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Dining Out at Rehoboth Beach
Comments () | Published July 1, 2006
The always humming bar at Espuma - a Rehoboth restaurant with a big-city feel and some of the best cooking to come out of that fusion-loving seashore town in years. Photograph by Matthew Worden

For a simple, no-fuss meal . . .

Fish On. Don’t let the urban trappings—industrial ceilings, unfinished floors, open dining room—fool you. Fish On may look like a big-city restaurant, but it’s really an old-fashioned fishhouse that’s been updated. Fusion predominates at many of Rehoboth’s restaurants, but here there’s a less-is-more philosophy.

Owners Matt Haley, Bryony Zeigler, and Harry Gellar have figured out that you can generate buzz and draw the crowds by serving ample portions of simply prepared, fresh food at reasonable prices—most entrees are around $20—and sending out likeable, knowledgeable servers to take care of customers. Most of the fish and seafood is from local waters; much of the produce comes from local or in-state farms.

The kitchen, under chef Gary Johnson, is wise enough to get out of the way and let the ingredients stand on their own. Crunchy-fried soft-shells with a melange of fresh cherry tomatoes, Silver Queen corn, roasted asparagus, and jalapeno peppers show the value of that approach. Fresh bluefish is grilled and paired with shoestring fries and coleslaw. The fanciest it gets is an appetizer called Shrimp on Toast, which evokes a Chinese-American classic but tastes like a deconstructed Thanksgiving stuffing—a handful of buttery, Old Bay–scented shrimps and thin strands of braised celery over crusty rectangles of thick toast.

Desserts ($6) are pure nostalgia: root-beer floats, apple pie, and a huge piece of moist chocolate cake big enough for two and with a pitcher of chocolate sauce to boot.

Fish On, the Villages of Five Points, Lewes; 302-645-9790; fishon.bz. Entrees $17 to $24. Open daily for dinner.

Northeast Seafood Kitchen. If the Barefoot Contessa owned a restaurant, it might be this dining room with driftwood floors, whitewashed walls, and creative seafood classics that allow the ingredients to shine. The Kitchen is the newest address of the crowd that owns the popular Fish On in Lewes and Bluecoast in North Bethany.

While Bluecoast nods to the Northeast with a handful of plates, the Kitchen’s menu explores the lobster-shack sensibility. Bite into a crisply fried Ipswich clam and you’ll have to check your bearings to make sure you haven’t been whisked to the Cape. The lobster roll is done New England proper, with a kiss of mayo and a toasted bun glistening with melted butter. If only the lobster-to-bun ratio weren’t so skimpy. New England–style clam chowder is all creamy richness. Clams also get star billing in house-made clam dip, a riff on a suburban ’60s hors d’oeuvre that’s better than the original ever was. Crunchy house-made kettle potato chips help the cause.

The menu delves into ethnic New England with a Portuguese-style seafood stew full of sweet mussels and scallops, shrimp and cod, and garlicky linguica. Lobster mac-and-cheese is a more modern take, with a smattering of whole-grain mustard to cut the richness of the sauce.

For dessert, stick to the theme with a root-beer float made with organic Maine root beer, the homespun oatmeal pie, and the un-New Englandy, but delicious, wedge of chocolate cake a la mode.

Northeast Seafood Kitchen, 29-F Atlantic Ave., Ocean View (West Bethany); 302-537-1785; northeastseafoodkitchen.com. Entrees $17 to $21. Open daily for dinner.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 07/01/2006 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles