Hank’s Oyster Bar – Washington, D.C.

Steve is traveling a lot these days and that means he’s eating most of his meals in restaurants. And while our blog posts are generally intended to highlight the tasty things we’re cooking at home, we’re mixing it up with the occasional restaurant review.

We happened upon Hank’s Oyster Bar on a trip to Washington, D.C. a few years ago. It was a lucky find after wandering around Dupont Circle and struggling to find inspiration among the many little eateries in the neighborhood. Steve returned this week while on a working trip to D.C. It was as good as we’d remembered.

You go to oyster bars to eat oysters. Hank’s oyster offerings change regularly and usually include a nice mix of both east and west coast varieties. On this most recent visit, the raw bar featured a meaty, briny variety from Point Judith Pond, Rhode Island. True to their name, the Salt Pond oyster is one of the saltiest I’ve ever eaten and that’s a good thing. I tried one with a little lemon and a touch of mignonette. Perfection! They paired less well with the grated horseradish. The Sweet Jesus oysters from Maryland were a little flat, but like the Barcats from Virginia, they were fresh and clean tasting. Honestly, anything would have tasted a little weak after the Salt Ponds.

As tempting as the lobster roll and Old Bay fries were, the menu specials were too interesting to pass up. The heirloom radish dish was incredible. A mix of julienned Watermelon, Black Spanish and a green variety I didn’t recognize, were tossed in a light vinaigrette and embellished with a dollop of creme fraiche and a generous spoon of red tobiko. It’s an interesting mix of flavors and textures. The radishes were cool, crunchy and earthy. The vinegar brightened the radishes flavors without overwhelming them. And the cream, well … cream makes everything a little better. The briny, oceanic flavors of the tobiko were the best surprise of the dish. I thought it was a clever play on “surf-n-turf” to combine the mineral, earthy flavors of the radishes with fish roe. We need to replicate this dish at home!

The evening’s specials menu included wild Pacific salmon served on a mound of cool soba in a puddle of rich, soy based sauce that was almost too salty. But the soba noodles stood up well to the intensity of the sauce. The salmon was perfectly cooked rare to order. I tried to get them to prepare it virtually raw, but my server couldn’t wrap her head around the request. I was perfectly satisfied with the compromise.

I’d forgotten that Hank’s serves up a small handful of dark chocolate chunks with the bill. It’s a great touch and a nice surprise if you aren’t expecting it. And of course I ate it all in spite of the generous size of the pieces.

This was my third visit to Hank’s. There will be others when our travels take us back to D.C. With its consistently fresh, seasonal menu and uber friendly service, I recommend you add it to your list of good eats in the nation’s capitol.

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Food for thought.

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