I had the opportunity to spend a pleasant evening out with my wife during this past weekend. Given some of the positive buzz I had heard around town about the new Conrad's Seafood Restaurant, I thought we should give it a try. I am happy to say that we did, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We arrived a bit before six in the evening on Saturday and spent a few moments in the bar, while waiting for our table to be ready. On the basis of the crowd at the bar, it was obvious that a lot of folks had the same idea that my wife and I had. Positively, the bar staff was prompt and attentive, serving up our drinks and pre-meal raw bar selections in short order. I particularly enjoyed my signature cocktail -- a mint julep-esque concoction known as the Baybilly.
I have been known to be fussy about my raw bar selections, and was pleased with both the variety of choices and the reasonable prices we found at Conrad's. I got a half-dozen raw oysters -- two Chincoteagues from Virginia, two Blue Points from Long Island, New York, and two Summersides, native to Prince Edward Isle, Canada. The oysters themselves were all plump and satisfying, with each having a slightly different flavor profile.
After about twenty minutes of socializing with fellow diners at the bar, my wife and I were seated in the front dining room. There are two dining rooms on the main floor, ours being the smaller and more intimate of the two. The décor in both is a dramatic improvement over what had been the former Surf City Bar and Grill. There is even an open-air terrace, which I am sure will be very popular once we get to the warmer part of the year.
We started with the seared scallop appetizer, which consisted of four scallops served over a delicate lima bean hash, with pancetta (a special Italian bacon), and drizzled with a champagne-based beurre blanc sauce. If you don't know it, scallops are hard to cook properly -- in the hands of an inexperienced chef they are often too chewy when underdone or can end up a solid as hockey pucks when overdone. Thankfully for us, the folks at Conrad's got them just right when we were there!
For dinner, I opted for the shrimp and grits, while my wife selected the whole pan seared sea bass. Both were very tasty. For my dish, six large grilled shrimp were served over a bed of grits, mixed with pancetta, and Vermont cheddar cheese. The meal had a satisfying quality, and reminded me of similar meals I have had in the low country of South Carolina.
My wife's sea bass was quite the production. When the folks at Conrad's say whole sea bass, you better believe it. A pretty sizeable whole bass -- head, fins, and tail -- was served over a bed of wild mushroom fregola (fregola is a type of pasta from Sardinia, which is quite similar to cous cous), lima beans, and a tomato basil buerre blanc sauce. The sea bass was flavorful, and flaked nicely away from the bones for the most part. While neither of us had room for dessert, we did take a look at the dessert case, which had numerous home-made selections to choose from.
Overall, my wife and I really enjoyed our evening at Conrad's Seafood Restaurant. Hopefully in the future, given that the Conrad's family of restaurants also includes a seafood market, we could expect to see a special "catch of the day" or some periodic chef's specials that could take advantage of seasonal seafood selections that come into the market. Since there hasn't really been an upscale seafood restaurant in Perry Hall for as long as I can remember, I can certainly say that the arrival of Conrad's has been a welcome occasion.