Docks Oyster House (2401 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic city, Phone 609-345-0092 Url: http://www.docksoysterhouse.com) is an institution in Atlantic city, having fed its share of mouths for more than a century (since 1897).It is their destination seafood restaurant, in Atlantic city, with Zagat considering it as an iconic Jersey shore eat, the thrillist calling it ´quintessential’. Great then, as I happen to be a longtime seafood fan, and perhaps a bit more than just your average seafood fan as growing up in a fishermen village was not just an opportunity to appreciate the scenery of the village, in my case.
On to the food:
Lettuce/grapefruit/apple salad – the ingredients were fine, on their own, but the apples and grapefruit did not manage to lift that salad to another level (which is possible as done elsewhere, with the exact same ingredients). Complete absence of cohesion between its ingredients. This had the effect of 3 ordinary salads in one. 5/10
Desperately looking for a way to improve the enjoyment of my food, I took matters into my own hands and I decided to “stop asking what the kitchen can do for me” and to … “ask myself what I could do for the kitchen“. I found the safest solution one can think of, at a seafood restaurant: oysters! The kitchen will just have to shuck them. I therefore ordered, not just one type but a variety of oysters, to …multiply the pleasure … of what can’t fail to be a joy in mouth. A platter of bivalve molluscs made a spectacular appearance at my table: cape may salts (Cape May, New Jersey), malpeque (prince edward island), rappahannock (Virginia), blue points (Long island), chesapeake bay (Maryland), Long island medium (Norwalk, connecticut). The mignonette sauce as well as the ketchup/horse radish/lemon/tabasco sauce were properly done. I particularly liked the latter. However, I tasted every single oyster without any sauce and I was surprised that none of them had any flavor. Yep, you read this well: zero flavor! I do not know for you, but on my side of the wall, oysters do have a flavor. They can be farm-raised, they can come from the sea, some have less flavor than others, but they do have a flavor! What I was having, despite the variety of oysters that I ordered, were uniformly flavorless oysters. I mean, I know my palate perceives the seafood of the Atlantic ocean as less flavorful than their cousins of the Indian Ocean and the mediterranean sea, but the bivalve molluscs of the Atlantic ocean are still flavorful as they have been right here, in Atlantic city, at (at least) two other seafood eateries I ate at on that same week I dined at DOH. Therefore, it is not as if the nearby Atlantic ocean had just lost its maritime flavor or that the oysters served in Atlantic city happened to be on strike, their union deciding they would be devoid of any flavor on that particular week. 0/10
I came here for their lobster. They are known for their sizeable lobsters. Their lobsters come from the Maine, and have not seen any sign of hunger and drought. The babies are big, they look healthy, and if eating a 2lbs lobster is the norm your side of the wall, well here, those babies can triple that weight, as lobsters of 5, 6 or even 7lbs are waiting for you. They steamed mine correctly, as expected from any eatery offering seafood. But the lobster dipping sauce was like the … oysters: flavorless. Who knew that a sauce that’s supposed to be made of butter and garlic and lemon juice…all ingredients used to enhance flavor… would taste of the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to taste? That is purely and simply hard to forgive. Ok, Houston, we have a problem here! There is a reason that sauce is served with lobster, and that reason is to accentuate the flavor of the lobster. This seemed not “obvious” enough to someone in the kitchen at DOH on that specific evening …
I initially had planned to order a dessert, but in light of what kept coming from the kitchen, I figured that was not a good idea.
Pros: They have the standard of hospitality I never fail to be partial to. They have the cachet of an elegant French brasserie (the main floor), which I am fond of. The dining room, upstairs, is pretty in its elegant simplicity. Even their restrooms, upstairs, caught my attention. DOH has all it takes to make me fall in love with a restaurant, except …
Cons: … the food I was having on that visit.
Overall food rating: 5/10
Bottom line: A bad night, for the food? Well, I hope. Seafood is pricey though, so I will let those who are paid to dine at restaurants and those whose meals are paid by others…to find out if the oysters and the lobster’s butter/garlic/lemon dipping sauce have reconnected with the flavors we came to expect from them, virtually everywhere in Atlantic city and around the world. I pay my meals with my hard earned money, therefore I’ll look forward to better seafood, elsewhere, next time I will drop by Jersey shore.