Not Our Kettle of Fish: Hook

Mack came up with the title.

Although “seafood” isn’t a dirty word, certain varieties of fish, including bluefin tuna and chilean sea bass are heading in that direction. I readily acknowledge that I need to learn more about sustainable seafood practices, and while eating in a restaurant doesn’t necessarily provide education, I found Hook to be at least cognizant of the need for change.


Located on a busy Georgetown street, Hook’s subdued blue awning could be easily missed. The tiny storefront gave way to a long, rectangular space, loosely divided into a small front dining area, a bar, and a larger dining room in the back. Décor was minimal, but helped establish a serene sense of being – white light fixtures, sealife art, polished hardwood.

Mack at Hook

We were seated in the front, sandwiched between a glass pane that separated the host from our table, and another table that bordered the storefront window. It was a little distracting, having to see and hear other patrons as they arrived and were greeted, but the rear dining area probably wasn’t much better – the floor echoed the conversation in the room.

The menu was obviously seafood focused, with a token chicken and beef entrée available to placate those unable or unwilling to eat seafood. Our server was keen to answer our questions, particularly when it came to decoding the varieties of fish we were less familiar with. However, his efficiency bordered on annoying during our meal, as he literally stood behind us and waited for clean plates to clear. Surveillance dining is not for us.

We decided to start with an order of the grilled calamari with potato salad and basil walnut pesto, which the server promised would be amazing. Our entrees were based entirely upon our desire to try a new type of fish and our server’s depiction of them. I ended up with a prosciutto-wrapped lingcod, which was likened to most other white fish, while Mack chose moonfish, described as being “pink”, which we compared to the flesh colour of salmon.

While we waited for our appetizers, we munched on slices of baguette. Instead of butter or perhaps olive oil and balsamic vinegar, we were given a bowl of mayonnaise to accompany our bread – needless to say, we chose to enjoy our bread unadorned.

Bread course

The calamari plate was plumped up with a fair quantity of potato side. I have never been a fan of squid’s chewy consistency, but Mack was impressed by the contrasting flavours – the slightly charred tips, and the tang of a citrus finish.

Grilled Calamari

Both of our entrees contained a fair amount of fish. My lingcod was tender, but in terms of flavour, was nothing special. I’m not sure I would have been able to distinguish this variety from others. The underlying gnocchi was actually the star of the plate anyway, and easily rivalled Proof’s meltingly delicious dumplings.

Lingcod with Gnocchi

Unfortunately, Mack had a terrible experience with his fish – it turned out our server’s definition of “pink” fish spoke more to the cooking technique of simply searing the fish, leaving the core of the steak raw. He probably should have sent it back to request that it be cooked through, but he managed to finish most of it.


Dessert was a chocolate tart with ice cream and caramel. Made by “DC’s Pastry Chef of the Year”, it was indeed a decadent desert, the richness of the chocolate cut through by the salt and caramel. This was a savoury-sweet combination I enjoyed thoroughly.

Chocolate Tart

With our billfold we were given a handy pocket-sized copy of The Blue Ocean Institute’s Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood. It listed, in descending order, types of seafood that are relatively abundant, with fishing or farming methods that cause relatively little damage to habitat and other wildlife, with species containing high levels of mercury or PCBs clearly marked. It is a great resource to have (and one which I now keep with me at all times), but for a restaurant that prides itself on sustainable sourcing (and to some extent, education of the consumer), this guide should have either been provided at the beginning of the meal, or incorporated into the menu somehow.

As a whole, our meal at Hook was the least memorable of our restaurant experiences in DC.

3241 M St NW
Washington, DC
(202) 625-4488

Day 5 in DC: Tourist Mashup

The muggiest day to greet us in DC was also our tardiest start, indicative of our exhaustion the night before. We finally left the hotel at 10:30, and determined to try an alternative to Starbucks, sought out the nearest location of Caribou Coffee.

With their wooden beams, hardwood floor and stone fireplace, it would have been easy to mistake the interior of Caribou Coffee with that of a Montana’s. There was no line-up (unlike our hotel’s neighbourhood Starbucks), and I liked the cheeky statements printed on the napkins. The coffee itself wasn’t bad, though drowned in milk as it were I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell otherwise.


