When you live in a landlocked city like Atlanta, seafood restaurants tend to the gargantuan. We have homegrown destinations like The Atlanta Fish Market and The Optimist as well as savvy chains, such as The Oceanaire Seafood Room and McCormick & Schmick’s. The menus are huge, the daily catch numbers in the dozens, and oysters drop by the 100-count bagful into shaved ice displays. A fish dinner tends in this town is often an event.
Goin’ Coastal in Virginia-Highland bucks the trend; it’s a neighborhood bistro at heart, not a party. The blackboard lists a few daily varieties of sustainable shellfish and finfish, and the menu tries hard to please. You can tailor your fillets to the preparation that appeals — say, over a ginger-miso broth or in a parmesan crust with whipped potatoes. Shellfish gets a different lineup of preparations — fried, over grits or in risotto. There are several signature appetizers and sides, including baked oysters and lobster mac-n-cheese. Find your seafood happiness, this menu begs.
If I slapped my forehead every time I’ve written “simpler is better” in a review of a seafood restaurant, I’d have been hospitalized with a concussion long ago. But here ya go.
This appetizer featured cold lobster claws — tender and flavorful — over a pile of pickled and fried green tomatoes. All the components were good, even the lobster salad with its non-lethal addition of truffle oil. But nothing convinced me these components belonged together.
Far better are these baked oysters, outfitted with roasted garlic, tarragon and parmesan, and cooked just to the point where the edges curl and turn the oysters a little bursty. The restaurant also serves raw Gulf oysters on the half shell. I’m not a fan of Gulf oysters, but if you are, go on Wednesdays when you can get a dozen for $5.
All entrees come with a mixed green salad served family style, a nice gesture if kind of a salad-bar salad with its sliced red onion and bouncy grape tomatoes. A couple of squares of sweet cornbread are along for the ride.
This Carolina flounder served “Coastal style” with a spice rub, whipped potatoes and a mini-moat of beurre blanc hit the spot on a rainy night. We also liked the miso-style trout pictured above, with bok choy, mushrooms and carrots bobbing around in the ginger-miso broth.
I definitely enjoyed this restaurant more than when I reviewed it three years ago. The new brunch menu looks like something to check out.
Good, sustainable seafood doesn’t come cheap, so you can count on spending north of $20 an entree. Factor in a couple of appetizers and a couple of glasses of wine, and you’ll probably spend right around $100 on dinner for two after tax. That’s a little high for my casual neighborhood dining budget, so I can’t see this one going into regular rotation. But it’s nice to to have this option on the east side of town.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog