Here’s the dish! I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t like raw oysters. However, if you fry, bake, broil, saute, or grill them, I’ll eat them like it’s my job! When a new friend suggested trying Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town Alexandria (located at 1026 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314), I was game. <sarcasm>It’s a tough job, but I have to do “research” for this blog</sarcasm>. As I always do, I went straight to their website to check out their menu. I was excited right away because Hank’s changes their specials daily. I fancy a restaurant they tries to bring new concoctions and flavors to their patrons based upon what’s in season, or in Hank’s case, the freshest catch of the day. Although their specials change daily, they don’t change their offerings of starters, small plates, large plates, and meat offerings (yes, you can get everything from chicken, steak, and pork chops depending on the day of the week).
Upon arrival, I was immediately taken in by the modern charm of the bar area. The marble slab counter, leather seated stools, and nautically-inspired pendant lights were right up my style alley. To add to a bit of whimsy, they hung a chandelier over one of the high-top tables. My friend was running a bit late, so when a seat opened up at the bar, I grabbed it to enjoy a drink while I waited. Straying from the traditional bar nuts, Hank’s offers you a little bowl of Goldfish to enjoy with your drink. Those of you who know me (or whose children I’ve babysat) might have an idea of how much I love Goldfish. I thought it was a clever play on a traditional treat for a seafood restaurant. The drink special that day was a punch ($7) mixed with dark rum, cachaca, blood orange juice, pineapple juice, apricot nectar, lime juice, and angostura bitters. It was refreshing and delicious! Shortly after ordering my drink, my friend arrived, and we were seated immediately.
Once seated, our server brought over some more Goldfish for us to enjoy while we glanced over the menu. After checking out food the patrons in the bar had ordered, I knew I wanted to try their fried oysters ($15). When I first saw the two ladies at the bar scarfing down the fried oysters, I thought for a second it was chicken. That’s Hank’s meat offering for Sundays, so it made sense at first glance. However, after inquiring about what they were devouring, I was surprised to find out they were oysters! They were HUGE and so meaty! I’ve had quite a few fried oysters in my life, and Hank’s are at the top of my “best fried oyster” list. I was curious about the source of the oysters, so I asked and learned they were Hama Hama oysters from Washington. Our server explained that the chef likes to fry these oysters because they provide a good meat to breading ratio. Averaging the size of an eos lip balm, they were at least twice, if not three times, the size of most fried oysters I’ve had. They serve them along side a homemade remoulade and fresh lemon wedges.
I was torn between which special to try—the scallops or the soft shell crabs. Our server, without hesitation, recommended the scallops ($29), which were jumbo diver scallops served over a local roasted corn relish with truffled balsamic reduction, so I ordered those. My friend ordered the (not-so) small plate of mussels ($14), which they steam in a garlic, tomato-based sauce and serve with bread. Every time I eat scallops, I judge them according to Gordon Ramsay’s standards. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll know why. It seems as though nothing pisses Ramsay off more than an imperfectly cooked scallop. If you present anything to him that’s not perfectly browned, succulently juicy, and God forbid, undercooked, heads will roll and plates will fly. My first words after tasting Hank’s scallops were, “Gordon Ramsay would be proud!” The caramelization on the scallops was pure perfection, and again, I was surprised by the size of them. My server assured me they were large when I ordered them (I always inquire about the number of scallops because I’m the captain of #teamGreedy), but I wasn’t expecting to be truly fulfilled by four scallops. After scraping my plate clean, I was stuffed!
Hank’s ends their meals in the same unique way they start them. They offer patrons a small bowl of dark chocolate to enjoy before they leave. I thought this was a nice touch. I love dessert, but honestly, I could not have eaten another thing after my meal because I was so full. The dark chocolate allowed me to feed my ever-constant sweet tooth without going overboard. And who doesn’t like free chocolate?!
Until next time, folks. Keep dishing!