The parental units stopped by this weekend, and after a long afternoon of walking around the outlet mall, we wanted to get in an early dinner before crashing back at the house. Though there are many dining options of all sorts in Sterling, one of the few places that consistently garners DC accolades and doesn’t look like a remnant of those strip-mall eateries is a seafood place called Hooked.
Actually, they are spelled “hooked”, with a lower-case “h”. I suppose it’s a way of keeping the establishment trendy and en vogue. Those exact words are what Hooked plays itself up to be: a swanky and sophistiqué restaurant that exudes youthful vibrance. The foyer is playful with some oversized armchairs in funky shapes and ports that play video of a rolling ocean, and the whole place is decked out with multicolored mood lighting. One interesting thing I found was that about half the restaurant was a large bar area, while the other half was a traditional sit-down eating area. This is something that you would readily find in DC proper or NYC and not Sterling, so I see it as an ambitious (and encouraging) attempt to bring that big-city feel to the outskirts of metropolitan DC.
Since we arrived early, there was no wait, and the service was quick to get us underway and describe the menu options. We decided on some starters, and our server was kind enough to give us more time to reflect on mains. I got a seafood chowder of red snapper, salmon, and bay scallops, while my parents got a crab bisque and mixed greens salad. The soup was spot on, with generous chunks of fish and scallop accompanied by potato cubes in a creamy broth. The bisque was just the right consistency and had enough crab, and the salad was nice and normal, as it should be. I would only ask that the chintzy bowls the soups are served in to be tossed and replaced by some larger ones that aren’t lopsided. If I’m going to pay generously for soup starters, I’ll go to DC or NYC, thanks. I can only attribute that to the “metromix” feel the place is going for, but that is my only gripe with the tableware and portions we experienced for the evening. We also ordered the house special sushi roll, which had a huge combination of lobster salad, tempura sweet potato, asparagus topped with seared Wagyu beef, micro greens, truffle oil and fried shallots. Needless to say, it was prepared spectacularly and tasted great.
I went forward with some scallop and yellowtail nigiri as my main, and they were spot on. The rice was perfect, and the generous fish pieces were fresh and mellow. The grilled swordfish and tempura shrimp dishes that we also ordered were great examples of honest seafood done well. The flavors stayed true to the main ingredients of each respective dish and were well complemented by the other components on the plate.
When we finished, crowds were starting to build inside, and rightly so. Hooked is a restaurant with charisma and panache. Charge moderately premium prices for some solid and well-executed seafood and sushi in a self-embellishing space, and you’ll have critics and customers raving. That’s not a remonstration on Hooked’s formula; it’s one that simply works in today’s industry. Food bloggers and publication reviewers are just about moving off the bubble of hipster, organic gastro-pubbery and putting one cautious foot back into the doors of trendy spots serving foods that embrace a blend of tradition and brashness. In my opinion, Hooked deserves its praise and shall continue to do so if they keep the menu fresh and constantly try to push the bar higher. Its rivals in DC may want to take note …