The economy's still on the sluggish side, but that doesn't seem to stop the D.C. dining crowds from spending money on some of the area's more accessible splurges. One to consider: raw bar platters. Seafood is already inherently kind of expensive, so investing in a selection of clams, lobsters and oysters for the table to share can make an occasion seem festive (particularly if some sparking wine is being poured in the process).
Both some of the area's classic restaurants and hot newcomers are offering seafood towers — some are relatively affordable, and some are geared towards the expense account crowd. Here are five to try.
The restaurant: The Grill Room
The location: 1050 31st St NW
The seafood: The Grill Room's tower includes a whole maine lobster, two Alaskan king crabs, 12 Prince Edward island mussels, 10 Gulf of Mexico shrimp, 4 Poungoteague Creek oysters, cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette
The price: $56
To note: The platter can be customized to fit a guest's particular taste. It takes four minutes for the waiters to assemble the tower. The cocktail sauce comes served in a vessel made of ice.
The restaurant: BLT Steak
The location: 1625 I St. NW
The seafood: In the platter for six, customers get 1 Maine lobster, 16 oysters, 8 littleneck clams, 8 Jonah crab claws, 8 mussels, 8 Taylor Bay scallops and 8 jumbo shrimp
The price: $34-$98 depending on size
To note: BLT will customize a tower for any size from 1-10 person. The towers feature items from five stats and three countries.
The restaurant: Le Diplomate
The location: 1601 14th St. NW
The seafood: The Grand Plateau platter at Le Diplomate features — take a deep breath — 9 oz rockweed, four Belon oysters, 4 East Coast oysters, 4 West Coast oysters, 6 Littleneck clams, 12 mussels, 5 Taylor Bay scallops, 1 1.25 lb lobster, 1 uni, 8 oz snow crab, 9 oz King crab, 3 Razor clams, 6 whelks, 16-20 peeled shrimp, 16-20 head on shrimp, 2.5 oz dressed crab, 3 oz mignonette, 4 oz cocktail sauce, 4 oz French cocktail sauce, 3 oz fresh horseradish and 6 lemon wedges
The price: $120
To note: Customers can also buy the petit plateau, aimed at serving 1-3 people, for $60
The restaurant: Azur
The location: 405 8th St. NW
The seafood: A selection of oysters, clams, crab, prawns and salmon roe
The price: $34
To note: Customers can enjoy Azur's Plateau de Fruits de Mer in the same six seat space where José Andrés' Minibar used to be.
The restaurant: Old Ebbitt Grill
The location: 675 15th St. NW
The seafood: Old Ebbitt's big-ticket Orca Platter comes with a lobster, a dozen Jonah crab claws, a dozen clams, a dozen oysters and a dozen shrimp
The price: $104.95
To note: The Orca platter stretches over two tiers, and becomes a lot more affordable during Old Ebbit's Oyster Hour, which runs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and 11 p.m. -1 a.m., as well as the late hours on Sunday. During those times, try a platter for $52.48.
Towers from The Grill Room, Le Diplomate [Photos: Missy Frederick/Eater.com]