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Cousins Nick and Dave Wiseman had two formative culinary experiences growing up in D.C. The first was bagels and lox. The second was crabs and oysters. They turned the former into DGS Delicatessen, and this week, they opened Whaley’s, a seafood-centric restaurant and oyster bar overlooking the Anacostia River in Navy Yard.
The raw bar will serve six types of oysters to start—four East Coast ($30 per dozen) and two West Coast ($38 per dozen). Early on, Nick Wiseman says they wanted to focus more on West Coast bivalves, “then we started eating and eating and eating oysters, and we were like, ‘Wow, what’s here is really good.’” All of the used oyster shells will go to Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit that helps improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
For something a little more indulgent, seafood towers with a daily changing selection come in small, medium, and large sizes ($65 to $140).
Chef Daniel Perron comes to Whaley’s from fine dining spots including Fiola Mare, Blue Duck Tavern, and The Oval Room. “Purity of seafood is super important to him,” Wiseman says. Take the crudos: They aim to be very clean, not so drenched in acid that you can’t taste the fish. Maryland day boat scallops are dressed up with muscat grapes, sea beans, and fennel pollen, and Cape Cod razor clams are accompanied by fava beans, meyer lemon, pickled chilies, and basil.
While there’s soft-shell crabs and a crab-uni salad on the menu, you won’t find any crab feasts just yet. Whaley’s does have some outdoor space, though, and Wiseman says the plan is to possibly create an “oyster garden” with its own shucking station and the occasional crab feast.
The menu will also always have at least one family-style dish that can feed three to four. In the future it might be a fried whole fish, but for now, it’s a seafood risotto with black bass, shrimp, calamari, vadouvan curry, coconut, and Thai basil.
And for those not so into seafood, there’s a hanger steak and grilled pork chop.
“I get to serve pork, finally,” Wiseman says.
Going against the ridiculous cocktail name trend, Whaley’s “spring-y” cocktails are simply named #1 through #4. Their ingredients are equally straight-forward. #1, for example, consists of rose, St. Germain, rum, and grapefruit. Eight beers and around 50 bottles of wine—including plenty under $50—are also available.
“It is a little restaurant, so for us, it’s about curation,” Wiseman says.
The 44-seat dining room is dominated by the 22-seat bar, but it feels much bigger thanks to the two-story ceilings and wraparound under-the-sea mural. The artist, John DeNapoli, is also behind the intricate mosaic mural at Columbia Room.
Take a look at the artwork and full menu below: