Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Occupying the former location of Astral Plane is fish, chef Mike Stollenwerk's 3 month old center city cousin to Little Fish, a south philly BYOB where I've never been - and apparently have been missing out big time.
I'm not huge on ordering fish at restaurants, mostly because mediocre establishments tend to keep fish in the boring world of salmon with dijon or tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes. Not that I don't like these things but I'd rather cook them at home and try new stuff when I go out.
The menu at fish is fresh and exciting - not a single seared salmon in sight- but not so weird that you couldn't bring your grandmother. Everything was good and a few things were incredible.
Started with oysters with banyuls mignonette, right on the oysters not on the side. And another dozen with cucumber and lemon. Takes some balls because some crank is going to send them back and ask for cocktail sauce. Anyway, great oysters - good selection ranging from mild to super briney - all fresh, delicious and perfectly shucked, no dirt or pieces of shell or busted up oysters.
I wish I had a bowl of the lobster with white beans in front of me right now. Basically a lobster chili, super comforting with that deep flavor that you usually only get from real mexican food. I'll go back just for this.
The peekytoe crab cake also blew me away. Crab cake is usually the #1 contender for mediocrity on every menu unless you're at a shack on the ocean that is literally pulling them out of the water in the back. But this was anything but. Ratatouille sounds like a strange combination but it was awesome. And the crab cake itself was possibly the best I've had in a 'fine dining' setting.
Hamachi with mustard seed was super simple and delicious. The beet salad with chicken skin was sort of your standard goat cheese & beet salad with a few chicken skins thrown on. The combo of crispy skin / beet and goat cheese was awesome but i would push this one out of the safe zone, more skin and less beets and maybe even a smaller portion.
My skate wing with truffled spaetzle & leek fondue was fantastic. The parmesan broth was similar to a sauce we used to make at BP for the braised chicken gnocchi ... the kind of thing that made all the screaming and flying pots & pans worth it - although Stollenwerk's sauce was lighter and probably doesn't have bacon in it.
It was a flavor that I've been missing and this brought me back in a big way to what I love about this kind of food. Less gimmicks and more delicious flavors executed perfectly. And real truffles.
Also fantastic was the snapper with merguez sausage and paprika. Then giant scallops with butternut squash, Israeli couscous and curried mussel broth, seemed like a lot of competing flavors to me, especially compared to the simplicity and harmony of the other dishes.. but everyone else at the table loved it.
Nice cocktails too, on the old fashioned / retro side of things, and great to see belgians, local beers, pacifico and miller lite on the same menu. The overall experience was outstanding. For a nice dinner in the Rittenhouse or Graduate Hospital area I would recommend Fish without hesitation.
215 545 9600