The broiled seafood platter at Freemason Abbey sated my cravings with a good assortment of seafood that was on the lighter side. On the plate: a half dozen shrimp, three scallops and a good sized piece of flounder all seasoned perfectly and broiled. Alongside was herbed rice and steamed asparagus. Patrick Evans-Hylton/freelance
Not long after I moved to the area some 32 years ago, my late husband, Wayne, told me about a restaurant in a church that we needed to check out.
The stately building, located in downtown Norfolk, was indeed a church — or rather, a former church. For the past two years or so, however, it has been turned into a restaurant, with what I found out serving delicious dishes. We went inside; evidence of the former occupant was everywhere, including soaring ceilings, impressive wooden beams and stained glass windows.
I had seafood, I remember, and enjoyed it very much. Now, three decades later, I can say the same in my first report on this venerable eatery, Freemason Abbey, in this column.
THE EAT: BROILED SEAFOOD PLATTER, $33
The impressive building had its first life as the Second Presbyterian Church in 1873. Later it changed hands a few times, becoming the First Church of Christ Scientist, and later the meeting location for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Fortunately, the building was repurposed, saving the classic gothic architecture for future generations. And, fortunate too, it became a wonderful restaurant to enjoy a lunch or dinner with family and friends.
While I’ve long enjoyed Freemason Abbey, I’ve not written about it in this column, but I’m happy to share a delicious recent experience.
Seated downstairs, with wonderful views of the impressive interior all around, my group of friends and I started with the legendary She Crab Soup.
I have been fortunate to be a judge in the East Coast She Crab Classic, off-and-on, for many years now, so I was familiar with this offering, which has won numerous times.
A cup of the soup, rich and thick, was served bubbling hot. The thick soup was creamy and full of flavor, perfectly and simply seasoned so the large amounts of lump crab meat could shine through. A drizzle of sherry accented the soup on top, and a thin sesame cracker was great for sopping it up. This is one of a handful of the best soups in the area, and worth visiting just for it.
For the entree, the Broiled Seafood Platter fit the bill. I was lilting for a good assortment of seafood that was on the lighter side, and on the platter came a half dozen shrimp, three scallops, and a good sized piece of flounder all seasoned perfectly and broiled. Alongside was herbed rice and steamed asparagus.
The seafood was delicious. Each element was cooked wonderfully until the flavors shined through, were fork tender, and succulent to the bite. I enjoyed each piece very much. Also enjoyed was the tender rice, seasoned to accent the seafood, and the thin asparagus rods.
THE DRINK: PINE RIDGE CHENIN BLANC-VIOGNER
The Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc and Viognier white wine blend was wonderful for cutting through the creamy She Crab Soup, as well as accenting the broiled seafood platter that my partner, Doug, and I shared.
This Napa, California vintage was crisp and refreshing, with citrus and floral notes on the nose and palate. It was a delicious pairing of two of my favorite grapes.
The She Crab Soup at Freemason Abbey is legendary. The thick soup is creamy and full of flavor, perfectly and simply seasoned so the large amounts of lump crab meat throughout could shine through. A drizzle of sherry accented the soup on top. Patrick Evans-Hylton/freelance