts on top of that and you’re on cloud nine. It was a lovely combination of sweet and salty and was a perfect ending to a great meal.

Passion fruit semifreddo

Overall, we really enjoyed our dinner at Hook. Our waitress was cordial and helpful while every piece of food served was utterly delicious. The Groupon clearly helped as we saved $50 off our bill, but Hook has been consistent each time we have visited, discount or not. While it’s a schlep to get to Georgetown, it’s worth it if you’re looking for good seafood in the District.

Hook on Urbanspoon

Jake's American Grille

16 Jun

Van Ness used to be a barren wasteland for restaurants, but with places like Comet, Acacia Bistro, and Jake’s American Grille bucking the trend, perhaps there is hope for this neighborhood after all.

Rachel and I as well as a couple of our friends went out to Jake’s for dinner last week. We had been looking forward to dining there for quite some time given the expansive menu and diverse beer list, especially in a location where it is somewhat difficult to find both of these things in one setting.

There is a relatively large bar area on the left side of the room which looks like it would be a great happy hour spot. In fact Jake’s offers two happy hours: 4pm to 7pm, Monday through Friday, and a drinks-only “reverse” happy hour from 9pm to close, Monday through Thursday.

Red Curry Yellowfin Tuna

We were able to secure a table as soon as we arrived and were seated towards the front of the house. The interior gives off somewhat of a homey, neighborhood feel to it with its brick walls, wooden floors, and dim lighting. The menu primarily consists of tavern fare which featured an array of burgers, sandwiches, chicken, and fish.

I went with the red curry yellowfin tuna while Rachel ordered the southwestern tilapia. When I ordered my tuna, the waiter didn’t ask for a cooking temperature, but assuming that the kitchen would cook it on the rare side anyway, I didn’t think much of it at the time. When the dish arrived, the tuna was definitely rare, if not a little undercooked.

The parts of the fish that were cooked at the right temperature weren’t bad, but the quality of the tuna itself was just subpar. Considering that I have had similar dishes at other restaurants, I was slightly disappointed. I did, however, enjoy the side of buckwheat soba noodles that featured baby corn, broccolini and edamame which was covered in a red curry-coconut sauce.

Southwestern Tilapia

Rachel certainly liked her tilapia, but she felt that the dish was missing something as it only came with a side of black beans. It could have been accompanied with some sort of vegetable, rice, side salad, something! She put it best when she described it as “a plate of fish and beans”. I mean, this is supposed to be an “American grille”, not a taqueria.

All and all, outside of spending some quality conversation with our friends, our meal was pretty forgettable. Nothing really stood out in regards to the food, and while the prices were rather reasonable (our two entrees combined cost us $31), everything was just average.

We’re hoping that Jake’s will improve with age as it’s a great space in a location begging for business, but until the kitchen improves, we’ll probably just stick to happy hour visits in the interim.

Jake’s American Grille is located on 5018 Connecticut Ave in the Van Ness neighborhood of DC.

Jake's American Grille on Urbanspoon

First Look: Tackle Box Cleveland Park

2 Jun

After years of vacancy at the former McDonald’s space, Tackle Box finally opened its doors yesterday. Between this and Medium Rare, new life has been injected into the Cleveland Park dining scene.

We had the opportunity to check out the restaurant’s newest location (the original is located in Georgetown, right next to sister venue Hook) for a friends and family event. Tackle Box offered a stripped-down version of their regular menu, at no cost, from 4pm to close. Talk about spreading goodwill to the neighborhood!

Raw Bar

If you are not already familiar with Tackle Box, they are a casual seafood eatery that offers selections of grilled and fried fish, oysters, lobster rolls, clam chowder, and much more. The Cleveland Park location, however, is not only two stories, but also features an expanded menu.

Friends and Family Welcome LetterShucking oysters at the raw bar

The space sets the tone of a lobster shack, complete with buoys lining the walls while American flags are adorned in several corners of the restaurant. As their website proclaims – “We like summer vacation at the beach. That’s why we decided to open a lobster shack in the middle of the city for those days we couldn’t make the drive.”

Tackle Box Menu

Once we stepped inside, we felt like we were transported to the shore as the place was packed with communal picnic tables along with servers who looked like they were no older than 20 years old. Not that you’ll be looking for elite service with this type of venue as orders are brought out by number with servers hunting you down with plastic trays with meals prepared in paper plates/platters.

The huge bar that runs down nearly the entire length of the bottom floor looks like a great gathering place after work. The best part? They offer Natty Boh on tap!

Natty Boh on tap!

Rachel and I split a half dozen raw oysters prepared at the raw bar by the front of the house. Accompanied with cocktail sauce and vinegar, these were some surprisingly large oysters. They were freshly shucked, very clean, and nicely presented in a wooden bowl (orders of dozen came out on a steel tray).

Raw Oysters

As for our entrees, we both ordered the Maine Meal which comes with a choice of fish, two sides, and a sauce. I ordered the grilled tilapia with lemon-garlic aioli, grilled broccoli, and mashed potatoes while Rachel got the grilled cod with a grilled portabella mushroom and corn on the cob.

