To begin with, the review might be a bit confusing as parts of it might seem negative and some positive. Most of my ambivalence stems from the fact that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this restaurant–is it old-school fishcamp fried fare, or gourmet seafood in a fishcamp atmosphere?
Hieronymus Seafood restaurant was voted Best Seafood in Wilmington by the readers of Encore magazine. It also received high marks in Trip Advisor. So armed with high expectations we went out for a nice seafood dinner. We were seated quickly and our server arrived in seconds to take our order. Our server was quite robotic–no smile, no warm welcome–just a Jack Webb type of “What to drink?”
While we were waiting, we were served a biscuit. Not a basket of bread or breads to nibble on, but a biscuit. Each. I ordered an appetizer of clam strips and looked around. There seemed to be too much furniture. Our server apologized a time or two for having to step around or over other guests to get to us, but it did not impede the service-absence of smile notwithstanding. Even though there was an attempt to feature something like a “catch of the day” that many fine dining establishments offer, the atmosphere and decor was still that of a fish house.
Then the appetizer arrived. The clam strips might just be the best I have ever eaten. This is normally my wife’s pervue, but this time I was the one raving about the sea-critters. Light breading, just done-not crunchy, just a bit of salt, and TENDER clam strips. I didn’t even dip them in the sauce they were so perfect.
My guess was that they could do “fried” really well, and I should have followed my instincts, but instead, I ordered the nut-crusted snapper. The pecan and other nut crust was flavorful and toothsome–fun to eat. The lobster cream sauce was a bit rich and perhaps a bit cool even. But the fish itself was rubbery! I know snapper is thick and meaty, but there was no flake at all–just thick meat requiring effort to pull apart some edible pieces with which I could enjoy the sauce and crust. Now here is where I sound slightly hypocritical: I say it was a bit tough, but I ate it anyway and it was not all that bad. I mostly got the feeling that I had stumbled into a place that had a rich history of local fried favorites that was trying to branch out into gourmet offerings and didn’t quite have the knack of it.
The steamed vegetables were not that good. It was a combination of broccoli, onions, and mushrooms. The mushrooms and onions were not a good compliment to the broccoli, rather they hid the flavor of the broccoli and gave the whole mixture a musty taste. The veggies did not compliment the entrée at all. I tried several times to somehow make the onion mushroom mix fit with the sweet lobster sauce, but I could not–the veggie mix is just not a good idea. My wife’s vegetable did not even arrive until we were almost finished eating.
All in all, it was not a disaster, the clams were a delight, the entrée disappointing, and the service just adequate. I suppose I was looking for terrific but just got OK.
The Good: awesome fried clams
The Could be Better: More personality in servers, need a better veggie mix, don’t put so many choices out as gourmet–just pick a few hits and stick with them.