It’s funny how quickly a brunch conversation can devolve into silliness. And plenty of silliness was had recently over brunch at Grillfish.
Five friends, surrounding a big round table, began with some serious talk about global affairs, the Ebola scare, and violence in the Middle East. And then the food and cocktails started arriving, and by the end of dessert we found ourselves making funny faces at each other and snapping photos with my DSLR camera.
Yes, we are very serious young professionals living in our nation’s capital. And yes, we have very serious topics to hash out over our eggs! But brunch is also a time to loosen up a bit; and that’s exactly what we did. The giggles were contagious, and by the time our plates were cleared, I was near tears, my stomach hurting from laughing so hard.
Ah, fun brunches filled with laughter and great friends. It’s what I live for.
We had convened at Grillfish, a classic-but-often-overlooked restaurant in the West End. It was a bit of a hike for most of us, but I wanted to try the spot, as it’s one of the EatWell restaurants. The group gets all its food from a farm in La Plata, Maryland, and I’m a big fan of their other restaurants, Commissary, The Pig, and The Heights; Grillfish was the last to try.
The décor of Grillfish is far different from its sister restaurants. It’s almost a bit restaurant-rustic: big gilded mirrors, massive iron chandeliers, tall ceilings, marble columns, and textured wallpaper. It’s the kind of place that I’m sure seems very romantic and austere in the evenings, but at brunch o’clock feels a little stayed.
We sat by the floor-to-ceiling windows and immediately poured over the huge menus. As soon as we stopped yakking and focused on reading, we all noticed the horrible elevator music that was playing on the speakers. Oh gosh, Grillfish, can I put on my Spotify? Or anything else? It was like sad saxophone jazz, and the giggles started up again.
The brunch cocktail menu is impressive—and much larger than the actual brunch menu itself. You can build your own Bloody Mary (which I did, just how I like it!) or order from the selection of Mary, bubbly, or cocktail concoctions.
We had a Spi-Sea Mary, which is one of the pre-built Bloody Marys, made with wasabi-infused vodka, a house Bloody Mary mix, wasabi and seaweed. We were a bit skeptical of those ingredients together, but it was super spicy and delicious. The wasabi was a perfect kick.
The rest of the cocktail menu is just as interesting, with creations such as the “Day Dreamer,” the “Rise ‘n’ Shine,” and even a “Baconator” Mary. We ordered a strawberry blush, a short cocktail made with strawberry puree, Curacao, St. Germaine, and champagne. It was very sweet.
We also ordered some mimosas, which were shockingly tiny. Like, shot glass mimosas—which would be fine if they were bottomless. The mimosas come with an immense flavor selection: orange, pear, cranberry, mango, peach, or passion fruit, but we decided the Marys were a better bang for our bucks.
Some at the table decided to split an order of oysters. I’m not a fan of oysters, but I was told these were fresh and delicious. Down they went. Plus, the local shells are only $1 each, a pretty sweet deal.
Despite the funny music and ambiance, we were loving the creative, seafood-packed lunch and brunch menus, and we ordered a selection of other appetizers to share. The fried risotto balls were served on a bed of tomato sauce with Manchego cheese—delicious and great for sharing.
The calamari wasn’t overly fried, which I appreciated, and it even had a bit of a sweet tanginess to it. It was a huge plate, and was happily passed around the table. The potato pancakes, or latkes, were the carbs we all needed—sufficiently greasy and packed with flavor.
We were happy. Our servers (we had two due to training fun) were super friendly and on top of things. Our drinks were quickly refilled, and everything was going just swimmingly. We even had started a motor boating contest. No, not that kind—get your mind out of the gutter!
Then the entrees started to arrive. I ordered the Benedict option, of course, and Grillfish’s Benedict is packed with amazing seafood. Not only was the crab cake perfect, but it was set on a potato pancake instead of an English muffin. The Hollandaise and poached egg soaked into the entire creation.
The classic Caesar salad is a popular order on the lunch menu, probably because you can top it with any combination of seafood your heart desires. My brunch compatriot ordered it with the mixed grilled fish, and the super fresh salad arrived with a selection of fish filets, scallops, and shrimp on a kebab.
The tuna salad was gorgeous, and just as fresh as the Caesar. Thick slices of tuna were arranged on a bed of greens, with even more slices of cucumber placed around the edge of the plate. It was the prettiest dish on the table, and a perfect dish for a light and lean brunch.
The great fish selection continues to the sandwiches. You can get everything from a salmon BLT to a grilled ahi tuna sandwich to a crab cake melt. They’re served on thick buns with plenty of accoutrements.
The food was tremendous, and at this point we were all a bit full. I had forgotten that I ordered the French toast to share, and when it arrived we all groaned out of fullness. The two big pieces of French toast were accompanied by a side of jam and a few strips of bacon.
We also ordered something sweet, the chocolate brownie. It was thick and warm, and surrounded by two big scoops of vanilla ice cream. On top, a caramel pecan sauce was drizzled. We weren’t laughing anymore. This brunch was serious business. We were all so stuffed, but happy.
The Bitches say: B-. The food was excellent and the staff was very friendly, but the ambiance is a bit too Old World for a lively brunch.
1200 New Hampshire Ave. N.W.
Grillfish serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.