Lobster ArtworkTackle Box InteriorAmerican Flag

Rachel originally wanted to order the whole steamed lobster, but alas, it was 86’ed by the time she stepped up to the counter. The fact that they included this on the complimentary menu spoke volumes on their effort to appease new customers though.

Anyway, I enjoyed the tilapia. It was nothing fancy, but for $7 a la carte (the Maine Meal is normally $14.50), one shouldn’t need to complain. While it was a tad salty, it was a decent piece of fish. When my platter arrived, I received a generous portion of grilled broccoli but my mashed potatoes were nowhere to be found. After informing the waiter, he told me that they had run out. Minutes later, he delivered a fresh batch of French fries! Nice gesture (and really good fries, to boot).

Maine Meal - Grilled cod, portabella mushroom, corn on the cob

Rachel’s cod was excellently grilled and had great flavor to it, especially when dipped into the lemon-garlic aioli sauce. The corn was a little cold by the time she had bit into it, but it still had a nice char to it, if not a tad too buttery. The star of the show had to have been the mushroom, which she thought was huge, until she saw a fellow diner’s even larger mushroom. She said that alone could be an entree, and was a great deal as a side.

We also split a brownie sundae which arrived with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was a great way to end the meal as the homemade brownie was soft and delicious while the ice cream, which was nearly melted by the time we got around to eating it, was still very rich in flavor.

Grilled TilapiaFrench Fries

We can see Tackle Box being very successful in Cleveland Park given the location, expansive menu, and huge dining space. It’s been a long time coming for that long-vacant space, and we can’t think of a better restaurant to fill the void than Tackle Box.

Tackle Box is located on 3407 Connecticut Avenue in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of DC.

Tackle Box on Urbanspoon

Lunch Break at BlackSalt

23 May

While it’s a little out of the way for a midday meal during the workweek, BlackSalt offers one of the best lunch deals in the District. For $18, diners can choose three items from four categories: a starter, entree, dessert, and an alcoholic beverage. For just $5 more, diners can create their own four-course meal.

We had heard about this special via Metrocurean as we have been dying to try Jeff Black’s standout seafood restaurant for what seems like an eternity. Rachel and I decided to head over last Friday since we both had the day off and wanted to take advantage of this excellent special.

BlackSalt Fish Market

We have always heard about their fish market, which is situated in front of the house, but were taken aback by not only what BlackSalt sold, but by how fresh everything looked. From salmon to oysters to tuna cakes, one wouldn’t typically expect a fish market in the quaint Palisades neighborhood, especially one with such an impressive selection. While we held off on buying fresh fish that day (prices aren’t for the faint of heart), we’ll certainly be back for those tuna cakes.

We made our way towards the dining room in the back and looked over the menu. Both Rachel and I opted to skip dessert and instead focus on the appetizer, entrée, and drink (of course!).

Baby arugula saladLocal vegetable salad

Rachel got a glass of sparkling wine, baby arugula salad, and the cornmeal crusted tilapia sandwich. The salad came with lemongrass-almond vinaigrette, feta, and dried cranberries. The salad wasn’t terribly inventive, but she loves that particular combination and it was a great start to the meal.

Brett ordered a glass of the white wine, the local vegetable salad, and the wood-grilled big eye tuna sandwich. We actually wound up splitting our sandwiches so we each could have a half of one another’s.

Cornmeal crusted tilapia sandwich

The tilapia was crispy on the outside but incredibly tender and flaky inside. It tasted like it was flash-fried which pleasantly made the sandwich not too heavy. It arrived on toasted ciabatta with avocado and pickled red onions. Rachel’s sole complaint was that the ciabatta was a little too tough when biting into the sandwich, and that the fish didn’t really need the bread in order for it to shine.

Meanwhile, the tuna sandwich was excellent. Prepared on housemade focaccia and dressed with olive persillade and smoked tuna tapenade, the big eye was cooked to (at least in my opinion) perfection. The kitchen hit that sweet spot between rare and medium rare, and the quality of the fish itself was first-rate.

Big Eye Tuna Sandwich

While I enjoyed persillade and tapenade, I felt that it was a little excessive as it detracted from the fish and nearly masked its flavor. The bread was able to withstand the dressing as it didn’t get too soggy, but I think I preferred Rachel’s tilapia if I had to choose between the two sandwiches.

Both sandwiches also came with a side of generous portion of highly addictive house made potato chips. While we could have added dessert to one of our meals for five dollars, we instead bought a homemade chocolate chip cookie from the market for a buck. It was well worth the money spent as the entire cookie was soft and gooey and was a nice ending to a fabulous meal.

We can’t recommend BlackSalt’s Lunch Break enough. For the money, it’s seriously one of the best deals you’ll find in the city, period. The quality of the food is beyond fresh, the service is attentive, and the atmosphere is tranquil given the neighborhood surroundings. It’s well worth the trip.

