Jump to content

Hooked, Owner Doug Palley Relocates to Potomac Run Plaza in the Former Pacific Space in Sterling - Closed

Recommended Posts

I was asked recently to go to Hooked with a friend of mine that lives in Herndon. I was a bit surprised when she asked. "You have no problem driving into Georgetown on a weeknight (Wednesday)!?", I exclaimed. "What the fuck are you talking about Tony!?", she shouted back. By the way, I get that statement a lot from people, mostly women. After a few more moments of conversation, we finally figured out the disconnect and met up at Hooked, a small seafood restaurant in a strip mall out in Sterling, VA.

I will say that I was a bit shocked when I heard the name, but while this restaurant will by no means be confused with Barton Seaver's gem in Georgetown, I do have to say that it is a very nice place to have out here in the suburbs.

The restaurant is small, maybe seating for 20 people on the floor and another 10 at the bar, and pretty nicely decorated. It feels cool, but not pretentious, a bit out of place in the strip mall that it is located in, but not so foreign that it seems ridiculous. We got there at 5:00, super early, and it was empty, but when we left at 8:00, pretty much every seat was taken.

The service was second to none, not in a "professional" manner, but in a "we love that you are here and will do anything that we can to make you happy" way. Doug, the front of the house owner, was extremely friendly and very knowledgeable. He quickly picked up on the fact that we weren't your run of the mill diners and was willing to talk to us about business and wine and the industry and whatever else was on our mind. He did so mostly at the beginning, because it was empty, but still did a good job taking care of us as the night went on and they got more crowded.

Nice wine and drink list, we were deciding between three wines and he promptly poured us a taste of all three. We picked one we liked, of course I don't remember what it was, and it was a great bottle at a very reasonable price. He makes a mean drink too, as we would find out later.

The menu was pretty straight forward, but had some interesting notes (you can check out the whole menu at www.hookedonseafood.com). Good balance, meaning that you can make it a light night or an expensive night depending on your mood, and pretty creative at the points that it needed to be creative at (they don't seem to add crap just to add it). There was four of us and we all liked our food, the miso sea bass appetizer being the best of the bunch. The portions were solid sizes, well worth the money. The only miss was the mile high mac and cheese, bland even though it was trying not to be. The sushi was pretty good as well, something that was a nice addition to have as an appetizer or to share, probably not where I would go to have a sushi dinner though.

There was a service snafu though, the mac and cheese was missing for 15 minutes, and at the end of our meal Doug promptly brought us out four after dinner drinks, a piece of cheesecake and a piece of chocolate torte (or something along those lines), all on the house. The drink included some Bailey's and some chocolate liquer and some cream and some vodka, but it wasn't overly sweet and wasn't heavy, so we all liked it a lot. The desserts were above average, but nothing great. I may be mistaken, but I am pretty sure that they get their desserts made by a guy that they know who works at Le Cirque in NYC. Either way, nice way to end a meal, not memorable, but clearly good.

Overall, there wasn't a lot to dislike about Hooked and a pretty good amount to like. I think that they are serious restauranteurs that want to make an impact on the dining scene in the suburbs, but they don't take themselves too seriously, an attitude that we found refreshing.

So, next time you guys are way out in the country, I would check it out. Like I said, it is not directly comparable to many of the places that we have all grown to love in the city, but it is a good step in making the suburbs a bit more exciting these days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The word for the evening was: Disappointment.

Wife and I went to Hooked last night. It was off to a fine start with the lobster bisque and crab chowder. I especially liked the goldfish crackers with the soup. From there, though, it wasn't so good. I ordered the fresh catch sandwich, which was halibut. It was dry in the middle. It wasn't horribly dry to the point that I couldn't eat it (I did finish it), but it did produce a some bad bites. The menu stated something about the Washington Post saying how great their fries are. After the first bite of my first fry, I said, "Did they get these from McDonald's?" They were almost exact matches for McDonald's fries, just with less salt. Now, I'll admit I do enjoy McDonald's every once in a while, but not what I was expecting from this place. We ordered a side of the Mile High Mac and Cheese. According to the menu, it is "Prepared with pico de gallo, chipotle seasoning & aged cheddar." Yeah, what we got was just a bowl of regular old mac and cheese. No chipotle seasoning. No pico de gallo. Then, we wanted to get a dessert for our friends who were babysitting our kids. So, we ordered the Black Chocolate Truffle Cake to go. That was the smallest dessert I've ever seen. It was maybe three bites, as long as you didn't take any big bites. The couple sitting next to us said they've noticed all of Hooked's carry-out to to-go items are significantly smaller than what they serve at your table. Is that a common thing in the restaurant business.

Like I said, the overall feeling of the evening was disappointment. Probably because I entered with fairly high expectations. I mean, their web page does say they were "Voted Virginia's BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live close to Hooked, so I've been to the original location, as well as the new location, a few times each. Here's my take, based on my 3 most recent visits (over the past 6 months).

When this place first opened it got a ton of (mostly deserved) hype, for the food, especially crab cakes and other things fried, as well as the cool, non-suburb décor. Since then, in addition to moving to a much bigger space, I understand that they have changed chefs at least once, and from what I can tell the wait-staff turns over regularly. So it's a completely different restaurant than the original on almost every front.

Sleek, almost overly modern décor; a stark contrast to the surrounding Target, Petco, and Toys-R-Us! The managers and host staff seem to have their act together, and the last time we were there the hostess mentioned she was the owner's sister.

