$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Hooked for a March 2010 First Bite column.

In October, when managing partner Doug Palley relocated Hooked, his 45-seat seafood restaurant and carryout in Sterling, he took over a space three miles away with an extra 6,500 square feet to expand on the original concept. Aiming to conjure "South Beach, Los Angeles or Soho," the entrepreneur poured $3 million into a 200-plus-seat dining room and bar that he also hoped would suggest something "ocean-y."

That explains the porthole framing a video of sea waves inside the foyer. Palley's wishes are further realized in the vast beyond, where Palladian windows pull in streams of sunlight, the many curves suggest an ocean liner, and recessed lights in the ceiling glow in rotation from violet to green to turquoise and back. Sheer, steel-beaded curtains add a chic touch to the booths hugging a wall and the sushi bar that dominates the back of the room.

Richard Beckel, Hooked's first chef, is gone, as is Jason Tepper, who opened the new place and was recently replaced by Josh Kephart, late of the Wine Kitchen in Leesburg. But a handful of dishes from the old kitchen found their way into the young one, among them respectable, lightly breaded calamari and fat crab cakes set on mustard sauce.

Hot meals were not the highlights of recent visits, however, which found muted "Cajun spiced" bluefish, a snooze of a swordfish kebab and a side dish of mushrooms, bacon and grapes that tasted more like some cooks had bumped into one another than an actual recipe.

At this point, the restaurant's strengths are its engaging service and its raw fish. Credit for the latter goes to sushi chef Yoshi Katsuyama, whose handiwork floats in and out of view on video monitors above the sushi counter. ("People like to see what they're going to order," says his boss.) In one appetizer, velvety folds of raw white tuna get a kick from a sauce stinging with green chili peppers. In a featured roll, bites of salmon drape over dice-size cubes of rice packaging fresh mint and matchsticks of mango. Both presentations are something you could imagine getting hooked on.

Entrees, $14-$45.

(March 17, 2010)