The Fishery, 5040 Cass St.(858)272-9985
The menu states "Behind every great seafood restaurant is a warehouse stocked with fresh seafood." It certainly applies in this case since The Fishery is the retail market and restaurant side of the Pacific Shellfish Seafood Company. The brainchild of Judd Brown, this San Diego based wholesale distributor operates from a state of the art 8,600 square foot facility attached to the restaurant. A vast selection comes in from all over the world and is limited only by availability and demand. This provides one hell of a playground for a seafood chef to play in.
Speaking of chefs, The Fishery employs two, Jim Little and Kevin Hale. It is a case of two heads are better than one. Kevin and Jim, "bounce ideas off each other," to come up with the menu and nightly specials states Kevin. The specials are driven by what catches their attention in that massive warehouse and might include such sumptuous items as harpooned swordfish, Yukon salmon, and line caught Kona Coast Hawaiian tombo. The kitchen prepares all of their food from scratch with an emphasis on fresh seasonal ingredients, local produce, and local bakers.
With all that fresh seafood waiting, I hopped in a cab and headed to The Fishery for dinner. I arrived at 8:45pm and the joint was hopping. Diners sit amongst a demonstration style kitchen
and the retail fish counter.
After being seated, my server Janice took my order. I started with the appetizer special of Georges Bay scallops($13).
These Massachusetts beauties were huge U10's that had been seared, creating a crispy crust. They were served medium rare, with a roasted white corn ragout, and topped with an ancho chili cream. Chef Hale had re-hydrated dried ancho chilies, pureed them, and blended in sour cream. This was a fabulous offering, and one of the best scallop dishes I have ever had. If it is on the menu it is a must order. The second appetizer was the ceviche and tortilla chips ($10) that Janice had recommended.
Served in a large goblet, this was a huge portion even by my standards. It featured lime marinated sea bass, salsa fresca, avocado and light, crisp, white corn tortilla chips. The dish came with a smokey salsa rojo on the side, that when added, brought an interesting new dimension to the flavors.
Tart and refreshing, the ceviche is perfect for the hot summer days and nights we have been experiencing. Next up was the Fishery Mediterranean bowl of chowder($6).
The complex flavors of the tomato broth came from an infusion of fresh herbs and this chowder was loaded with fresh fish. The broth is not heavy, yet there is a richness to it that is intriguing. It was time to move from the starters to the entrees. First was the grilled local swordfish ($27).
The swordfish steak had beautiful cross hatched grill marks and was moist yet firm. It arrived perched atop a generous portion of Dungeness crab mashed potatoes. The potatoes were over the top. Creamy, rich, mashed potatoes infused with a generous amount of decadent crab meat, what's not to love about this? The earthy character of the asparagus was brought out by grilling. The balsamic reduction added a sweet component. Fresh watercress and dill provided the perfect finishing note. This dish is a winner. Next came the grilled Costa Rican mahi mahi ($23).
The mahi mahi was placed on a bed of jasmine rice and then topped with a jicama slaw. Mango vinaigrette and cilantro oil were drizzled around the outside of the plate. Watercress and flat leaf parsley provided the finishing touch. The texture of the fish was moist and tender and it's flavor worked well with the tropical mango vinaigrette. The peppery note from the watercress mated well with the jicama slaw. I tried mixing all the flavors together with some fragrant jasmine rice and the result was outstanding. It was truly greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is a refreshing entree and is well suited to the hot summer weather. Last but not least came an evening special of wild sockeye salmon ($26).
Discs of roasted red bliss potatoes, and sauteed spinach formed a base for the salmon filet which is topped with watercress. Everything was drizzled with a fuji apple and bacon vinaigrette. I was enjoying how the vinegar, apple, bacon, potato and spinach flavors were working together when it dawned on me; Chef Hale had drawn on the similarities in the flavor combinations of German potato salad and spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette. He then combined the two flavor sets and featured them with the salmon. This is an innovative offering, and I highly recommend it.
What do you get when you combine two savy seafood chefs, a restaurant and a giant seafood warehouse? That's an easy one, great food. The Fishery combines the best raw ingredients with inovation and solid execution. The outcome is a restaurant producing dishes that all seafood lovers should try.
I am hesitant to divulge the following information because when something is as good as this it can make you selfish and greedy. Oh to hell with it, here it is. Once or twice a year The Fishery manages to somehow obtain live Alaskan king crab. You heard me right, I said LIVE. For those of you that don't know, this is almost unheard of. They are shipped overnight express each in it's own large crate and let me tell you kiddo, they are in fighting shape when they arrive. These crabs are huge, usually weighing 12 to 15 pounds each. Their wing span claw to claw is longer than mine and I am 6'5" tall. The Fishery keeps them in their live lobster tanks when they arrive. They will not sell these monsters to go, besides, unless you have access to a commercial kitchen you would have no way to cook one, they are just too big. You will never see them on the menu. There is a list you need to be on. When they are on the way those on the list receive a call and are given the opportunity to claim one of these beasts. The price is dear, $250 per crab. Twice I have had the pleasure of feasting on these. The first one I shared with a friend. The second I ate by myself and I barely finished (and folks, let me tell you, I can eat.) It is far and away the best crab I have ever had. Is it worth the money? Every penny, all 25,000 of them. There you have it, the cat is out of the bag. When the season comes you will all know where to find me.