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Joe Riley

Hook, M Street in Georgetown - Temporarily Closed Due To Fire

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We missed the tiny waitress but had other excellent service and a delicious meal at Hook last night. The place was bustling (and noisy) with Restaurant Week diners. There was plenty to choose from - of which my husband had oysters, sablefish and a sort of chocolate mousse tart. I chose striped bass chowder (fabulous!), arctic char on celeriac puree with roasted sweet potatoes and brussles sprouts, and apple tart w/almond frangipane and vanilla ice cream. All hits - no misses!

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The true representation of aïoli is nothing more than garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.

According to our waiter, it is true garlic aoili and it tasted that way as well. It's not as thick as mayo.

We had 3 crudos - oysters, house cured, and mahi mahi. The oysters were not fresh tasting but the other two were wonderful, especially the mahi mahi (cut into small squares and seasoned beautifully).

The beet salad was surprisingly good with goat cheese. They complemented each other well so that neither overpowered the other. We only ordered the beet salad because we couldn't think of what else to order.

As for the entrees, my landlubber wife's filet mignon was delicious (cooked medium rare). My halibut was nicely seared but otherwise flavorless (I didn't finish the fish).

While we were going to our 6 p.m. reservation, we saw a huge line of people outside G'town Cupcake and there was still a big line afterwards. During dinner, we saw 7 or 8 fire engines race by and then M St. was closed to cars from Key Bridge to Wisconsin Ave. Something close to the Philly Cheesesteak Factory was apparently on fire.

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Three of us had a really mixed experience at Hook Friday for lunch. Highlights included the beet salad mentioned above - just exquisite to look at, a beautiful dish that laid large, thin discs of bright red and yellow beets side by side so they looked like bright pools of liquid, topped with crumbled pistachios, a few blueberries, a drizzle of olive oil, and a very nice goat cheese. What a great dish, and together with the smoked salmon appetizer, also very good, it seemed like these were setting the stage for a great meal. Unfortunately all of the entrees fell pretty flat. Bluefish was overcooked and didn't taste all that fresh, and sat on top of a bland quinoa and apple salad that was undercooked and underseasoned and just didn't add anything except volume to the plate at all. My companion's striped bass, which I tried, also didn't taste all that fresh, and was way too salty (related problems?). Are they not turning over their product quickly enough? The place seemed about three quarters full for lunch...

I loved my dessert of a small pine nut tart with rosemary gelato and gorgonzola, and our server was great, but Hook is supposed to be about the fish, right?

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I had reservations for Hook last night at 7:30, but alas, never made it to a table to try the food. I really like their sustainability mission and was really looking forward to the dinner, knowing they provide many options for Restaurant Week choices (plus $20 bottles of wine). Unfortunately, I doubt I'll go back.

Around 6pm yesterday I got a call from Hook to confirm my 7:30 reservation for 4. I thought it a bit odd they were calling so late (I expect confirmation calls either the day before the reservation or early the day of), but didn't think too much about it when I told them that yes, we would be there at 7:30. Upon arriving at 7:25, we walked into a madhouse.

We checked in at the host stand, told them our entire party was indeed there, and were told "a couple tables are paying their checks now, so if you could just head over to the bar and wait we'll get you shortly." Well, every seat at the bar was taken, and people were standing 3-deep. Standing in the bar area resulted in getting jostled every 10 seconds by a server or another patron. We attempted to move over to the entry area, and sort of staked out a spot there, but it was quite packed as well. Needless to say we began wondering how they were planning to seat all these waiting parties.

Since we were standing very close to the host stand we could hear every time someone checked in or went up to ask about the wait. One party standing near us had a 6:30 reservation and was still waiting to get seated at 8:00pm (that's some pretty crappy management if a reservation as early as 6:30 has gotten bumped an hour and a half). Every single person that asked was told that "a bunch of tables are paying their checks now, and you will get seated when they leave." Obviously that could not be true for everyone.

By 8:15, after we had seen perhaps 10 people leave the restaurant and hardly anyone get taken to tables, we realized we weren't going to be seated any time soon. We cancelled our reservation and just went across the street to J. Paul's since we were starving by that time. Perhaps not the best food, but at least we got a table and were not treated like cattle.

Looking back, we assume they massively overbooked and then started freaking out about it in the early evening and began calling to confirm reservations, hoping some would cancel. But why call to confirm me at 6:00 and then not be able to seat my party until at least an hour after my reservation time?

In the six and a half years I've lived in DC I've eaten many many meals out at restaurants ranging from very cheap to some of the nicest in the city and never had something like that happen (nor have any of my friends I was with). I've visited restaurants during Restaurant Week at least 20 times and never felt like the reservation system was so poorly managed. I rarely make it over to Georgetown from the Hill, and this just gives me one less reason to make the trek. Sorry, Hook, but you lost four potential customers last night.

