a teatray in the sky

Hank’s Oyster Bar

Posted in 5D Mark II, Dupont Circle, Food, Photography, Washington, DC by firthefirst on March 30, 2010

I was going to do a kite series today but Tina talked me into teasing you all with a restaurant review instead.  while Hank’s Oyster Bar in DC (there’s one in alexandria as well for those of you living south of the potomac) fell off the washingtonian’s top 100 this year and so it won’t count toward our fooding mission, we’re a sucker for raw bar and luckily Zee is too.

Hank’s boasts a great off-Dupont location that comes with a strong reputation for classic dining, but there have been a lot of falling stars in the area lately and that left some doubt in my mind as to whether we were on the wrong end of the curve.  then again, it’s never a good idea to think on an empty stomach.

when you walk into Hank’s and get started off with a bowl of goldfish, your thoughts run somewhat in this order:

  1. aw that’s cute
  2. ok actually that’s a little cheesy
  3. what on earth are those things really made of anyway
  4. wait does this mean we don’t get bread?

thankfully, you do get bread.  and between the goldfish and the bread, you realize that Hank’s would make a lousy hold’em player because it’s showing you its cards already.  Hank’s is about doing the simple things, but doing the simple things so damn right.  I mean, crikey, the bread even comes with jam (fresh, fruity, and just enough sweetness to make you want more).  but checking out a new restaurant is a bit like a first date – it’s not hard to get off to a good start, but can you continue to impress?

let’s be honest, none of us know the difference between any of the oysters on a menu, so what else can you do other than order them all?  and at least on Saturday, the menu selection of local virginia oysters and a few from british columbia left me wanting to cancel my main dish and just order two dozen more.  the sauces were completely neglected and dejected because these oysters simply didn’t need anything to come between their flavor and the little bumpy parts of your tongue.  glad am I that I didn’t cancel my main dish though.

if you’re still in Philly and eat at Local 44, you need to tell them to come try Hank’s po’ boy.  this is how it should be done.  four baby-godzilla sized oysters fried so they’re fluffy and crispy at the same time.  bread buttered but you don’t come away feeling like you just chugged movie theater popcorn.  it’s downright succulent.  you better believe it fills you, but instead of feeling weighed down by oil and grease you feel like … you want to steal some crabcake off the neighboring plate.

the crabcakes had a little bit of [corn]breading that added immensely to the flavor and the texture of the crab.  the potatoes came just like the fried oysters, flavorful, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and nary a hint of oily residue.  how do you close a set like that?

you don’t have to, because Hank’s does it for you.  a little dish of dark chocolate chunks, on the house.

if you thought this review was excessively glowing, you’re wrong.  Hank’s is probably one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in a long time.  comparing it to Kinkead’s is like comparing a fully-loaded Bentley Continental GT with a stripped-down Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

Kinkead’s is a Bentley of a restaurant.  refined, elegant, the place you want to take in-laws to when you need to borrow money from them.  and it treats you well, too, with top notch service, exquisitely prepared and presented dishes, and unique flavors and aromas to sample.  it’s absolutely baroque, is what it is, and to me Kinkead’s kitchen reflects that.  there are times you just don’t need all the five-pepper rubs and the drizzled sauces and you just want to have a fish on a dish that tastes like it swam right onto the plate.

Hank’s is a race-spec GT3, where what you see is what you exactly what you get, except better than you imagined.  those boxes of goldfish on the wall aren’t decoration, they’re food.  that blackboard on the wall isn’t just there to make you feel homey, it’s because they have to re-write the oyster selection all the time.  it’s a good thing Hank’s brings in the catch that it does because this seafood would be totally wasted if animals were to eat it.  I mean, do seagulls even have taste buds?  the menu isn’t deep but pound for pound Hank’s is an Anderson Silva of a dining establishment, and one that I intend to return to soon.

5 Responses

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  1. Tina said, on March 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    well put my dear. makes me want to go back right now. it’s a great chill place that makes you feel right at home. nothing fancy just come in and be full.

    you should consider what other angles food can be shot at. is it always the, sitting down, macro shot with background blurred? or perhaps there are other ways that can feed the eyes.

    • firthefirst said, on March 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm

      true, Stephen suggested the same thing the other day. I’ll try some different approaches, but at the same time I think with the food photos the food is the art itself. also, I try not to look too ridiculous when taking photos in restaurants, although maybe that’s a foregone conclusion

  2. Daniel Tsui said, on March 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I had the po’ boy at the Alexandria location 2 years ago. It was delicious but it gave me food poisoning for a week…the week before I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. Alas, my goals for that race went down the toilet.

    • firthefirst said, on March 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      dude sorry to hear that. I guess I’ll stick to the DC location for now.

  3. wynee said, on March 31, 2010 at 10:39 am

    hot damn. can we go there when i visit? my salivary glands are going crazy right now, and there’s nothing i can do about it. ahhhh!

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