Don't let a simple and easy crossing of a river detract you, as it will set the tone when eating at S.E.R., for the Spanish restaurant in Ballston has made a real mark as a seafood destination for the DC area. From culinary duo Chef Josu Zubikarai and Javier Candon, with Christiana Campos-Candon, they will not just introduce you to new flavors from the ocean but its whimsical decor will have you forgetting your closest body of water is the Potomac.
I grew up not far from the sea and on breezy days you could smell the salty air throughout the town, but as a youngster I was never a fan of seafood - perhaps it was because our towns finest harvest were cockles, too salty and slimy for my liking. I've come along way since then, apparently now I can happily clean a plate of gooseneck barnacles (or percebes), a prehistoric looking crustacean that offers up a briny salt-like meat from it's black and incredibly ugly looking shell. I can picture myself on the beach sipping on a sangria with a plate of these without a care in the world. Or in Arlington. When in Basque, right?
If barnacles aren't your thing don't fret, there are plenty of other items of the sea to wet your appetite. A seafood (meat and vegetarian options available too) paella, which apparently has to rest with a view of the kitchen before eating, is a good way to go, large enough to share or perhaps a dozen oysters which change daily will take your fancy. Perhaps you want crab, then chunks of crab is paired nicely with a tomato salsa and looks stunning on the plate. Of the meat options you have to order, and I really mean you have to order the Jamon pata negra which is carved table-side, you'll be the envy of every one around you. The steak tartare served with a quail egg is a great dish to share but will end up wishing you didn't. The Carrilleras de Iberico - braised pork cheeks come in a healthy portion, soft and meaty that will melt on the tongue.
I'm full of demands with this post, my next one is don't leave without dessert. Sure, you can go with the awesome selection of Spanish cheeses on offer but the "flan de la casa" is seriously delicious, and at $7 you can't go wrong. One of the more playful desserts to choose is the pineapple flat-bread with saffron, not really a flat-bread but more of a cooked pineapple in a pastry, with ice cream, naturally.
There's so much to choose from at S.E.R. that it will take you multiple visits to fully appreciate the menu, and I'm sure by the time you do get through the menu a new season will have come around for you to start all over again.
S.E.R., 1110 North Glebe Road, Arlington VA (closest metro: Ballston)