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My gf had the exact same experience at Hook last night. They had a reservation for 8 people at 9pm. Now I'll admit, a table of 8 during RW is a lot of people, but as of 10:15, when she left, her group was still not seated.

To give Hook some credit, the hostess did run over to Tacklebox to provide them some free apps, but looks like Hook was a giant clusterfuck last night!

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That sounds like a truly wretched experience. Another diner wrote to Tom Siesetma's chat today with a very similar complaint. I had an uneventful and quite delicious Sunday brunch at Hook in December. RW must be beyond its reach. We have RW plans at 701 and Cafe Atlantico. Hoping for the best.

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That sounds like a truly wretched experience. Another diner wrote to Tom Siesetma's chat today with a very similar complaint.

Full disclosure, it was one of my dining companions who wrote into Tom's chat today. I'm mostly just curious if last night was an aberration for Hook's normal RW or if it was like that Monday and tonight.

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Just wanted to share this gracious response from Hook's manager:

Dear Jenny,

First off, thank you for taking the time to send us an email. Feedback, good or bad, is always appreciated. Secondly, let me apologize for failing you and your friends the other evening. I can not say it enough and know that it does not help - but I am sorry.

Hook was very overbooked for this week. I recently rejoined the Hook team after being at our sister restaurant, Tackle Box. Unfortunately, it was too late to alter the reservations for this week, and we are trying to do the best we can to recover.

I know excuses don't solve problems, but I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to show you and your friends the real Hook Experience. I know we have a great team here of passionate and gracious people and wonderful seafood and I hope we can offer it to you.

I have sent you a gift certificate for a 3-course meal for four guests. Again, I hope we have the opportunity to show you what it is really like with us. I hope you will take me out on our offer, and I am sorry.

Thank you for your time,

Simon Stilwell

Manager

Hook Restaurant

202.625.4488

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Just wanted to share this gracious response from Hook's manager:

Everyone makes mistakes. It's all about the recovery.

Well done, Hook.

Thanks for following up on the matter, NF.

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I received a call 4 hours before my RW reservations on Saturday night. The hostess said there would be delays in sitting all night and offered to reschedule the reservation for any time with the RW deal still available, only this time off of the FULL Hook menu. I took her up on the offer - its a nice gesture and I'm glad they were more proactive as the week went on. Although it wouldn't have hurt to call a day or two in advance, instead of only 4 hours.

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Just wanted to share this gracious response from Hook's manager:

Even still, New Foodie, you might want to wait awhile to return, since they just, ahem, "parted ways" with their talented chef Jonathan Seningen today - the day after Restaurant Week ended.

Severely downgraded in the Dining Guide, and quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing some of the stories I'm hearing about ownership, which have come independently, from several ex-employees (among other people).

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Even still, New Foodie, you might want to wait awhile to return, since they just, ahem, "parted ways" with their talented chef Jonathan Seningen today - the day after Restaurant Week ended.

Severely downgraded in the Dining Guide, and quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing some of the stories I'm hearing about ownership, which have come independently, from several ex-employees (among other people).

Very unfortunate it came to this.

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Even still, New Foodie, you might want to wait awhile to return, since they just, ahem, "parted ways" with their talented chef Jonathan Seningen today - the day after Restaurant Week ended.

Severely downgraded in the Dining Guide, and quite frankly, I'm sick of hearing some of the stories I'm hearing about ownership, which have come independently, from several ex-employees (among other people).

Gorton's on Saturday it is!

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Sometimes it's difficult to fully enjoy a meal in a restaurant where questions may linger over the treatment of employees. I've enjoyed meals at Hook but have a feeling I'll be exploring Blacksalt's offerings for a while. Thanks for the informative update.

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Despite Don's advice above, we ended up taking Hook up on their offer of a free meal last night, and I have to say, they definitely gained back a few points from me. My immediate impression was incredulity that I was in the same restaurant that I had stepped into during that hellacious RW trip. Whereas it was packed beyond the point of being comfortable last time, this trip there were numerous open tables and the upstairs wasn't even being used. It was certainly a much calmer and more enjoyable experience all around.

We were greeted and seated immediately and warmly, and the manager, Simon, was on hand to make sure everything went well and we were compensated for our trouble last time. Although perhaps a little slow to take our order, the service was very gracious all evening. The bread basket is a bowl of thin baguette slices served with an addicting garlic aioli. It was hard to stop at only a couple pieces.

