Choptank is the latest restaurant in the space that most recently housed the now defunct Bar Q. I saw the restaurant open didn't feel like running in. Maybe that was a sign. I happen to know a few people connected to the restaurant so at one point I felt compelled to give it a try. Sam Sifton of the NYTimes reviewed Choptank a few weeks ago which piqued my interest.
Last night at 830, the place was packed but by 1015, there were just a few stragglers left. I thought about that this morning. The concept, the vibe, the interior almost feels like it is out of its element on Bleeker Street in the West Village and might have do better on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side.
I like the couple of bars where you can eat and watch oysters being shelled. In the front bar area all the tables are high tops. The menu is simple with a variety of selections I would have tried. The execution isn't so good.
We started with some oysters on the half shell. After seeing them being shucked on the way back to our table, how could we not. The oysters come with the classic cocktail sauce and a mignonette. It is hard to go wrong there. They also brought over for us the house made potato chips and dip. The chips are quite tasty, deep fried, thin and crispy with a nice kick of Old Bay seasoning. The dip was a rich mayonnaise laden crab dip. Someone could easily go through a batch of those chips in no time. My favorite was probably the Peel 'n Eat shrimp. Perfectly cooked shrimp that has been steamed in Old Bay. Yet, like all the food, there was something missing. It was good, it was tasty but I just felt it could have been better. Like the octopus dish. Braised octopus, sliced into pieces served with a mixture of thinly sliced red and yellow peppers sauteed with half sliced potatoes. Looked good but there was no punch to the dish. It tasted bland.
For dinner, Fred had the oyster po-boy which I did not taste but he said it was just okay. Our friend had the Cod. A nice piece of fish served with tiny clams and a clam broth. I had the crab cake. More filling than crab. Tasty but again just missing the boat. It was good not great. On the side was a hunk of iceberg letter with a dreadful French dressing over the top and a few pickled green beans.
I grew up on tables covered with newspaper and boiled Maryland crabs soaked with Old Bay seasoning. That is what Choptank is supposed to represent. Some of the items of the menu you wouldn't find in an old style Maryland crab house. Regardless, the restaurant just doesn't hit the high notes. Besides the decor, nothing delicious enough to make me want to come back. It is if they are almost there but can't get to the other side. They need to play with each dish and balance the flavors better. Maybe a new chef?