Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar
1054 31st Street NW
I was skeptical, I freely admit it. I'm not quite sure about all the whys and the wherefores; however, as many times as my wife and I have visited DC, we have never particularly thought of this Georgetown eatery as worthy of serious consideration. A big mistake on our part. In any event, during this last sojourn we were definitely in the mood for fresh seafood; and, since Sea Catch was right around the corner from both our hotel and Blues Alley - where we had reservations to catch Spyro Gyra - this seemed the perfect spot to settle in at table.
Right out of the box, I should note, this restaurant has something going for it: It's away from the madding crowd. You must duck down a brick passageway - either from M Street or 31st Street - and make your way into a quiet little plaza. Ahh... at last. A welcome respite from the apparently ceaseless flow of humanity on Georgetown's main drag.
The restaurant's interior is welcoming and comfortable; but the major attraction is the awning covered wooden deck perched on the banks of the C&O Canal, a favorite for warm weather dining. Here you may sip a vintage from the first-rate wine list and watch the ducks, the barges, and joggers drift by.
But there is infinitely more to the Sea Catch than just the view. Indeed, it doesn't take one long to discern that Executive Chef José Argueta has a deft and discerning hand with the delicate denizens of the deep.
There is a raw bar here, should you care to indulge, filled with pristinely fresh oysters and clams on the half shell. Or you may have a shellfish combo steamed, awash in white wine, garlic, and herbs; or the mussels solo, prepared à la Provençal.
But there are other treasures here as well. The crispy calamari, for example, is precisely that - and inordinately tender - matched up with a zippy marinara dipping sauce. Then, of course, there are also some old favorites: like the clams casino or oysters Rockefeller. More contemporary, but just as enticing, are the pepper-crusted seared tuna replete with sesame/seaweed salad and the shrimp & risotto croquettes served up with a provocative green goddess dressing.
When it comes to entrées, there are a number of "Sea Catch Signatures" that are exceedingly difficult to pass up: pan-seared sea scallops pillowed on grainy mustard-wild mushroom risotto; crab- and Boursin-stuffed tilapia; seafood linguini with the usual tasty cast of characters; and jumbo lump crab cakes accompanied by Chesapeake Napa cabbage slaw.
For my money, however, the stars of the show are the finny fare that are simply grilled and even more simply adorned with an exceptional beurre blanc and fresh vegetable medley. Subtle but sublime.
The swordfish, for example, was precisely the right texture, cooked through but still moist and meaty. Underdone swordfish can be death to the palate - and the psyche as well - but the specimen presented here was benchmark in every respect. But even better, in my opinion, was the whole branzino (European sea bass), which our server filleted tableside. The snowy white flesh was indescribably succulent and bursting with flavor. This was, by far, the most extraordinary representative of this particular species that it has ever been my pleasure to ingest.
Just one additional note... No meal here would be complete without a side of the potatoes au gratin. Rich, cheesy... and positively addictive. Go for it.
Desserts carry on with a stylish hominess. The warm apple walnut tart is garnished with a rich caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream and the blueberry cobbler is companioned by vanilla ice cream... ditto the fresh ginger cake. There is also an excellent Belgian chocolate mousse served up in a martini glass, New York cheesecake, and an assortment of seasonal berries doused with Grand Marnier.
If you have an abiding love for the treasures of the sea, the Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar should be at the very top of your dining agenda.
The Artful Diner
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Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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