Find Us

Gaylord’s Moon Bay Serves up Modern Maki with an Eye on Perfection of the Palate

The National River Roll at Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine at the Gaylord National Hotel.

The National River Roll at Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine at the Gaylord National Hotel.

By Jordan Wright

When you spend your days and nights pursuing taste and flavor delivered by a panoply of chefs, you are at the mercy of many hands preparing many dishes.
Sometimes the dishes are simple, a nicely done roast chicken or shrimp dumplings; some just dreadful or unfortunate, an overdone Wagyu beef filet or a withered salad.
Food critics, girded with a “glass half-full” mentality, are forever on the hunt for that consummate experience of brilliant food, superb service and dazzling or, not to be underrated, comfortable ambiance.
My dinner at Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center became that rare and successful combination of all three elements intrinsic to a great dining experience. An experience so satisfying, that if it hadn’t been for the tiniest glitch, I would have nothing to compare it with. I’ll get to the glitch later.
A spectacularly lush tropical garden beckons you into Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine. Walk across a copper-lamp lit wooden bridge over a rushing stream to the wide open entryway and you will need to make your first decision…whether to dine beside the babbling waters overlooking the courtyard or enter the cool, dark and handsome interior.

This large but intimate-feeling restaurant combines sleek decor with casual sophistication.

This large but intimate-feeling restaurant combines sleek decor with casual sophistication.

This large but intimate-feeling restaurant combines sleek decor with casual sophistication. A gleaming marble-topped bar sits off to one side and in front of you a large iced cart, displays the catch of the day artfully arranged with shellfish and whole fish, awaiting direction from the chef.
A restaurant kitchen is a home for experienced chefs, others just out of culinary school and those that have just moved up from a stint at a local fast food restaurant.

It is a patched together family whose success is dependent on an executive chef to guide, teach and inspire. It takes a confident hand to steer this ship and when I heard that Wolgang Birk, the executive chef at the Old Hickory Steakhouse in the same resort, was going to add Moon Bay to his credentials and rehab the original menu with his own signature style, I waited with impatient palate.

I discovered that Birk, a talented and internationally-known chef, had charted a new course for the restaurant, and thanks to his adaptability and respect for the ingredients, the food was spectacular.  Bravo Wolfgang! You’ve done it again.

Simple presentations like briny oysters, clams on the half shell, and huge succulent shrimp, iced and gleaming, are rendered divine by daily-delivered seafood.

What is called here “Modern Maki” or Sashimi translates into raw fish like eel, Ahi tuna or whatever Birk deems to be the best fish of the day, might be enhanced with masago, a treasured Japanese roe, or perhaps a green tea mayonnaise as in the case of the Tempura Shrimp Roll.

Large platters with an assortment of sashimi, a Chesapeake Roll made with Blue Crab and Avocado won me over, are a specialty not to be missed. I am still craving a spicy tuna tartare that reflected every element of flavor to achieve “umami“ (the Japanese term for “yummy”) a requirement to achieve perfection on the palate.

Innovative and harmonious combinations like Pan Seared Grouper, (a rarity on local menus) play off the salty lemony tang of sea beans, bathed in a truffle vinaigrette, and the crunch of fried leeks.

Pancetta-wrapped Tuna with Ramp Potato Puree and Chicken Jus was exceptional though challenged by an off-the-charts unforgettable, Potato Crusted Halibut.

For the purist, there is Maine lobster, starring as appetizer in a half-pound Lobster Cocktail, in a Lobster Roll at lunchtime or the full court press for dinner, prepared lightly broiled, so as not to compromise its sweetness.

The Moon Bay Scallops, a signature dish.

Throughout the dishes were impeccable and carefully prepared, the fish moist and mouth-wateringly tender and the plates beautifully arranged.

Vegetables and side dishes, like the delectable stone-ground grits “fries” and black truffle-infused Mashed Yukon Gold Potato with Artichoke Puree, were not employed as an afterthought, but were conceived as though expecting to be independently judged.

The sauces were elegant and rich with the depth of flavor that comes from in-house roasted lobster shells or a full-bodied shrimp stock. No short cuts here.

And to enhance the meal a beautifully lit wine cave, running the length and breadth of one wall, offers a selection of over 100 types of wine sourced from CA, New Zealand, Australia, France and Italy.

I have never found dessert to be too important after a dinner of seafood. Thankfully things here are kept to a minimum.

Miniature desserts, a selection of five different confections, are served in glass espresso cups. They change to suit the whims of Pastry Chef Amanda Romaine.

On the night I was there I sampled a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cup, Blueberry Cheesecake, Miniature Creamsicle topped with a vanilla wafer, Devil’s Food Cupcake with chocolate icing and White Chocolate Pistachio Lollipop. Just the right tiny bites to round out the evening’s pleasures.

Throughout dinner our waiter, Kareem, kept up with our thoughts, wants and needs in a gentle, gracious and unhurried manner. By dessert he had moved us out to a table with a wonderful view alongside the promenade where we could enjoy our sweets and nightcaps cooled by the breezes coming off of the Potomac River.

If you go, and I highly recommend it, here is the little glitch. The music from the dancing fountains in the courtyard invades the restaurant’s space and collides with its sound system, producing a disturbing cacophony of two songs playing at once. Hopefully by the time of this writing it will be corrected.

Contact the writer at [email protected].

If You’re Going….
Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine
Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center
National Harbor, MD
Reservations recommended
(301) 965-5400

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.