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A side of this, a side of that
With its bright cerulean walls and lemon trim, Glover Park’s Surfside is an oasis in a desert of gray concrete buildings. Which is fitting, because the month-old Surfside is attempting to pass as a transplant straight from the West Coast. While the decorating scheme (complete with colorful chalk boards, a butcher-block counter, rooftop seating, and a mural of the beach) looks like it was lifted from the boardwalk, the food is far from sandy hot dogs and cherry slushie.
Served on heavy ceramic plates, the dishes are anything but casual beach dining. Sauces, from guacamole and salsa to various moles and curries, are handmade every day, and the fresh fish in the entrées changes daily. I was fortunate enough to visit Surfside when mahi-mahi was the fish of the day and was surprised at its tenderness. It’s rare to find melt-in-your-mouth seafood in the District, especially in the $9 to $16 price range.
While the quality of the seafood is a definite highlight, there are problems in the dishes’ execution. The fish taco tortillas were abominable. Not only were they too small to hold all of the ingredients, they were so thin that the juices from the fish collapsed them. On top of infrastructure problems, the tortillas had a grainy aftertaste, and most unforgivably of all, they were cold.
Once I abandoned the tortillas, though, I could enjoy not only the natural zest of the fish, but also the black bean and corn salsa and the unexpectedly authentic guacamole. The standout addition to the fish was undoubtedly the lime sour cream. Lighter and thinner than typical sour cream, it added a delightful kick to the light flavors without adding extra calories.
Surfside’s problem lies in its identity crisis. Even though it advertises itself as a West Coast style eatery, it has not mastered its Mexican influences. The emphasis on fresh ingredients and flavors is definitely drawn from Californian cuisine, but the utter lack of spiciness in the dishes makes them unmemorable.
Surfside should play to its strengths and market itself as a seafood resturant with a dedication to quality ingredients. A block away from Whole Foods, they will no doubt find customers who appreciate their use of paper straws, organic greens, and rotating fresh fish. Surfside has some culinary kinks to work out but offers an undeniably great atmosphere (the full service bar is open until midnight every night) and rapid take-out service. The District doesn’t need another attempt at pseudo-Mexican cuisine, but it will definitely welcome Surfside’s great seafood and affordable prices with open arms.
Surfside is located at 2444 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. It is open Weekdays from 11a.m. to 2:30p.m. and 5:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Weekends from 11a.m. to 10:30p.m.