Each year I wait for Washingtonian's 100 Best Restaurants list, and each year I sigh with disappointment that Kinkead's is near the top of the list, when frankly, you can do much better than Kinkead's for seafood. So allow me to suggest an alternative to the big fish in the school of DC seafood locales: DC Coast.
Back when I first moved to DC for college, a dear friend suggested DC Coast as a place to take visiting relatives. Knowing this man had good taste, I decided to give it a whirl. Now, it's a family favorite. One of the best things about DC Coast is that it's consistent--the food there is always good.
I dined there a week or so ago and as usual was pleased from start to finish. The service is usually impeccable and they offer nice touches that put a smile on your face (ie: the little plastic mermaid sitting on the rim of my martini, the tiny shortbread cookies that come with coffee and chocolate dipped mints that come with the check).
One of the interesting things at DC Coast is that the menu does change with the seasons, but in a way that your favorite dish will usually still be on the menu, just with some slight adjustments and new flavors. For example, the last time I went, the menu offered fried oysters with buffalo sauce and a bleu cheese sauce, a great combination. Currently, on their menu they offer fried Chesapeake oysters with a tomato jam, horseradish, chives coulis and capers. The current fried oyster dish has a coating that's very much like the breading on calamari--light and crunchy. While you can't really taste much horseradish (in fact, I didn't notice horseradish was in the dish until I looked back at the menu), the chives coulis is subtle, while the tomato jam is stronger in flavor and tastes a bit like sun dried tomatoes. Another appetizer favorite of mine there is the tuna tartare. Unlike the traditional tuna tartare that can be just like eating plain sashimi, DC Coast's tuna has a lime juice and coconut milk dressing on it, coupled with chopped red onions. The presentation is superb for this dish--the tartare is served in half a coconut on ice, garnished with lime and red onion slices. The tartness of the lime along with the bite from the red onion make a great and flavorful combination.
For entrees, I've tried several over the last three years. Despite DC Coast being a seafood establishment, the steak entrees they've had in the past have always been outstanding. Most recently though, I tried the Maine dayboat scallops. In the past, DC coast has done an oxtail topping with the scallops, which was very tasty and was almost like bits of a tender pot roast draped over the scallops. On the current menu, DC Coast serves three plump and lightly seared scallops with roasted corn, Applewood bacon and chanterelle mushrooms. The corn was slightly sweet, and was perfectly complemented by the smokiness of the bacon bits in the sauce/"summer truffle emulsion." For those of you with eyes bigger than your stomache (like me), fear not! Three scallops are plenty--and plenty rich.
By the time dessert rolls around you'll probably be stuffed. I don't lie--DC Coast is good from start to finish, so dessert is a must. My personal favorite are their warm beignets. For those of you unfamiliar with New Orleans cuisine, beignets are like little doughnuts---only better, lighter and less greasy. DC Coast has served them with light powdered sugar before, and currently serves them with a decadent, rich and smooth "chicory coffee creme anglaise" (props to those who catch why chicory goes with beignets. Cafe Du Monde, anyone?). This past time I was there I tried one of their specials: an almond and fig tart. The tart was a big dry to me; nonetheless the presentation was good, but simple, and the figs were deliciously baked right into the tart, making them sweeter and tender.
Phew, you must be sharing my food-itis after reading this long post.
If you like what you get at DC Coast, try some of their other sister restaurants: TenPenh, Ceiba and Acadiana. I have yet to go there, but have no fear foodies, they're on my list and I'll be happy to forge the path for you and try them first. Until then, "fork it up" at DC Coast.
PS - If anyone's tried their soft shell crab, holler at this foodie about it, as I was dying to try it but didn't have the chance to!