I've written about East Coast Grill a lot lately, so I wasn't planning on writing about Joel's birthday dinner there last night. But it turned out to be The Best Meal I Have Ever Had, so I felt compelled to at least mention it.
I'm just going to get it out of the way and throw out a whole bunch of words at you that food writers should rarely use: amazing, delicious, insanely good, wonderful, overwhelming, impressive, perfect. That should do it. (And no, I'm not exaggerating.)
Everything about my meal was perfect. I had to keep pausing in awe. I've had very few dining experiences like that, and the thing that makes this one special is that it didn't have the pretension of a ridiculously expensive white tablecloth tasting menu with tiny portions and twenty ingredients you've never heard of. Sure, those meals are great, but there's something transcendental about getting that kind of quality from something so down-to-earth.
The details: I got southeast Asian jumbo shrimp served with wilted chili spinach and fried sweet potatoes. The shrimp had some kind of sausage topping. Everything was garnished with fried onion strips...and even that garnish was amazing. This was on the daily specials menu, but there's a similar dish on the regular menu that has the shrimp plus scallops, the wilted spinach, and ginger-garlic noodles. My first bite was of the spinach. I have never tasted a vegetable that made me so happy. Then, I tried the shrimp, and it was quite literally the best shrimp I have ever had. Honestly, I'm afraid to eat shrimp again because it'll never be this good. Smoky, flavorful, juicy. And then, I finally moved on to the fried sweet potatoes.
I'm pretty sure Heaven is made of fried sweet potatoes.
The people next to us must have thought we had never eaten food before. We were both full of awe at every bite we took. It was kind of ridiculous. (Ok, maybe it had a little bit to do with the ridiculously strong overproof rum.)
Joel's meal was great, too - the best mahi mahi in the world. Delicious fried plantains. Rice and beans - I didn't try those because I don't like beans. But I'm guessing they were good as well.
Other food: we started with oysters and grilled bread with roasted garlic. We ended with the banana chocolate pie with candied bacon that I tried at the Cinco de Mayo dinner. If you haven't had bacon for dessert, you haven't truly lived. (Unless you don't eat bacon, in which case I guess you're fine without trying it.)
A few reasons why this meal is The Best Meal I Have Ever Had:
1) It had creativity, flavor, and high quality ingredients while remaining totally down-to-earth.
2) The staff at East Coast Grill is efficient, friendly, and fun. We were sitting right near the kitchen and it was impressive to watch how quickly they worked without it feeling chaotic.
3) Although East Coast Grill really shines when it comes to seafood, the fruits and vegetables are masterpieces as well. Many restaurants don't focus nearly as much on the sides, but East Coast Grill gives them equal time in the spotlight.
East Coast Grill has attained a level of epic awesomeness for me. I just want to go as often as I can and work my way through everything on the menu. But I'm going to take it slow, because I don't want to ruin all other restaurant experiences for myself.