Last week, I was hanging out in Delaware with my dear friend Kate when she suggested that she treat me to a birthday lunch since we probably wouldn't have opportunity to get together before that hallowed day (November 17). She suggested Harry's Seafood Grill and sent me to check out the sample menu on their Web site. Now, as a graphic designer, I am well aware of the importance that needs to be placed on such things as image and marketing, and was pleased to see that Harry's site was good-looking and well-designed. That means good things, in my mind, so I jumped at the chance to dine there.
The restaurant was as tastefully decorated as the site was well-designed, with interesting sea-themed artworks (including the wire starfish sculpture that took up most of the ceiling of the main dining room) and a large window overlooking the river. There are also tables outside under a broad awning for dining in more clement weather.
Kate was acquainted with one of the chefs at Harry's, and we had an opportunity to meet with her and chat a bit before ordering our food. She made some suggestions as to the best items on the rather large lunchtime menu (that included an impressive selection of raw items like sashimi and several varieties of ceviche). I had to agree with her that yes, the Cajun Short Ribs with Fried Shrimp and Grits in a Tasso Cream Sauce was not to be missed. Kate went for the Soft Crab Sandwich with Remoulade and Yukon Gold Potato Chips because she was in the mood for crab, and because I had never eaten a soft crab before - mainly because of the legs that dangle from the sandwich. I have no issues with hard crabs, but put one between two slices of bread and suddenly it becomes a fried spider. The chef had also recommended the Oktoberfest Moules Frites, so we ordered that as a shared appetizer.
The next thing we know, an order of New Orleans Barbeque Shrimp and Toasted Focaccia with Fresh Smoked Tomato Salad was coming to our table, compliments of the chef. Four large, plump shrimp bathed in a tangy sauce were nestled together next to a generous pile of greens topped with smoky tomatoes. Now, don't think N'awlins style barbeque sauce has anything to do with what one normally thinks of as 'cue (any region's style)...it's basically lots of butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, garlic, and spices, along with a dose of hot sauce. It was fan-tastic, much tastier than my preparation of one of Emeril's recipes some years ago (that was too heavy on the Worcestershire).
As soon as we were done with the shrimps, our lovely and perky waitress brought Kate's pre-appetizer of 3 different PEI oysters. I'll have to take her word for it that they were tasty, as I don't like raw oysters. :) Then came the mussels. A platter was placed before us containing a lidded serving vessel with 10 or 12 huge, beer-steamed specimens, a fancy wire swirly thing holding a cone of thinly cut frites, and a ramekin of black pepper mayo. Although the mussels were the usual black-shelled variety, some of the critters were so large I needed to cut them in half before popping them in my mouth. They were soft and succulent and even-textured, and didn't have the somewhat sickening "gack, is that a mussel spleen, or maybe a mussel colon I'm biting into now?" lumpy quality that I find in some larger mussels, particularly the green-lipped variety. The enormous serving of frites was crisp and delicious, and the mayo was a nice dip for both starch and shellfish.
I could have stopped right there with the eating, as I was already quite full, but we still had entrees coming. Whew! Mine was a dinner-sized portion - three meaty short ribs, three large shrimp that had been dipped in a savory batter and deep fried, and a good half-cup sized timbale of grits, all atop a lake of creamy sauce studded with bits of tasso ham. The meat was so tender, it fell off the bone at the mere threat of being struck with a knife, and the shrimp had that lovely iodine flavor that I like so much (I know some people probably don't like it, but to me, that's what makes a shrimp taste like a shrimp). But it was too much; I ate the shrimp and the grits and took the ribs home for a future lunchtime treat.
Kate's soft crab sandwich was also quite yummy. She shared a portion of the body so I wouldn't have to deal with the legs, and the crisp carapace was accented beautifully by the savory remoulade sauce. I didn't try her chips, but they were definitely of the home-made variety.
To add insult to injury, or rather, to avoid additional risk of stomach explosion, we opted to share a dessert. There were several interesting options on the menu, but I've always wanted to try a Sticky Toffee Pudding. Harry's was a hefty cylinder, served warm, with a large curved tuile acting as a dish for a scoop of house-made vanilla gelato, the plate further garnished with splotches of tart raspberry coulis and squiggles of homemade caramel on a pool of creme anglaise. Yowsa. It was delicious, and far too much to finish.
Two hours later, we waddled out of Harry's, very full and happy. This was one of the most consistantly delicious meals I've had in a long time (apart from the two dinners at Pazo this past summer), and I would be delighted to go back at any time. I highly recommend it.
Harry's Seafood Grill
101 S. Market St
Wilmington, DE 19801
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