A famous person (it may have been Jesus) once said, "Before you leave the house, remove one thing." The menu at Searsucker would do well to follow this adage. The best items on the menu are the simplest. The mushrooms with burrata were exceptional, cooked simply with garlic, well-seasoned, with hearty plops of cheese and a generous shaving of truffle over the top. The crab cake was fantastic. Two different servers recommended it, emphasizing its lack of breading and how that really lets the crab cake shine. They were right-the crab was meaty, sweet and tender.
In contrast, the brie with blackberries and rosemary sounded like a showstopper but was disappointing. The brie had an overpowering breaded coating and the blackberries drizzled on the plate did nothing to help with the too-chewy bread.
The entrées were all over the road. The eggplant, tomato, basil and mozzarella, baked and served in a hot cast-iron pan, was a standout. The eggplant was fully cooked yet still firm and mercifully not soggy. The salmon was tasty but dry-odd since the server went out of her way to tell me the chef recommended it medium rare. Maybe she meant medium well? Everything seemed to have one ingredient too many. The salmon had beets, grapefruit and "goat cheese fondue," which, I think, was the faint milky puddle under the fish.
The one item that was a total disappointment was the roast chicken. Here was the chance to let something wholesome, simple and hearty shine with just a bit of lemon and oregano. It was dry and bland and hopefully an anomaly. For $16, with no side, that was pretty inexcusable.
Searsucker's atmosphere is warm and comfy with lots of wood and cushions and charming turquoise water glasses. Malarkey's party-horn-blowing silhouette is everywhere, from the menus to the men's room door to the water bottles on the table.
According to Malarkey, his "New American Classic" food is intended to be fun, eclectic and tongue-in-cheek. I appreciate the attempt at cheeky twists on things, but too often, I felt like the nerdy kid who didn't get the inside joke. So much of the menu needed explanation. For example: Farm Bird Lollipops with Snake Oil & Bleu Fondue. Which farm bird? Chicken? Duck? barn Owl?!? And snake oil? I know, I know, it's quirky and risky, and I respect the attempt, but I also just want to order dinner and not feel so confused.
The dessert menu is titled "Milk Sugar - $9." Dumbhead me thought that was the name and price of one of their intriguing sweet options. No, I was informed, that's just what they call their dessert menu. By this time, I was up-to-here in cleverness and felt like a cranky grandma. Can't they just call it dessert? And-Hey! Get off my lawn!
There's a lot that Searsucker is doing right.However, for the premium prices it's charging, it needs to be darn-near perfect, and there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. If half the amount of energy that's put into quirky menu descriptions and places to put Malarkey's silhouette is funneled into tightening up some of the menu, Searsucker should remain as big a star as its chef.