kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

703.203.9463

Review of Coastal Flats

I went to Coastal Flats in Fairfax for dinner on Wednesday evening. It's been in the East Market shopping center for a few years, and we walked past it a bunch of time, but never tried it until the other night. (The exterior, with its white and yellow, looks very beachy, it even looks more inviting in the summertime when everyone is hanging out on the patio with some drinks...) We made reservations a few weeks back, so when we arrived we only had to wait five minutes or so for a table (I would definitely recommend doing this, as the wait, even on a Wednesday evening, looked really long.)

The interior has lots of dark wood, along with small, Ikea-type track lighting on wires, and cool sculptures of schools of fish swimming near the ceiling. The noise level is pretty loud, but it wasn't annoyingly so. One thing we really liked was the fact that all seating seems to be booths--no banquettes smashed closely next to one another (I never like feeling like I'm having dinner with the diners on either side of me, and if seating is banquette-style, I always try to snag an end table.)

The drinks and menu are inspired by "1950's Coastal Florida," according to the restaurant's website (that is also apparent from the large mural on one wall), and the drink and food menu reflect this. My husband enjoyed a CF Mojito, and it was really well done, with just the right combination of mint, lime, rum, sugar and soda. It was almost as good as the ones we make at home. I went with a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc--very nice, crisp and herby, with some lime notes. However, I wished the wine list, especially those selections by the glass, had been a bit more extensive. One of my big pet peeves when it comes to some restaurant wine lists is a glut of Chardonnays on the list, often made in the same style. I can see if restaurants want to include, say, an oaky Napa or Australian Chardonnay, an unoaked New Zealand, and a French Chablis, but to put several similar CA Chardonnays on the list is a bit much, especially for those of us who aren't a fan of oaky whites. But my wine choice was delicious.

The menu has some interesting choices, but it's not that extensive when it comes to seafood. For a restaurant inspired by the Florida coast, we thought there could have been at least a few more seafood dishes included. For those diners who don't like seafood, there are a few chicken, steak and rib dishes.

We started with a mixed green salad with grape tomatoes, sun dried cranberries, garlic croutons and champagne vinaigrette, which was lovely. My only wish would be to include bleu or goat cheese by default, instead of charging $1 for it. We thought the salad was screaming for bleu cheese, so we up charged.

My entree was sauteed shrimp with creamy grit cakes, which also had bits of smoked ham, roasted corn, asparagus, peppers and onions, all in a cajun cream sauce. It was low country seafood at its best. The sauce was smoky, rich and creamy, the grits were formed into triangular cakes and then deep fried, and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. It's not the typical entree I select when dining out, but it was a winner.

My husband opted for the Hong Kong style sea bass (clearly not EVERYTHING on the menu is inspired by 1950's Florida...), steamed over bok choy in a soy sherry broth, with sticky rice and topped with thin slices of crispy fried ginger. Steaming in broth is a preparation that is perfect for fleshy sea bass, and this was melt in your mouth fish.

We split a piece of key lime pie for dessert--creamy, limy and topped with graham cracker crumbs--a great choice that wasn't too filling. Our service was attentive, although seemed a bit rushed towards the end (when we saw the wait at the bar and in the lobby we understood why.)

If you haven't already tried Coastal Flats (and there is another location in Tysons), it's definitely worth a trip.