Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, Tysons Corner – Review

Last night we went with friends for dinner to the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto in Tysons Corner, VA.  We’d been looking at this restaurant for a while, since every time we visit Tysons Galleria the blue glass overhang which houses part of the restaurant seating area has glowed above us enticingly.

Firstly if you have visited the malls at Tysons before you’re probably wondering why this restaurant doesn’t appear on any of the mall maps? That’ll be because it isn’t actually within the mall but share sspace within office building built immediately outside.  This leads you to the next two questions, where do you park, and how do you get in?  Again, although not obvious the answer is simple, the restaurant offers valet parking at the building entrance, and alternatively one can park in the Tysons Galleria parking lots and walk to the entrance which is on the direct reverse of the building from the blue overhang.

Inside the restaurant is cleanly designed, combining wood and leather with the steel, tile and glass construction of the building to provide an intimate, city-chic setting.  One thing I did notice was that the blue voerhang that makes up about a quater of the seating area does tend to make its occupants, and their meals glow slightly blue due to the very impressive blue illumination.  Fortunately we were not seated in that area and so blue food was not a problem.  Additionally, although great attention has been paid to the fixtures and fittings the same cannot be said for the music, with low volume muzac being order of the day.  The good news is that it is very low volume and doesn’t invade on conversation.

Waiting in the bar was a pleasant experience, although a lack of bitters meant that many cocktail combinations were not available.  Bar prices were about as expensive as you’d expect in northern Virgina, with a Campari soda and Bombay Saphire gin and tonic coming to about $17. Unfortunately you cannot transfer your bar bill to your table when you are seated, but this is a problem common with almost all restaurants in the US.

The food was very good, with my campari starter being light, well fried, and deliciously seasoned.  Laura’s starter of oysters was well presented, and although the oysters were small she said they were superb.  Her seared tuna main course was again wonderfully presented, seared to perfection, and delicious.  However, my Cajun Mako Shark seemed over seasoned, with the dense but delicate flavour of the shark almost completely smothered in the hot cajun coating.  All main dishes are served with sides of vegtables, and the potato and leek mash was a delicious if unconventional accompaniment to the cajun shark!

For dessert Laura’s chocolate steam mousse was light, flavourful, and vanished rapidly.  My creme brullee was one of the best I’ve eaten in America, and had not been over garnished or flavoured.

Unfortunately, the meal was let down by patchy service.  Our actual waitress started with an intensity that bordered on stalking, making deep eye contact with each of us as she handed out the menus, and then pormptly vanished, rarely making an appearance through the whole meal, and forgetting menus and cuttlery at various moments.  As we were one of only three tables eating in that section we cannot blame this on over work, but maybe she was new to the job.  Fortunately she was rescued by the appearance of Victoria, who appeared to be soem kind of floor manager, and managed to catch our waitresses slip ups, taking orders for food, providing excellent wine advice, and generally making up for the service issues.  If you go, try and get Victoria as your server!

So on the whole, it isn’t a cheap night out, but the food is good, the wine selection is very good, and the atmosphere is ideal for conversation with friends, especially if you like blue lights!  My final score 6/10, would have been 7 but let down by the poor service.


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