Phantom Diner

Devon Seafood Grill - The Phantom Diner, Central PA Magazine, April 2010

Written by The Phantom Diner | Mar 22, 2010 5:28 PM

Devon Seafood Grill in Hershey is upscale/hip, of sleek and simple design in the center of “Chocolate Town,” on the first floor of what used to be Poser’s Department Store in the historic (originally built in 1916) Hershey Press Building.

You won’t think you’re in Central PA.

There’s a wall-of-fire thing in the large bar area and a wall of booze bottles behind the bar. The main dining room is expansive and includes both tables and comfy, good-sized booths.

Gorgeous sea-related artwork, also large and nicely displayed, adorns most walls. Lighting throughout is subdued, giving the place a feel of easygoing elegance.

Staff is welcoming, informed and solicitous, anxious to please without being overbearing or snooty, as — for some — the chic surroundings (and prices) might suggest.

Devon is part of a limited chain that includes restaurants in Philadelphia (on Rittenhouse Square), Chicago and Milwaukee, but it has no hint of a chain-like menu or a rush-to-serve attitude. It’s a great place to spend an evening, to dine rather than merely eat.

But if you plan on going, plan ahead. I couldn’t get in on a weekend, even trying to make reservations a week and more out. After two failed attempts, I went on a weeknight, and Devon still was crowded.

Given its prices (two can easily eat and drink north of $100 in a hurry), it’s pretty clear the recession hasn’t hit everyone in our area. Most entrees are priced in the mid- to upper $20s, a few are in the $30s, and a couple approach $40.

Cocktails are large, well-made and fairly priced, and there is an exhaustive and impressive wine list by the bottle or the flight or the glass, offering ample opportunity to spend lots of money on the fruit of the vine.

The menu is, for seafood lovers, simply marvelous. It includes a list of freshly caught and shipped seafood that changes according to what’s available, and it’s served mesquite-grilled, unless you want it another way.

You might see, for example, Atlantic salmon from Canada ($25); marlin from Hawaii ($28); seared bluenose butterfish from New Zealand ($28); lobster tail from South Africa ($38.50) or king crab legs from the Bering Sea ($39).

These come with a choice of sides, including risotto, grilled asparagus and whipped sweetpotatoes. But we get ahead of ourselves. There are great starters and much more; the fresh-fish entrees are merely the equivalent of catches of the day.

Devon offers 20-plus appetizer (“starter”) items, many available in small or large portions. It would be fun to dine at the bar and order a couple of these dishes with drinks.

Among the offerings are wonderfully fresh oysters in multiple varieties. They are priced from $2 to $2.75 apiece. I had a plateful (served with a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce) and could have dined all night long on them only.

There’s also tempura shrimp sushi rolls, $7 or $9.50; a lobster tamale for $8.50; tuna tartar for $11.50; steamed mussels, $8 or $12; seared scallops with pancetta, $11.50; Vietnamese crab spring rolls, $11; a shared sampler of crab cakes, fried calamari and shrimp scampi for $31; or the all-in cold seafood platter of shrimp cocktail, shucked oysters and tuna tartar for three to five people for $42.

Soups and salads include New England clam chowder (the white one), Creole gumbo and lobster bisque, the latter winning high praise from a Phantom tablemate.

Carnivores have no need to stay away. There is meat, including filets and an 18-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak ($37). And there are combos such as a six-ounce filet and a crab cake ($35.50) or a six-ounce filet and a half-pound lobster tail ($55).

Other entrees represent a delightful mix. Some examples: char-crusted ahi tuna with roasted potatoes and asparagus ($28.50); pan-roasted chicken breast with chive gnocchi and wild mushrooms ($19.50); San Francisco–style cioppino ($25); and chipotle-grilled shrimp enchiladas made with corn-jalapeño crepes ($20.50)

All food consumed at your Phantom’s table, from the opening/welcome biscuit through the soups and starters to the fish and all the way to the unnecessary and too-large-but-tasty apple crisp à la mode dessert thing (and espresso served with raw sugar cubes) was excellent.

An off-menu special of fresh Block Island swordfish served with a crab cake, chef’s veggies and whipped potatoes, offered for $34 the day of our visit, won absolute adulation. The fish was white and firm and bursting with flavor.

And a lobster Cobb salad of arugula, corn nuts, watercress, spinach, avocado, bacon, egg and more, all topped with generous chunks of lobster claw and tail meat ($20) was over-large and just superb.

A children’s menu features all the normal kids’ stuff with a drink, fries and ice cream for $8. And Devon is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm with a full menu and also a limited-menu $10 “power lunch.”

There is literally nothing I did not like about Devon. The venue, service and exceptional food quality combine to justify the prices. Central PA is lucky to have landed this outstanding seafood restaurant.

DEVON SEAFOOD GRILL 27 W. Chocolate Ave., Hershey; ample lot parking; takes major cards; open for lunch Mon-Fri; dinner seven days a week; reservations strongly suggested; 717-508-5460;

Published in Phantom Diner

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