For the first course two of us ordered the grilled calamari with vichyssoise and potato sticks which would've been $12. It was two whole grilled squid which were each served in 3 pieces in the potato/leek sauce with thin crisps of potatoes on top. The dish was good, but my problem is that it had a lot of olives in it, and that wasn't listed on the menu. I was able to pick around them, but since I don't like olives I wish I had known before ordering. The friend that got the beet salad (with goat cheese, etc for $11) loved hers and the one that ordered the oysters (champagne gelée, bloody mary, dirty martini for $8) liked the different variations but apparently the bloody mary sauce was the best.

My entree was the Peppercorn crusted seared Big Eye Tuna (served with blackeyed peas, spinach and panchetta) which I thought was good, but not great. It was cooked closer to medium than the rare or med-rare I would prefer and the peppercorn crust was a bit overwhelming, but it was still tasty, and I really love blackeyed peas, so those were great. I really liked my friend's sea bass (with bok choy, daikon and some soy-based sauce). It was a tad on the salty side (as many Asian-flavored things can be) but had a great flavor. I only had a small taste of the cedar plank salmon that was served with rice and peas with a decided Indian flavor, but the friend who ordered that thought her's was the best of the entrees. The whole roasted dorade (with rosemary fingerling potatoes and olives) was extremely fresh tasting, stuffed with rosemary and lemon. I think it's somewhat annoying to have to pick around bones, but it was still a good dish.

In my OpenTable reservation I had mentioned we were celebrating 3 birthdays, and when our desserts were presented, 3 of us had a cute little candle lit on the corner of our plates. Unfortunately, two of us were also delivered the incorrect desserts, but that snafu was quickly remedied (and we got to taste the incorrect dessert that was brought out as well). The Lingonberry Linzertorte was a 3-4" diameter individual tart with a nice tart, yet sweet flavor. I believe this is one of their signature desserts. The sage poundcake with earl grey ice cream and apples wasn't quite my cup of tea (pun intended), but the orderer loved it. My favorite (and probably my favorite part of the meal), however, was my order of Nutella filled crepes with Nutella ice cream and hazelnut crisps. I am pretty much a sucker for anything with Nutella and these were amazing, without being overly big and rich and overwhelming. Yum.

Bottom line: Will I go back? Since I rarely go to Georgetown, Hook will probably never be high on my list. However, I would certainly return if a friend wanted to visit. I still like their sustainability mission and our meal was good. The RW issue was a big screw up, but they did a good job making up for their mistakes.

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Since Morso has not opened yet we decided to eat at Hook. It has been a while since we have been and I now remember why. We started with a nice plate of smoked salmon carpaccio before the entrees. I had the bluefish which was served with littleneck clams and atop a chickpea and tomato based stew (for lack of a better word). The bluefish was grilled, but the skin and flesh had the same soft consistency. The dish was just OK and I finished it, but overall it was just monotone in flavor. She had the diver scallops atop some greens and topped with a slice a mushroom on each properly seared scallop. The bite of scallops that I tried was very good and sweet and made me wish I had ordered that. Although $28 for 3 decent sized scallops is a bit pricey, right?

For dessert we steer away from the signature Lingonberry Linzertorte which was probably a mistake. We got the cumin based dessert (cannot remember the exact name) since we both like the spice and figured it might make for an interesting dessert. The plate came with a slice of dark chocolate tart, a scoop of cumin ice cream, and a bit of caramel. When the cumin ice cream was eaten with the other components it was good, but alone it reminded me of pencil lead.

Overall we had a nice dinner at the bar and service was extremely prompt, but the food was just not good enough to make me want to return any time soon. One app, two entrees, one dessert, 3 beers and a diet coke came to just over $100 before tip.

Pet peeve, but $4.25 for a diet coke is rather ridiculous.

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Hook is on fire (or was on fire). I counted 14 fire trucks heading into G-Town, including 2 hook and ladders, as I sat in my building on M in the West End. You could see the smoke from our roof at 26th &M.

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Hook is on fire (or was on fire). I counted 14 fire trucks heading into G-Town, including 2 hook and ladders, as I sat in my building on M in the West End. You could see the smoke from our roof at 26th &M.

I was on my way to lunch at Vidalia at about 1:00 and saw many trucks headed West down M. Must have been the same emergency. Bad news. I hope there are no casualties.

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I was on my way to lunch at Vidalia at about 1:00 and saw many trucks headed West down M. Must have been the same emergency. Bad news. I hope there are no casualties.

More here. Hook badly damaged, but nobody hurt.

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More here. Hook badly damaged, but nobody hurt.

Channel 4 news this a.m. said that Hook will be closed indefinitely, Tackle Box should be open within a week.

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