Sunday, October 24, 2010

My First Look: Tin Can Fish House and Oyster Bar

When a restaurant publicist invites a host of bloggers to a social media/journalist preview night, it's a gamble.

On one hand, the restaurant is inviting a host of influencers into the building and footing the bill, which may lead to good reviews (hobby bloggers like free food!). On the flip side, a bad night of service could mean botched reviews all over the interwebs (comped meal or not).

Somewhat luckily, my experience landed somewhere in the middle.

First impressions:
  • The slightly off-the-beaten path location (City Walk in Sandy Springs) may deter street traffic
  • Friendly service (it was clear our waitress was out to impress)
  • Casual interior that doesn't over-do the seafood house theme (read: I didn't feel like I was in Joe's Crab Shack)
  • According to my date, the funky, modern features give the place a touch of class
  • Music was right on (just the right level to provide good ambiance)
But Tin Can... points off for the comic sans. I mean, it is a polarizing font!

First we ordered drinks. I decided to check out the beer menu (Abita Amber to start) where my foxy date took a chance and ordered a bloody mary (good test of bar staff). My date reported the bloody mary was satisfactory (complete with a thumbs up). Not your run-of-the-mill tomato juice with vodka, this thing packed heat, horseradish, Worcestershire and all the goodies. I tasted and approved.

Pretty sure I had the cutest date in the bar — enter friend Maria, a fellow food and drink enjoyer.

As far as the beer menu goes, you've got a pretty good selection with really reasonable prices. $2.50 each "Trailer Trash Brews:" Coors Original, Miller High Life, PBR, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee. "Blue Collar Beer" ($3.75): Michelob Ultra, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud Light, Bud, Rolling Rock, Yuengling. $4.50 "Georgia Crafts:" Sweet Water 420, Sweet Water Sch'wheat, Sweet Water Georgia Brown, Terrapin Rye, Terrapin Golden, Terrapin IPA Hopsecutioner, Red Brick Pale Ale, Peachtree Pale Ale, Laughing Skull. Lastly, the "White Collar Craft Beer" offerings ($5) each: Abita Amber, Session Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Brooklyn Lager, Blue Moon, Shiner Bock, South Hampton Double White, Fat Tire, Leinenkugel October Fest, Sam Adams, Rogue Mocha Dark Ale, Guinness.

In part to my brother Ben, I've become mildly beer snobby. I would recommend Tin Can put a few more interesting beers on its premium craft beer list. Craft beer is so big lately that Abita and Guinness are a far cry from the Ommegangs, Bell's, Dales, Smuttynoses, etc. that Atlantans have been so spoiled with.

We were excited to order appetizers. After long days at our respective offices, oysters were sounding pretty dandy. Not to mention we had to order oysters if we were at a freaking oyster house.

Oysters Rockafella and raw oysters on the half shell were just what the doctor ordered. Spinachy, salty and laced with garlic, cracker crumbs and a little heat, these baked oysters were mighty fine. In fact, due to their spinachy-ness, these suckers were among Maria's favorite dishes for the evening. (6 good-sized oysters for $9)

To be honest, I usually eat raw oysters because other people are doing it. I can't say I crave the slippery mollusk, but I do feel cooler or tougher after I eat one. The (homemade?) cocktail sauce was fine but I prefer hot sauce — and a cracker — with mine. Like with the Rockafellas, these oysters were decently sized (and $4.5 for 6 - really reasonable).

I was really torn when it came to ordering my entree. The Thai mussels (cilantro, mint, curry, coconut milk, cream, lemons, ginger, chili paste) were really calling my name — but I eventually settled on a platter (my choice of 3 starters).

Pictured here: Ahi Tuna Ceviche, Conch Fritters, Crawfish Tails and Grits.

Tuna tasted fresh but was slightly overpowered by the jalepenos in the ceviche. Simpler would be better so the tuna could be the star of the show. The crawfish tails were salty but enjoyable — and I could have used a healthy sprinkling of chili flakes and sharp white cheddar in the grits (blame that on me not being born southern; plain grits just aren't enough for me — load 'em up!). The conch fritters were my favorite part of the platter. Light, fluffy, savory and sweet, the spheres of battered goodness are reminiscent of the Porter Beer Bar hushpuppies I like so much. I tasted hints of cinnamon and cumin. Yum chipotle mayo dipping sauce as well.

Points for the faux newspaper tissue in the fish baskets — cute!

Maria opted for a "catch of the day" entree (fish + two sides): mahi mahi with a sweet chili sauce glaze. The chili glaze came on the side versus on the fish but that was cool, too. The fish was as a whole tender and flaky. The okra was not unlike your standard meat-and-three-okra: breaded, a little gooey and a little mealy. The side salad was not your standard iceberg. "The bleu cheese, pecans and field greens were a good surprise," Maria said.

(Other entrees not mentioned: soups, entree-sized salads, stews, po-boys, peel-and-eat shrimp, fish baskets, paella, BBQ and chicken sandwiches.)

We considered walking down the row to the nearby Baskin Robbins for a cone but couldn't resist a thick slice of key lime pie. Despite being stuffed to the max, I happily made room for this creamy, tart slice of deliciousness. 4/5 stars on the dessert. Good cap on the meal. (Note: there's also a Good Humor ice cream cooler in the dining room to select from.)

Our total bill would have been about $60 for two starters, two entrees, three drinks total (Maria's bloody mary and my two beers) and a dessert. That is damn reasonable for fresh seafood and a good, laid-back atmosphere. I also appreciate the wide and varied menu — something for everybody.

I think Tin Can is going to be alright. And for its first week, the place seemed to be cranking food out pretty well. There may be some flavor/seasoning things to work through, but a reasonably priced (and varied) menu will keep a steady flow of customers. I will be back, likely for a happy hour where I can enjoy affordable oyster appetizers, cold beers and maybe some more of those conch fritters.

Tin Can Fish House and Oyster Bar

(404) 497-9997

Sandy Springs
227 Sandy Springs Pl NE, Ste 502
Sandy Springs, GA 30328

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