Drift restaurant review: Elevated beach food in Rehoboth

Simply wanting on the fluke crudo at a younger restaurant referred to as Drift Seafood & Uncooked Bar lowers the temperature on a scorching summer season evening.

Ribbons of honeydew kind a wavy sculpture over the uncooked lean fish, comparable in taste to flounder and organized in a shallow pool of cucumber juice and minty shiso. The pale-green sensation soothes the eyes because it surprises the tongue, which picks up nuoc cham and lime together with the refreshing sweetness of the melon. 4 of us hover over the appetizer till it disappears, anticipating what different charms chef Tom Wiswell would possibly ship our manner.

Did I point out this dish is at Rehoboth Seashore in Delaware? At what was a dive referred to as the Seafood Shack? Only a 12 months outdated this month, Drift represents an evolution in seaside consuming — “a sophisticated experience in a fun and relaxed atmosphere,” says Lion Gardner, one among 4 homeowners of the seafood-themed restaurant and the freshly minted, pan-Asian Bodhi Kitchen close by, each a part of the newly fashioned 2nd Block Hospitality Group.

An extended and slender setting isn’t splendid for a restaurant. (The positioning is a former camp assembly construction courting to 1890.) The homeowners embraced their state of affairs by creating little zones of enjoyment, beginning with a slip of an indoor-outdoor bar, a nook for oysters, a eating room roughly the width of a bus and a rear patio with as a lot thought poured into it as wherever else within the 65-seat restaurant. En route from entrance to again, diners cross a semi-open kitchen and a whirl of cooks. A margarita made utilizing fresh-pressed pineapple juice and triple sec steeped in serrano pepper exhibits up with a rim of scorching sauce — a liquid preview of the multipart dishes on the menu.

A local of western Maryland, Wiswell, 26, says he has been cooking since he was 16. Conveniently, his first job was at Go Fish in Rehoboth. In faculty, he studied psychology (“a huge asset” for his eventual restaurant profession, he says) and later caught the attention of his present boss on the Station on Kings in Lewes, when Gardner was launched to his meals at a wine dinner there. “He didn’t look old enough to drink,” says Gardner, who remembers a “simple but advanced” roster of dishes that “read like a menu you’d see at a restaurant in the city.” Wiswell went on to work the fish station for a 12 months on the admired Vernick Meals & Drink in Philadelphia, a bullet level on his résumé he affectionately refers to as “seafood boot camp.” The pandemic returned him to the Station on Kings and, later, Harbour at Canal Sq., additionally in Lewes.

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The homeowners’ thought for Drift was initially informal, says Gardner, who shifted gears after they employed Wiswell, who had greater ambitions. Sure, there could be oysters on the half shell from across the Mid-Atlantic, however a few of them could be dressed with blood orange ponzu and chili crunch. And the uncooked bar would go on to supply such fanciful starters as bluefin tuna splashed with ginger-lime French dressing and offered in shiso wraps. Lobster French toast is a notion Wiswell credit to a short stint at Kinship in Washington, which options the mixture on its “indulgence” menu.

Rockfish and potato croquettes shoot blanks, an issue eradicated by a swipe by the accompanying sun-dried tomato peri-peri sauce. A superior small plate serves finger lengths of summer season squash, brushed with a mix of garlic oil, preserved lemon, chile de arbol and white soy sauce earlier than they hit the grill, after which the vegetable is splayed over purple Thai curry, showered with crushed, lime-y cashews and completed with vibrant herbs.

It rapidly turns into clear, this isn’t a kitchen that takes the straightforward manner. Diners gained’t discover sauces that repeat or crossover components. Take a essential course of seared scallops. Every candy coin is topped with caramelized fennel and staggered on a mattress of pearl couscous flecked with Maryland crab — together with a puddle of corn puree, a dollop of peach chutney, meaty with bacon, and a dusting of espelette pepper. “I want each dish to be a unique experience,” says the chef, who oversees a employees of seven cooks, most of whom got here to Drift with none coaching.

Worry not. Right here’s the unusual restaurant the place a number of components don’t essentially translate to the style equal of a visitors jam. Halibut steamed in olive oil is teamed with mussels and delicate sea beans on a base of Carolina gold rice, prized for its nutty taste and enhanced right here with a broth fueled with lemongrass and pink peppercorns.

Cooks are loopy for schnitzel today, and Wiswell isn’t any exception. In step with the restaurant’s theme, he affords swordfish in a nubby crust that crackles with panko and delivers a bit of warmth from purple chili flakes. A dilly potato salad plied with capers and preserved lemon rides atop the swordfish, the feel of which the chef likens to that of the extra conventional pork. Should you suppose I’m accomplished describing the dish, you haven’t been paying consideration. There’s sauce on the plate, too, a pale-yellow lemon aioli.

Don’t eat fish? Don’t fear. Drift makes pasta recent day-after-day. My go to coincided with a bundle of supple tagliatelle bulked up with oyster mushrooms and brightened with pesto. This being Drift, the components had been acknowledged like forged members on a playbill, and the dish embraced buttery breadcrumbs and a cloud of ricotta, the properly of which shimmered with herbed oil. Not a strand was left standing.

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Good assist is tough to seek out, however Drift has it. “We know people who know people,” says Gardner, who beforehand co-owned Blue Moon in Rehoboth Seashore, the place he did double responsibility as head chef. Drinks come out quick, and servers are fast to make you’re feeling as in case you’ve chosen the proper spot for a catch-up session with mates. “Everything we do is from scratch,” says a waiter as he drops off some focaccia served with seaweed butter. Later, he surprises us with a plate of summery tomato wedges freckled with fennel pollen and oregano.

Gardner says Drift is supposed to evoke an “eclectic living room feel” — a spot the place “not everything fits together perfectly” and rest is vital. Therefore the vintage books, oyster plates and oil work set within the mirror-backed alcoves of the cosy eating room, which is lined with a banquette on one aspect and leather-based cubicles on the opposite. Initially, I wasn’t eager on sitting exterior, our solely possibility on a busy Friday evening, however finally, the good-looking rear courtyard, with the restaurant’s title splashed throughout black concrete, proved the perfect place to get pleasure from dinner. The open sky strengthens the seaside connection, and dialog is simpler than inside.

Given every part that’s come earlier than, you would possibly anticipate extra elaborate desserts. As an alternative, you make choices about Basque burnt cheesecake and caramel corn ice cream (get them each) and conclude they’re simply the kind of ending you need after dinner on the seaside. The desserts are higher for the cheesecake’s raspberry sauce and lemon curd and the ice cream’s frosted glass.

Wiswell is aware of he’s cooking in a vacationer vacation spot the place individuals anticipate “crab cakes, burgers and french fries,” he says. “There are a lot of great spots to go for that.”

Drift represents one thing loftier. Did I point out there’s recent basil within the cheesecake’s fruit sauce?

42 1/2 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Seashore, Del. 302-567-2744. driftrb.com. Open for indoor and outside eating 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday by Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Costs: appetizers $12 to $30, essential programs $30 to $59. Sound verify: 77 decibels/Should communicate with raised voice. Accessibility: No obstacles to entry; ADA-compliant restrooms.

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