BlackSalt Fish Market - Fresh!

BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A Classic Cocktail Hour at Occidental

17 May

As much as we love going out to dinner, sometimes all you need is a great happy hour. And during the month of May, I think Occidental may hold the title for the best deal out there.

One of the oldest establishments in the District, Occidental is celebrating its birthday by offering some of its classic cocktails at its original 1907 prices of 18 cents. At first it seemed too good to be true, but then we learned that there was one catch: the 18 cent cocktail was valid for the first drink only, and had to include the purchase of a food item.

Cable Car

I remember going to the Occidental years ago for my first ever Restaurant Week experience and being amazed by the countless portraits on the walls of Washington’s elite, from presidents to sports figures. We sat at the old-fashioned bar and you could just feel the history within those walls.

My friend and I both ordered the Cable Car, which was a mixture of rum, orange liqueur, and fresh lime juice, topped with an orange slice. It was incredibly refreshing, and quite strong!

Risotto Balls

To eat we shared the tuna tartar and risotto balls, along with the basket of fresh rolls and butter that came out with our food. The bread was just out of the oven and came with butter that had a hint of basil in it. The tuna was layered with avocado and crispy onions on top, which added a nice crunch to the creamy dish. The rice balls were crispy on the outside and came with an olive dip that nicely complemented each other.

Tuna Tartar

All in all, we spent $10 each on a fantastic cocktail and appetizer. I highly recommend checking out the Occidental before the deal is over.

Occidental Grill & Seafood is located on 1475 Pennsylvania Ave NW in downtown DC.

Occidental Grill & Seafood on Urbanspoon

First Look: Freddy's Lobster and Clams

16 May

Freddy’s Lobster and Clams has been on our list of new restaurants in Bethesda whose openings we have been eagerly anticipating. By chance, we discovered a soft opening this past Saturday and quickly made our way over. Right away, we could tell that this place was going to become a new Bethesda staple.

Freddy’s is the brainchild of Grapeseed chef and owner Jeff Heineman, who has always dreamed of opening a lobster and clam shack. He named the restaurant after his grandfather who he used to spend the summers fishing and catching clams with. The idea sounded like something very different in Bethesda and we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.

Lobster Roll

Wooden picnic benches graced the outside patio while brightly colored red booths and communal tables welcomed us inside. There weren’t any tables available in the dining room or right at the bar, so we grabbed some seats facing the window in the bar area. All along the walls were signs from New England as well as fishing equipment and memorabilia. There were even a line of t-shirts for sale with the restaurant’s logo in various styles.

While we were waiting to order, we decided to delve into the drinks binder (aka Freddy’s “Booze Book”) which featured an extensive (and reasonably priced – especially for Montgomery County standards) beer list. Brett ordered the Troeg’s Cappuccino Stout while I got the 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon, since I had been meaning to try it and was curious to see how it tasted.

Clam Strips Platter

Drinks in hand, we decided to order two staples for dinner – Brett got the fried clam strips basket (with onion rings) and I got the lobster roll. I’m a huge fan of all things lobster and couldn’t wait to compare this one to other popular rolls in the area. When our food arrived, we could see just how casual this place was. Everything came in red and white paper containers while condiments were already on the tables. We did have to ask our waiter for silverware and waters, but we’ll chalk that up to it being their first day.

I thought my lobster roll, served chilled with mayo, was fresh and delicious. It was mostly chunks of meat as opposed to whole claws or mixed like a salad. The roll was nicely toasted and buttery, but I only wished that there was a little more meat in it as it seemed small compared to competitors such as Red Hook Lobster Pound. Then again, while the two charge the same price for the roll ($15), Freddy’s also threw in a side of fries.

Brett’s platter of clam strips and onion rings resembled something you would typically find at a fish fry, the image Freddy’s is striving for. While the onion rings were huge and crispy, they tended to overshadow the small clam strips. Then again, this was their soft opening so there will be plenty of kinks to be worked out (such as Brett’s aforementioned 3:1 onion rings to clams ratio).

Bar AreaFreddy's Booze BookLive Lobster Tank

We informed the waiter about our qualms and he said that he would pass the word to the chef. Our host was definitely disappointed that we didn’t have as fulfilling of a meal as he had hoped, but we’ll definitely be back to see how the kitchen progresses. It is always difficult to judge a restaurant when it opens, especially during its first few days. The official grand opening for Freddy’s is this Tuesday, but they decided to open early last Saturday for a trial run.

We were definitely glad we got to check the place out. This casual establishment isn’t pretending to be anything other than what’s part of their name, which is lobster and lots of fried food. So while you may leave feeling a little guilty from eating excessive amounts of deep-fried deliciousness, it’s definitely a fun, laid-back venue. And we’ll definitely be back to sit at the bar and explore all the many beers and fun drinks in that binder.

Freddy’s Lobster and Clams is scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 17. They are located on 4867 Cordell Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Freddy's Lobster + Clams on Urbanspoon