A new restaurant in Navy Yard gets me really excited. I love all of the places we do have, but variety is the spice of life. Whaley’s opened in The Yards Monday night, serving up fresh, local seafood in a bright, nautical atmosphere.
We were greeted with very friendly service and our knowledgeable server gave us a rundown of the menu, with very animated enthusiasm. I’m always impressed when new restaurants get their service right so quickly, although from reading a few reviews I’m not sure everyone has had such a positive experience. But based on what we saw, they’re off to a great start.
The space, which was originally intended for retail, is small but the bright murals and white ceiling keep it from feeling cramped. The entire facade is glass, so you can look right out at the water and Yards Park from inside the restaurant.
A friend joined Tom and me for dinner last night which was great not only because she’s super fun but because it gave us the opportunity to try quite a few delicious items from the menu. We started with the medium seafood tower, a feast in and of itself.
I really wasn’t sure about this order, because I’m not the most adventurous seafood eater, but it turned out to be a great choice. The medium tower comes with nine raw oysters, at least that many poached clams and mussels, poached lobster, four large shrimp, calamari ceviche, a smoked trout dip, sea urchin and a crudo from a very unusual fish whose name I cannot recall at the moment. So much food! We ordered an affordable bottle of Muscadet to wash everything down, a great pairing.
Everything was extremely fresh and well prepared. Our favorites were the oysters, poached mussels and the crudo. The shrimp, calamari and trout dip were solid as well. I found the lobster to be a little inconsistent, some bites chewy, some mushy and others just fine; it was my least favorite element of the tower. I didn’t try the clams, but Tom and Lauren weren’t impressed and said they were very small and had little flavor.
While we definitely could have made a meal just of the tower, but sometimes you want a little something cooked as well.
As much as I enjoyed the tower, this seafood risotto was much more my speed. The risotto itself is made with vadouvan curry, coconut and Thai basil which would have been delicious enough on its own but when topped with tender scallops, mussels and shrimp and a filet of black bass it was incredible. We got the small portion, which was still plenty big enough for three to share.
To get our greens in, we also had the asparagus salad based on a recommendation from our server.
Whole and shredded asparagus is paired with crispy chickpeas and African spices and served atop a creamy sauce. This was serviceable, but I doubt I would order it again as the flavors were muted and didn’t come together very well.
All in all though, it was a great meal and I’m really excited to have a seafood restaurant in the neighborhood. I will say, this meal kind of broke the bank. The prices are justified by portion sizes and the freshness and quality of the seafood, but we will definitely hold back on ordering so much next time. What can I say? Excitement got the better of us.
I can picture many summer nights in the future sitting at Whaley’s bar or on the patio, sipping rosé and slurping oysters, but I’ll save the seafood towers for a special occasion. According to our server, they’ll be adding brunch and lunch later on down the road and I’m really hoping to see a happy hour in due time as well.