Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hank's Oyster Bar - 12/06/2011

1026 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 739-4265

In keeping with my goal of trying some of DC's neighborhood favorites I decided to check out Hank's Oyster Bar located a short walk from my hotel in Old Town Alexandria. Chef Jaime Leeds opened the original Hank's Oyster Bar downtown in 2005 to great critical acclaim. Prior to starting Hank's, Leeds spent most of her 20+ year career in New York. Based on the restaurant's success, Leeds tapped partner Sandy Lewis to helm the restaurant's second branch in Alexandria. Prior to teaming up with Leeds, Lewis worked for Jose Andres' ThinkFoodGroup and helped with the reopening of Oyamel in 2007. The restaurant itself is quite small and both the brick exterior and sparse interior with the exposed ductwork are in keeping with the "urban beach food" theme.

Oysters on Half ShellChef Creek, BC; Stellar Bay, BC; Dabob Bay, WA; Barcats, VA; Chincoteague, VA; Alpine, PEI (Clockwise from right)
I couldn't well come to a restaurant called Hank's Oyster Bar without trying the The order above was suggested by my server, generally moving from mildest to boldest. The Chef's Creeks were the relatively mild with a sweet creaminess and supple texture. The other BC oyster, the Stellar Bay is a larger cousin of one of my favorites, the Kushi, the result is a bit of saline sweetness coupled with a satisfying meatiness. The Dabobs were the only West Coast oysters and they were surprisingly aggressive with a concentrated salinity. The Barcats are cultivated by a co-op in Chesapeake Bay and were probably my favorite of the bunch, plump, meaty and the sweetest of the bunch. Chincoteagues are known for their salnity and these lived up to that reputation with a lingering essence of fresh seawater. The Alpines were bar none the fishiest of the bunch with a flavor that reminded me of the seafood department at an Asian market.

Seafood Ceviche /w Lime & Jalepeño
After a beautiful plate of oysters, the ceviche was a let down. Nothing was overtly wrong, but there wasn't much to appreciate either. After having exquisitely crafted ceviche from places like Picca, it was hard to get excited about mediocre shellfish seasoned with a pedestrian marinade.

Fried Oysters
The meal picked back up with with these fried oysters, with the inherent brininess of the oysters deftly tempered by the sapor of the exterior. The batter was fried to crisp golden perfection while the oysters had a consistency like runny egg.

Lobster Roll w/ Old Bay Fries
The final savory was a New England classic, the lobster roll consists of lobster meat tossed in mayo on a hot dog bun or similar roll. Hank's variation is fairly faithful to the original, the sweet chunks of lobster are coated in a light dressing of mayo with bits of celery for contrast and the entire mix is tossed atop a toasted buttered roll resulting in a sweet succulent filling around a heady lightly crisp bun. The roll comes with an addictive pile of crisp fries elevated with the spicy dusting of Old Bay seasoning.

Creme Caramel
The meal finished with a very enjoyable creme caramel, smooth, sweet, and eggy.

Hank's Oyster Bar delivered just what I expected from a no frills New England seafood joint; stick to the classics and you'll be fine.

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