With Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck and a trio of Mussel Bar & Grilles to his credit, Robert Wiedmaier is an admiral of the DC dining scene. A passionate sports fisherman, he has long yearned to have a seafood restaurant in the District, so Siren is wish-fulfillment. It emerged from the depths of his imagination with help from his corporate chef, Brian McBride; and executive chef John Critchley, who captains the kitchen. The latter’s last commission was at Brine in Merrifield, Va., where he hooked diners with his artful seafood compositions. Before that, he helmed the galleys at Bourbon Steak and Urbana.
The chic oceanic endeavor is docked inside the newly minted Darcy Hotel on Scott Circle. There’s a sizable patio, where up to 40 patrons can cast off their worries and try their hands at celestial navigation. Inside the restaurant, there are several microcosms, including a windowside lounge area by the host stand, an armada of more intimate booths and a 26-seat private dining room.
A bar runs the length of the room and swirls at the end to emphasize the impressive 10-seat raw bar. A second icy display along the back wall brims with the daily catch and tins of caviar. There are pelagic shades of blue everywhere, complemented by dark woods that wouldn’t be out of place in an elegant stateroom aboard an early-20th-century steamliner. Of course, you’ll spot a siren statue, as well as appropriately aquatic accents: coral displays, an hourglass and a petrified nautilus shell.
Each table is bedecked with what looks like an underwater terrarium, a flat porthole-shaped glass bottle with a spout holding verdant olive oil infused with orange peels, star anise and ginger. Its purpose is revealed with the arrival of what turns out to be one of the best complimentary bread services in town: warm triangles of fresh pita bread accompanied by an oval of whipped tuna ganoush with chopped red peppers. The oil is poured over the spread, which has a rich brininess and a sweet finish.
A stem of cold cava or Champagne is the right way to begin your voyage. The sparklers won’t cloud your palate, so you can enjoy the subtle nuances of the grand plateau, which is an impressive two-tiered tower of shellfish on an icy bedding: oysters, clams, lobster, prawns and sashimi.
Beyond the plateaus, the menu is divided into eight sections such as Sasanian Caviar; Vegetables and Grains; Warm and Crispy; Whole Fish; Seafarers; and By Land, Sea or Sky. Dishes are designed to be shared; though it’s easy to put together a meal for one featuring an appetizer from the first four categories and an entree from one of the latter two.
Critchley puts out pretty plates. Case in point is his tuna sashimi, the ruby-red fish folded gently to mimic ripples spreading across the water. Cubes of avocado mousse adorned with sesame seeds sit off to the side in a forest of wakame seaweed with bits of macadamia nuts nestled in their midst.
The Black Pearl is a showstopper. A sizable puck of foie gras hides a bellyful of Shassetra caviar. The smoothness of the foie finds a pleasing contrast in the poppy beads of caviar. Along with the traditional accompaniments—finely diced hardboiled egg whites and yolks, red onion and chives—there’s a trio of bouncy, biscuit-shaped blini: white chocolate, Yukon gold potato and buckwheat.
Another unforgettable moment is the bowl cradling Maryland blue-crab custard underneath a symphony of summer greens, including thinly sliced radish rounds with a hint of pepper and sweet peas. Dig into the greenery and find tongues of uni and trout roe.
If you’re looking for a larger proposition, the salt-crusted royal bass is a trophy. Cut off the top of the golden brown shell to reveal tender white flesh, which goes well with a squeeze of grilled lemon that arrives on the side. The dish is the perfect encapsulation of what makes Siren sing: honest flavors served with charming elegance.
1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 202.521.7171, sirenbyrw.com
Shared plates, $12-$58;
Mon.-Fri., 5-11pm; Sat., 10:30am-2:30pm, 5-11pm; Sun., 10:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm
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