A cabin or a coffee shop?

Our first planned stop for the day was the last of the major memorials we hadn’t yet seen – the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. At some point after we departed the Metro we must have made a wrong turn, because we ended up not at the memorial, but at a waterfront lined with seafood stalls.

Seafood market

Crabs galore!

The aromas drifting from the area weren’t exactly pleasant – seafood never fares well in open air on hot days. There was some agreeable cookery going on though – with “fresh” (trucked in) fish, crabs, and other shellfish being offered alongside lemonade and ice cream. We were able to sample some fried fish, which satisfied our seafood curiosity.

A man among fish

Across and under a bridge, we finally reached the Jefferson Memorial. Away from the Mall attractions, it was relatively quiet, and free from large school groups. Situated on the Tidal Basin as well, this memorial was in the perfect spot to capture breezes that came off the water. I’m sure cherry blossoms would add a touch of magic to the park, but even without them, the tree-lined area was lovely, and brought me back to the West Wing episode of “Mandatory Minimums” where Toby and Andie take their walk around the basin.

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson, the primary author of the Constitution, was quite scholarly, making the Greek columns very appropriate for his memorial. Though the statues of Lincoln and Jefferson are apparently the same height, the Lincoln Memorial still trumps all others in grandness and impact.

Jefferson Memorial

We walked across the basin to spend the best $10 we had all trip – on paddleboats! The $10 secured a rental for an hour, which was more than enough time to explore the reachable corners of Tidal Basin, and to access one of the best frontal views of the Jefferson Memorial. And after rushing from place to place for the last few days, it was nice to kick back and relax out on the water.

Jefferson Memorial from Tidal Basin

Mack on the Berry (photo #2 – yes, even on the water)

Marines and POTUS helicopters flew overhead in the direction of the White House a few times, as did numerous domestic flights in and out of Reagan National Airport. The airspace in DC was undoubtedly always busy.

POTUS Helicopter overhead

Off the water, we took a quick ice cream break at one of the strategically-placed tourist-oriented confectionary traps, and hopped on the Metro to get to our lunch destination – Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.

Our piecemeal day continued with a return to our hotel to change (a nod to our most formal dining experience in DC), then hoofed it to Georgetown. It was absolutely boiling at this point, so our trek was most uncomfortable for Mack, to say the least, dressed in a long-sleeve dress shirt. He was a trooper though, as we made the most of our time by shopping in the district, where I picked up some gifts at the lovely gift and stationary store Paper Source and elsewhere.

I heart Georgetown

A picturesque garden in the middle of Georgetown

A Georgetown shopping centre

We made sure to stop at Dean and Deluca, which in Georgetown was not only a café, but a full-on specialty grocer. We overturned many products to find astronomical prices, and contented ourselves with two rounded D & D mugs, which we had admired from afar in New York.

Dean & Deluca

Not a wine cellar, but hall

Bulk candies are always more expensive when stored in glass jars

On Bruce’s recommendation, we also visited Georgetown Cupcake, where the line-up was out the door. Granted, the tiny storefront could only contain so many, but given the number of large boxes waiting to be picked up, we were sure that walk-in customers formed only a tiny branch of their business.

They had a dozen varieties to choose from, all temptingly displayed on tiered stands at the order counter. After patrons put in their order, they had to pass the funds across to the staff person on the other side of the tiers, creating an awkward exchange for both parties (and a potentially messy one, even though a sign read that ‘cakes on display were indeed for display only).


At $2.75 a pop, the cupcakes seemed to be on par or slightly more expensive than the Canadian bakeries I have visited. I decided on a fairly classic flavour – vanilla² – while Mack opted for something a little less run-of-the-mill – carrot cake.

On the corner of Georgetown and cupcake

The vanilla bean cake was pretty tasty – flavoured and flecked nicely, but with sweetness in check. I was saddened to find that the icing was made with cream cheese, however, as I am not a fan. On the other hand, the cream cheese base did mean that the icing didn’t melt as fast as its, say, buttercream counterparts, and as Mack adores cream cheese, he unsurprisingly enjoyed his treat more than I did.

We ended the night at dinner – an upscale restaurant called Hook.

You can read Mack’s Day 5 recap here.