Trouble With Toast

Restaurant Week review: DC Coast | August 21, 2006

Given my stellar experience at Vidalia on Friday night, I was bound to be disappointed by my Saturday night Restaurant Week dinner. The only question in my mind as I walked through the doors at DC Coast was exactly how much I would be disappointed. To be sure, Vidalia is the better restaurant. However, I was pleasantly surprised by DC Coast’s atmosphere, quality, and range, so I was happy that I included it in my RW repertoire.

At first, I was underwhelmed by the space itself—it seemed far too small for a place with such a big reputation—but then Jason and I were escorted upstairs (which actually gave us a great view of the open kitchen and the bustling floor below). The waitress was friendly, but not overly personable, so we quickly ordered both wine and food and moved onto our own conversation.

There were about six appetizer choices—three soups, two salads, and an “other.” Jason went for the soup du jour, which was a corn chowder with tortilla. It had great flavor, but it wasn’t chunky enough to really be a chowder (I would liken it more to a bisque). I went with the “other,” which happened to be a shrimp risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite dishes, and I find it to be very simple and satisfying to make; however, it is easily botched, and it borders on inedible when it’s not prepared properly. This version was perfect—just the right blend of cheese and shrimp, surrounded by creamy, starchy Arborio rice. Yum.

For the entrée, Jason chose the “Tower of Crab,” which consisted of a fried soft shell crab and a seared crab cake, served over a succotash of roasted corn, leeks, tomatoes, and okra, with a Tabasco beurre blanc. He had never eaten soft-shell crab before (I think the concept both fascinated and terrified him), and he thoroughly enjoyed the new experience. The crab cake was well-done, but it didn’t have nearly as much flavor as the one he wolfed down at Acadiana (one of DC Coast’s sister restaurants). The succotash and sauce were fantastic, and a great compliment to the sweetness of the crabmeat. I decided to try the crispy black sea bass filet, which rested on a bed of bulgur pilaf and summer squash, and was served with a light citrus brown butter sauce. The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked, and the bulgur was really tasty, but the highlight of the meal was the goat cheese stuffed roasted tomatoes—wickedly good.

This is where the only real problem starts. While the food was interestingly prepared and presented, it was WAY too rich. By the time we were halfway through our entrées, we felt bloated and tired. So, that’s my main critique—that the folks in the kitchen are a wee bit heavy-handed. Perhaps someone with a bigger appetite would disagree, but it’s not like I’m a waif or anything (I’m usually a card-carrying member of the “Clean Your Plate Club,” as my mother would say).

Dessert was merely a formality, due to the aforementioned fullness. I ordered the lemon verbena creme brulee, which was actually quite lovely. I didn’t try any of the berry jam that accompanied it, because the dish itself was so sweet and flavorful. Jason had the chocolate espresso cake, which didn’t really do anything for me—it was more like a brownie than a cake, and it was a bit too dense and dry for my taste.

On the whole, I would rate DC Coast an 8 out of 10. If the service were a bit more amicable, and if the kitchen would focus a touch more on delicacy and balance, it would surely rank in my top three DC restaurants.

So ends another DC Restaurant Week–we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

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