Inside Pandora, A ‘Fantasy’ Seafood Enclave in Rockville
Restaurant opened this week, serving French and Italian dishes
Glass fish dangle among thousands of decorative bubbles above Pandora's bar. Photos by Joe Zimmermann
This story was updated to correct a description of Cameron's Seafood.
When diners step in to Pandora Seafood House and Bar, owner Chris Zhu said, she wants them to feel like they’ve entered a fantasy world.
The walls are deep purple, and seats are shades of blue. Overhead, glass fish hang among thousands of glass bubbles, while jellyfish-like light fixtures loom over the back of the dining room.
“Our mission is to provide the best atmosphere in Rockville,” Zhu said. She said she intended the soft light and striking colors to allow customers “to take pretty selfies” from any angle.
The 190-seat restaurant, which opened Sunday on Rockville Town Square, has an ocean-themed feel meant to complement its menu, which mainly draws from French and Italian seafood while bringing in other influences.
“We wanted to pull a little bit from everywhere,” Tom Crenshaw, Pandora’s executive chef, said.
Zhu said a lack of solely seafood-dedicated restaurants in downtown Rockville inspired her to open with a seafood menu in the former location of American Tap Room, which closed in December.
Nantucket’s Reef and Red Lobster off Shady Grove Road and Cameron's Seafood, which offers takeout, on Rockville Pike are other nearby seafood options.
Crenshaw, who said seafood is his first love, pointed to the butter-poached lobster with fresh linguini, citrus crème, Tuscan kale, zucchini and roasted tomatoes as a signature item, as well as the seafood platter.
Part of the oyster’s raw bar, the seafood platter includes six oysters, six shrimp, six clams, six mussels, jumbo lump crabmeat and a half lobster, which are also available as individual items.
Zhu said she wanted to have high-quality dishes while keeping meals affordable. The seafood platter is $55 and other entrees range from $17 for mussels to $29 for lobster. Sandwiches available for lunch run from $8 to $12.
The 6,400-square-foot space includes a bar, private rooms and about 25 seats on an outdoor patio.
Zhu also owns China Garden, a restaurant that closed in Arlington and will move into the former REI space at 1701 Rockville Pike. She said she hopes that restaurant will open in late 2018.
Pandora is open Mondays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.