Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hank's Oyster Bar

It’s weird to be back in Northern Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC. It’s where I went to high school, oh so many years ago. And except for some quick business trips to DC from time to time, I haven’t come back until now. There’s a familiarity to the place, a feeling of déjà vu. Yet so much has changed that there’s a certain strangeness, or estrangement, to the place. Like a dream.

It’s spring here. Real spring, not calendar spring.  Driving south from Ottawa, near Scranton, we can see the sharp demarcation between winter and spring, between dormancy and budburst. 

Our first dinner is at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Alexandria. It’s a popular little joint; crowded on a Tuesday evening. We get the only open table and the line-up starts forming at the door just after we sit down. But it has that typically American approach to service…fast, get ‘em in…get ‘em out…that ensures that no one is waiting for long.

It’s an oyster bar so regular readers should be in no doubt about what I’m going to order. There are 9 different types of oysters on offer. I take a dozen, 3 each of 4 different ones.

Two from the west coast:
  • Dabob Bay, light and salty
  • Little Skookum from Puget Sound, smooth and rich
Two from the east coast:
  • Bluepoint from Long Island, nothing distinctive here
  • Delaware, big and meaty
Now, Hank’s does something that I’ve never seen at an oyster bar before but it’s blindingly obvious. Instead of plunking down the plate of oysters and rattling off the names (which I can never remember just 10 seconds later), the server puts the plate down with the order ticket next to it. The shucker arranged the oysters on the plate in the same order as on the ticket, clockwise, starting at 12 o’clock. Simple, effective, clever.  No "what was this one again?"

We order Nessa Albarino 2009. Bit of a greenish tint. Typical citrus, floral, and mineral aromas. Crisp lime on the palate and just a bit of peach pit bitterness on the finish. Great match for the oysters.

I followed up with seared scallops while Michèle had the lobster roll. The food was delicious (bit too salty) but the Albarino was too light-bodied with these choices.  Ah well, nobody's perfect.

Hank’s: good oysters, good (but too fast) service.

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