2011 Spring Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The lobster roll with its field of fries and julienned slaw remains a draw, and the crab cake flanked by a corn salad with pickled green beans still goes down like a day on the beach. What has changed at veteran chef Bob Kinkead's eponymous seafood haven is, well, the times: The restaurant, which set sail in 1993, hasn't kept up with them.
The downstairs bar and the second-story dining room, which sprawls across three townhouses, are pleasant enough, but their vaguely nautical design harks to the days when "X-Files" was a hit. You'll know where you fall in the Washington pecking order by where you sit; anywhere with a view of the exhibition kitchen is good, and anything to either side feels as distant as Olney. Service can be less polished in these far reaches, too, with epic waits for cocktails and, um, are we ever going to get any bread? Mussels arranged in a fan are pretty to look at; oddly, their bath of chilies, lime and coconut milk is dull.
Among a handful of signatures is grilled squid on a moat of polenta served under a green cover of pesto with tomato fondue. It's lots of flavors and heavier than I like, but I understand the combination's appeal. This is a kitchen that rarely adds one or two garnishes to a dish when it can unleash four or five. So basil-flavored tilefish gets an escort of saffron pasta, but also a sweet raisin-olive relish and unnecessary tomato-basil sauce. (Simple grilled fish is an option.)
I love the name cards that accompany a platter of oysters on the half-shell, so diners know what they're slurping. Live music in the bar at night is a jazzy touch, too. And desserts dare you not to dig in. From the pastry kitchen comes one of the best warm chocolate cakes around, served with salted caramel ice cream; and a bright tribute to citrus in the form of a pudding cake, meringue tart and refreshing granita.