Did someone say seafood? Yeah I thought so. I have to be in the mood. It's taken me this long to be in the mood to try this extremely popular somewhat new addition to the fantastic food scene in West Midtown.
This is a large freestanding single level building. The ceilings are high and unbuffered so be prepared for energetic noise and don't go with people you want to have some serious conversation with. Go with people that want good food and enjoy the vibe. There are a very few non seafood dishes for your friends who don't like the bounty of the sea. Lots of attractive people at the tables and bars both.
There are two bars. The entry area bar is limited (ie no craft cocktails but they have their own thing going on so be open to it). Naturally raw oysters are there to be had. Save room for the creative menu awaiting in the dining room.
It bears noting the rolls brought to the table are an item that should be sold as a side order. Semi dense yeast rolls with a sprinkle of crunchy flake salt on top. Heck I'd like some with today's afternoon tea. Do you do take out orders, Optimist?
My kryptonite, fried oysters, are on the menu. Unfortunately for the other starter items the oysters put temporary food blinders on me so you don't stand a chance. Smoked fish chowder came to the table too. The oysters were cormealy crunchy, not greasy but also not seasoned. I found myself looking for salt more than once even though I knew it wouldn't be on the table. The soup however had a wonderful delicate distinct flavor. A light chowder that is perfectly satisfying.
Dinner entrees selected were striped bass with a fantastically citrusy lime broth. Herbacious and fresh is the best way to describe it. Duck fat poached swordfish caught my eye. A rather ballsy thing to do but hey why not poach your fish in duckfat? It need not be relegated to roasting potatoes only. (My jar of duck fat in the fridge needs to step its workload up now). My history of swordfish eating is not a pleasant one. It's ALWAYS been dry, flavorless and honestly just forgettable and certainly not worth the mercury intake. This dish was as if an imposter fish was in place of what I knew swordfish to be. A 2" thick piece of lush moist flesh that was cooked to a perfection I have not experienced before (nor expect I will again). Not even a whisper of gaminess that sometimes comes when duck fat joins to the party. I was impressed.
I saw my beloved vegetable, beets, on the side menu and instantly ordered them along with the hushpuppies - beignet style!? what? sugar cane butter on the side too ? Oh heck yes. This is fantastically naughty. It hits your sweet salty addiction perfectly. The beets were small, cooked nicely and served chilled. I find chilled beets the best at showing off the sweetness while keeping the earthiness to a minimum. Another win for my tastebuds.
Perfect service. Not too much, not to little. Just right.
There is no mystery why the Optimist is so popular. Definitely returning, though I may bring a pinch of salt with me next time to better enjoy my oysters.