Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Norm Quarrinton
Back in May restaurateurs Nick and David Wiseman christened Whaley’s, a small and charming, upscale seafood establishment fittingly located by the waterfront in the Navy Yard neighborhood. Initially, D.C.’s seafood lovers could only get their fix from an epic dinner menu, but the Wiseman cousins recently decided that the time was right to embark upon a nautical brunch journey.
The Whaley’s brunch menu is for die-hard seafood fans. Each item fits well with the restaurant’s themes, and the refreshing cocktails will have you fending off cabin fever. All but one of the five numbered brunch cocktails was available when BYT went along on a disgustingly hot Sunday afternoon, and the staff clearly took pity on us in our dehydrated states as we were immediately presented with the sparkling and thirst-quenching drinks.
The menu is far from overwhelming, but there’s a sufficiently modest array of items to choose. In fact, to maximize your enjoyment of the Whaley’s brunch experience, the best approach is to pretend that you’re in a tapas-type place, and order several smaller dishes to share. Alternatively, the shellfish towers–which are crafted at the venue’s front-of-house oyster bar and come in a range of sizes with fixed-prices–are a no-brainier for groups who enjoy uniformity.
We decided to devour one of these towers, but we wanted to do some light grazing beforehand, so we ordered the day boat scallop crudo, and the citrus cured sockeye salmon from the appetizer menu. The scallops were lightly smothered in a deliciously sweet passion fruit dressing, and garnished with sea beans and pink peppercorns, which provided a welcoming savory aftertaste. The highlight of the our appetizer adventure however, was the sockeye salmon, the flavor of which–we were told–had been inspired by the everything bagel. If that’s what the chef was going for, he certainly nailed it. Bagel crumbs, chive creme fraiche and cured egg yolk is artistically dolloped on the plate and is accompanied by flower-shaped salmon strips. Very pleasing to the eye.
Once we had consumed our appetizers, we demolished our tower, which contained a combination of oysters, clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp, and uni. Stomachs bursting from the mounds of mouthwatering mollusks, we moved on to an entrée–the chicken fried oysters, which were a bit like chicken fried steak, but you know…with oysters. This dish is presented like a classic eggs benedict, and even comes with a couple of poached eggs which made it suitably brunch-y. Then the whole plate is doused in an moreish chorizo gravy.
The unique dishes, pleasant atmosphere, eye-catchingly classy nautical aesthetic, and excellent service mean brunch at Whaley’s is not to be missed, especially by seafood lovers. If you’re not a seafood lover, don’t stress out if you get dragged along by friends, the chicken fried oysters and other fishy twists on classic brunch staples are bound to convert you.