Hank's Oyster Bar - Capitol Hill

Seafood
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Editorial Review

Familiar plates, but there’s an upgrade in the glass
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Oysters on the half shell. Lobster rolls. A burger for those who don’t fish.

The cooking at the latest Hank’s Oyster Bar, on the Hill, is similar to what you’ll find at the other seafood joints owned by chef Jamie Leeds in Dupont Circle and Old Town Alexandria.

As I fork into a clutch of supple squid and shrimp pricked with lime and chilies, and shrimp and grits made bold with garlicky cooked tomato, I could be eating at either of the arrival’s siblings.

But only the new place can claim the liquid handiwork of popular Washington mixologist Gina Chersevani. From behind a long marble bar, she’s shaking gin-driven Squeezed Melons, dispensing her own sodas (strawberry-cinnamon, blueberry-cardamom) and carving ice -- to order -- from a big block kept cold by a built-in chiller set into the counter. Chersevani’s 20-stool watering hole even has its own name, Eddy Bar, a reference to swirling waters.

“My first baby!” says Leeds’s new business partner.

Trim and tidy, white and silver, the narrow dining room (formerly Ba Bay) is refreshing in its simplicity.

The original Hank’s is a source of irritation for diners who can’t linger over a plate of something sweet because nothing but gratis chocolate chunks are offered at meal’s end. So the waiter’s question at the close of a recent visit to Hank’s on the Hill -- “Coffee or dessert?” -- comes as a pleasant surprise.

Next time, I’ll know to save room for what has been made freshly available in Alexandria and on the Hill: Key lime pie, fruit cobbler, maybe chocolate cake.