Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Flying Fish Restaurant – Sushi Grade

On February 5th of 2005, Larry Vallieres opened the Flying Fish restaurant at 815 King Street in Old Town Alexandria. As it is with all restaurants, there were growing pains. As he tested his menu he began adding different items and removing the ones that did not sell well. Over the next few years he had assembled quite an extensive menu of fine seafood, steaks, and pastas. Also from day one, there was a sushi bar just as you walk in the door. Today the sushi bar is still there serving up some of the best sushi and sashimi in the metro area. Earlier this summer, however, Larry and his staff made some bold changes in the menu. He made a major reduction in the number of offerings on the restaurant menu and has concentrated on fewer, fresher offerings.

We had the pleasure of being invited to the private opening and mock dinner before the final menu was launched so were able to taste most everything new that was coming down the pike. The new menu has some of the favorites from the old menu with the likes of the delightful edamame as an appetizer while introducing Pork Belly with grits to the main course offerings.

We went back to Flying Fish last month to see what changes actually made the cut. Sticking to his fresh fish roots Larry bought back his popular Caribbean Style Mahi and added Petite Pepparadelle Pasta as well as a sandwich of the day. With the pared down menu, Flying Fish has the capability to offer new specials on a daily basis depending on availability of what is fresh and available.

On this particular night, after a sampling of the sea salt coated Edamame, I opted for the Mahi bites as my appetizer. Twelve tender chunks of fresh Mahi, lightly fried, and served in a large martini glass. The Mahi pieces were tender and the coating prior to frying was very tasty but did not over power he taste of the fish. My companion ordered the Fresh Jalepeno Poppers (she loves hot food and peppers). These were bacon wrapped (everyone loves bacon) and tempura fried. This frying technique does not leave much grease in the breading and gives the poppers a light texture. The bacon complimented the large peppers perfectly.

With the new menu, Larry has taken off the wonderful Commander Sirloin Steak from his previous menu and has added a Hanger Steak. Expecting to be disappointed, I ordered the Hangar Steak…medium rare. Well, it just goes to show how much I don’t know. The Hanger Steak is also known as the “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves. Hanger Steak resembles flank steak in texture and flavor, and is usually the most tender cut on an animal. Quickly cooked over high heat and seared just right, this is something that I will go back for again. Cooked medium rare but with a rich red color, this steak was tender and very flavorful. Served with mushrooms and potato of the day, the Hanger Steak made the Commander Steak a distant memory.

Flying Fish has always had a great reputation for fresh fish cooked medium rare, so my companion ordered the Caribbean Style Mahi. Cooked medium rare with a slight sear to the outside, this fish complemented by the citrus mango slaw made one think they were in the islands. Although I love pineapple with fish, the mango in the slaw had a more subdued flavor and let the taste of the Mahi come through.

The new menu is rounded out with Seared Jumbo Scallops, Tempura Fried Seafood Medley, Iron Seared Yellow Fin Tuna and Pork Belly with Grits. Keeping the restaurant family friendly, there is also a kid’s menu with portions priced at only $5.00. The prices for the regular menu are $9 and under for appetizers and the entrees going from a high of $24 to $12. Be sure to ask about the dessert offerings of the day. If you happen to be there when they have the mango cheesecake, just do it! It is a melt in your mouth experience!!

I have already mentioned the sushi and that part of the Flying Fish experience cannot be underestimated. From day one the restaurant has received rave reviews on their sushi. I have to admit that prior to Flying Fish opening, I wasn’t keen on sushi of any kind but after experiencing it here I am a total sushi convert. Everything is very fresh and prepared at the open sushi bar right in front of the restaurant. Presentations run from a few pieces to a wooden boat with over 50 pieces.

I also have to mention the Speakeasy downstairs. Here is a large bar with tables and booths for dining in a more relaxed and sometimes noisy atmosphere. Most nights the late crowd will join their friends for an evening of Karaoke and most often the singing is quite good. It is a popular place for the restaurant employees in the area to gather after their shifts at other local eateries in Old Town. It is also one of the few places that permits smoking. In the Speak Easy area on a limited basis, smokers may embibe in a ventilated smoking section after 9 pm Sunday through Thursday. All other hours remain totally smoke free.

The Flying Fish is closed for lunch and opens at 5 pm serving dinner until 10 pm in the upstairs dining room 7 days a week. Sushi is served until 12 midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1 am Friday and Saturday nights in the Speakeasy.

Written by: Bob Tagert

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