It's next to impossible for me to resist making a beeline straight for Cafe L'Europe whenever I visit St. Armand's Circle but, hell-bent on breaking new ground, UD and I rolled the dice and took a chance on an anniversary lunch at Crab & Fin. Let's check it out.
We were warmly greeted upon entering the establishment, which had an old-school '80s-chic vibe going on (nicely leveraging its target audience of AARP card carriers). There was a beautiful, icy case of fresh shellfish just inside the door, including a California-based variety of stone crab that is available year-long...so if you're jonesing for your fave crustacean when it's out of season, this place may be worth the trip if you don't mind paying $20 per half lb. (which any true addict probably won't).
We received excellent, professional service throughout the course of our meal. The list of wines by the glass was short but I was impressed by the reasonable price point of the offerings. Bread basket was better than average and served warm with softened butter.
I started with Panko Crusted Oysters (with charred corn & watermelon salsa and chili-lime aioli), which tasted like they'd been pulled from the Gulf earlier in the day. They may have been the best fried oysters I've ever eaten...crispy and sweet, without a hint of not-as-fresh-as-they-could-be oyster "funkiness"...and nicely offset by the heat of the aioli and chilled salsa.
We've clearly become octopodi-spoiled by visiting Estia on our frequent trips to Philly (where they have a dedicated washing machine in which they tenderize their Portuguese octopus before cooking and serving, making it almost lobster-like in consistency). Crab & Fin's offering of said dish was flavorful, albeit overly-chewy for my taste.
I loved my Shrimp Chimichanga. There was no skimping on the "good stuff" in this entree, as there shouldn't have been for the $15 price tag. Stuffed with plump, fresh shrimp, Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, this was decadence on a plate...and its slathering of sour cream and guacamole only served to ratchet it to even more heinous heights than expected. Time to break out my "fat pants".
The spousal unit's White Clam Pasta (six clams in the shell sautéed with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and tossed with house-made spaghettini) was okay in a homogeneous, Olive Garden kinda way but hardly what either of us would classify as "memorable".
UD insisted on dessert and, while chocolate anything is usually my last choice on any menu, the flourless chocolate soufflé cake infused with Grand Marnier and topped with vanilla bean ice cream, berry coulis and almond tuile was exquisite, making me forget everything I thought I knew (and yawned) about flourless chocolate cake. Limoncello? Yes, please!
While our lunch was mostly delightful, here's why I'll never go back. The carpeting in the resto was absolutely filthy. After I had the shade difference between the heavy-traffic areas and those closest to the walls pointed out to me by my keen-visioned seeing eye Dawg, I felt sick. Clean it or rip it up and tile the floors. Ugh...not the most positive ending to a meal.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.