Words by Marcus Dowling, Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Moreso than anything else, Robert Wiedmaier’s new, largely seafood menu-driven restaurant Siren showcases a chef-as-creative living his best life. Just opened adjacent to the lobby of The Darcy, the new Hilton Hotel Group offering replacing the DoubleTree in Logan CIrcle, there’s an emphasis on fresh tastes and bold flavors that demystify and make high-end seafood commonplace fare.
“I wanted to keep the menu items very fresh and simple,” Wiedmaier notes, quick to point out that menu items like the prawns, king crab, and salmon aren’t necessarily locally sourced, but more emphasis is placed on, “finding the best ingredients possible, and sometimes local isn’t the best.”
The menu here isn’t necessarily for the traditionalist crowd. There’s a vanilla macaron appetizer that features a spread of caviar betwixt two wafers. It might be in this dish wherein the true brilliance of the progressive nature of Wiedmaier’s work is showcased. There’s a “bang bang bang” effect of flavor (sweet, salty, tart) that combines the effects of meringue, fish egg, and citrus flavor. Yes, those are three distinctly different profiles, but it succeeds in overwhelming a visual presentation that may be uninviting to the casual diner.
“In Russia, caviar isn’t necessarily seen as such a luxury menu item. It’s eaten throughout the day,” Wiedmaier notes, as caviar is featured in small dishes like sweet cookie appetizers to being offered as a solo menu offering as well. The story of the restaurant’s name coming from the Greek mythological story of dangerous creatures who lured sailors with enchanting songs to shipwreck on their island makes sense here. There’s the lure of items like these which are so often traditionally connected to premium dining experiences. However, once you’re through Siren’s doors, there’s a sense of whimsy and wonder regarding the textures, flavors, and presentations that “shipwrecks” the patron and leaves taste buds available to be charmed.
Much ado will be made about the seafood tower, as it’s an ostentatious showcase of prawns, oysters, lobster, and sashimi that arrives at the table and appears to be an incredibly daunting, yet pleasantly gluttonous experience. However, the true joy of dining at Siren comes in the smaller dishes, like the salted bass steamed in an empanada-style bread crust, the exemplary swordfish, rare Chesapeake eel, and but of course, the soft shell stuffed crab appetizer (of many) that highlight the menu’s best features.
Swordfish and salted bass are two local seafood menu staples. However, it’s in the fact that these staple items are likely to be paired with something progressive like say, Chesapeake eel sauteed to the a point of barely there crispiness paired with pickled red onions, aromatic herbs and seasoned with olive oil, that makes the commonplace into the excellent. In successfully executing a menu that is both left-of-center but also right at home.
In the past two decades, Robert Wiedmaier has cemented himself as a superstar chef by opening restaurants named after his two children, and pushing menus that blend a mix of comfort, health, and approachable opulence. At Siren, he’s expanded this now standard expectation yet again, with palate-challenging, yet delicious results.