21 October 2017
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Grillfish: Come for the Service

Like its EatWell DC cousins, Commissary and Logan Tavern, Grillfish – the seafood-themed Dupont Circle eatery – serves perfectly adequate food. But the service I received during dinner there last night was exceptional. As the adage goes: “Good service can save a bad meal, but a good meal can’t save bad service.”

A whimsical mural of intertwined human figures occupies the wall behind the bar, along with two white candles perched upon massive mounds of candle wax. The dining room manages to be both open and intimate – the ceilings are high, and the place is as bustling as a Parisian bistro, but there’s no need to shout nor worry that your neighbors are eavesdropping.

The server, though obviously busy in the thick of Friday dinner service, was patient; he didn’t crane his neck or look elsewhere while speaking to my table. Patience – or the illusion thereof – is a glaringly absent factor in much service received today. It is a courtesy that, like holding doors for old ladies and not using profanity in mixed company, has gone right out the window. I, the incurable Luddite (and secret etiquette snob), credit our increasingly vulgar culture to a broad decline in morals and, of course, the digitization of society.

But I digress.

Our server, furthermore, was wonderfully descriptive when telling us the specials and infused his delivery with enthusiasm. (How many times have you been at a restaurant and the server mumbles and stumbles through the specials? “Um, it’s a jumbo lump – I mean, sorry, soft-shell – crab with grilled, uh, sauteed asparagus topped with, um, Parmesan? And, oh, it’s flavored with a lemon, uh, foam.”)

The food was edible. It wasn’t horrible, but it really wasn’t great. My hanger steak tasted charred and was blandly seasoned, and the mashed potatoes tasted as though they came from a box. My side of asparagus was good, though I am used to slender, wilted spears, not these new Amazonian side-show oddities. My asparagus could have doubled as a fatal weapon.

Otherwise, I thought the ambience was lovely. The lights were low and bathed the room with a soothing glow. The bar program seems good: I ordered a Bee’s Knees before dinner (Bee’s Knees is a gin, honey and lemon concoction that was popular through Prohibition), one of several interesting features on the adventuresome (and timely) cocktail list.

After the meal, the waiter jauntily ran and caught me: I’d (dumbly) left my credit card in the check presenter. He was smiling and kind. In this instance, good service certainly saved a bad meal.

Neighborhood: West End
Address: 1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW (M St.) Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-331-7310
Web site: www.grillfishdc.com
Parking: Public Lot and Street
Metro: Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom
Serves: Lunch (Monday-Friday); Dinner (Daily)
Specials: Monday-Friday (4-7 PM) and Saturday-Sunday (5-7 PM): half-priced appetizers and drink specials
Go for: Happy hour; simply prepared seafood; good service; patio seating
Price: *****
Rating: *****

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