The Oyster Pub & The Emporium
2350 Hunters Woods Plaza
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Lunch sandwiches, salads and entrees $5.95 to $8.95. Dinner soups, salads and appetizers $3 to $5.95. Entrees $8.95 to $16.95.
Cards: MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club.
Nonsmoking area available.
Restaurants featuring fresh seafood, while no longer a novelty in Northern Virginia, are not yet commonplace either. So my ears perked up when I heard about the new Oyster Pub & The Emporium. It is owned by Mana Krisnathevin, the proprietor of the quite good Little Place Called Siam Restaurant in nearby Herndon.
At the six-month mark, however, it is not all smooth sailing at Krisnathevin's newest venture. The young, friendly staff, for example, is not likely to be much more familiar with the menu than a first-time diner, and the popular but money-losing all-you-can-eat oyster bar was recently eliminated. Although it's possible to enjoy a perfectly cooked piece of fish with a complementary sauce, you also have a pretty good chance of experiencing rough waters as you negotiate your way through the menu.
There is nothing particularly nautical about the decor of faux red brick walls with gray and black accents and streamlined high-tech light fixtures, which apparently are carry-overs from the pizza parlor that used to occupy the premises.
Based on two recent visits, with a little care you can chart a course leading to a satisfying meal, beginning with either a half-dozen baked oysters with Italian bread crumbs and bacon, or the ceviche salad of salmon and scallops with tomato and onion, although the marinade was a little too sweet for me.
You won't be disappointed if you move to either the baked bluefish, impeccably fresh with a rich, tart apple and lobster sauce ($12.95), or a bold, provocative peppered yellow fin tuna with caramelized onion and a red wine sauce ($13.95). The bluefish and tuna, along with scrod, swordfish, flounder and a few others, also are available in a butter-lemon sauce for $11.95. These and most of the other entrees come with artistically cut zucchini and summer squash garnishes, a sprightly house salad with pine nuts, and a well-seasoned rice pilaf.
As for the other dishes, I'd steer clear of the New England clam chowder, which arrived tepid and so lemony that it was reminiscent of Greek avgolemono. I'd also zoom past the seafood in puff pastry, a gummy collection of flat fish, shrimp and scallops, as well as the bland crab cake mismatched with a marmalade-like sauce of sun-dried tomatoes. Somewhat better was a passable rolled chicken breast with crab meat and green and red peppers.
Why anybody would order beef in a seafood restaurant is beyond me, but in case you're tempted by the stuffed filet of beef with scallion, carrots, and ginger sauce, be forewarned: Mine was dried out and tasteless.
You can end the evening on a high note by ordering a wedge of smooth, rich, double chocolate cake with strawberry and custard sauces.