Spacious and modern, and the service there is usually very good. One time I was there the bar staff was completely aloof and I walked out after 20 minutes, but otherwise they are all over you. They have a pretty good beer and wine selection, and all the liquor choices you'd expect. Wines by the glass include some nice options for Loudoun county. Lately they have been running a great Happy hour = Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM, with all beers and all wines by the glass half-price. In my book, that's a great deal, worth going back for.

They have sushi and non-sushi. For sushi, they have a decent selection of Nigiri, and everything I've tried has been up to par. The cuts aren't huge, but nothing to complain about. Tried the Toro and it felt a little light but I may have been over-analyzing. Then there are the rolls. The "signature" Maki look good at first menu-glance, but the issue I have is that they are really just multiple iterations of several of the same 6 or 7 ingredients, and all are either fried, or loaded with mayonnaise or both. The raw ingredients are mostly tuna and salmon, nothing too interesting. Pretty low on originality, but if you're new to sushi then it's a good way to get comfortable. Beyond that they have a list of basic Maki - all the usual suspects at American sushi spots, and lots more mayo mayo mayo. Stick to the nigiri, and maybe you'll find a gem or 2 in the maki, but don't expect the variety of a real/good sushi resetaurant.

On the regular menu, there are hits and misses. The ceviche and tuna jalapeno sashimi are great starters. Raw bar items are as advertised. For soups and salads, I like the wakame, though it really is a basic sushi starter. The other soups/salads that I've tried are very basic, not bad, not great. For fish entrees, the Miso Sea Bass and Blackened Grouper are nicely done, no complaints. None of the others I've tried really wowed me; I was underwhelmed by the middle-eastern style Swordfish (just kind of bland). I've never tried any of the meat items or the shellfish entrees.

But the big hype here is the crab cake (singular). I ordered it on my last visit and can honestly call it the worst crab cake I've ever had. There was no jumbo lump meat in mine that night - all stringy, mushy backfin, with a ton of tasteless filler. I couldn't finish it. It came with a tiny drop of some sort of sauce, which might have helped things, but was gone after one bite. This crab cake is not mediocre -- it's downright awful and made me want to leave and not return.

All the sides I've tried are fine, with two exceptions. The fries are the good exception, well-done. The mac-n-cheese represents the bad exception - it looks and tastes like they poured some kind of soupy, bland cheese sauce over some plain penne, with no cooking to bind it together and certainly not baked like a proper mac-n-cheese. Definitely skip this one. For prices, here's the menu: http://www.hookedonseafood.com/pdf/DINNER.pdf

This is where things go really south. While the bar staff is pretty solid, the dining room waiters seem to have been plucked off the street, with little training, and worse, in some cases, minimal command of the English language. Most of them don't know or understand the menu. They can't answer questions about individual dishes, nor give recommendations beyond whatever they are told to push that night. Once I noticed a probable typo that said their foods are "cooked with trans-fats" - assuming they meant "without", so I asked our waiter, and he had no ability to address this. Later a manager dropped by and confirmed it was a typo, but it just confirmed how clueless the waiters are . We won't eat in the dining room again, a decision mandated by the wait-staff, but made easier by the half-price wine glasses at the bar.

Bottom line: Hooked is a good place is good for getting some drinks and sushi or apps at the bar, but I wouldn't invest the time or money to dine in the main room. And no matter what, if you have any appreciation for crab, do whatever you can to avoid the crab cake.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't say that my most recent experience at Hooked, last week, was anything like eyedubya described. We also live fairly close and have been there several times over the past year. My party of 5 received attentive service, and my mom praised the crab cake as being all meat, no filler. The mussels in a Thai curry sauce were really excellent, plump mussels in a sauce that was generously dosed with coconut milk. My father and I both had the fatty salmon belly, which was the only disappointment for us. The flavor was fine, but the chef had inexplicably chosen to score the fish in a diamond pattern, which diluted the velvety texture.

My only complaint is that they've removed the caesar salad with tempura lobster chunks from the menu.

If we were more flush with funds, we'd be there more often.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I went to Hooked last night for the first time. The restaurant itself is quite nice on the inside. I was a little surprised at this given the location in a strip mall next door to a Petsmart.

We sat at the bar as we arrived during happy hour. $3 Kirin Ichiban draft is not bad. There also was a Heineken promotion going on as we were each given a free bottle. So things started out great. We ordered the edamame starter. It was good but nothing special. Steamed with some seasalt. My wife ordered the crab cake and I ordered the combo #1, which was my choice of two maki with a wakame salad. I asked to sub the salad for miso soup which are the same price.

My sushi arrived at the same time as the edamame. My rolls were spicy california and yellowtail. They were super heavy handed with the spicy mayo on the cali roll. That was all I could taste. The fish in the yellowtail roll was not the freshest. It tasted like day old fish, almost a mealy texture. I never received the salad or the soup I wanted to sub it with. My wife's crab cake on the other hand was awesome. It was about 4 - 5 oz. It was the mini cake on the small plate menu. There was something holding the meat together but you couldn't taste it. All you could taste was the crab. Was mostly lump with a bit of backfin, probably 90/10.

Service was average. We were at the bar with 2 bartenders and 8 - 10 diners. I would go again for the crab cake and try something from the menu. I will stay away from the sushi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...