Dock to Door
Just before stepping out for the evening to sample the goods at 801 Fish, I happened to catch a news story about how scientists are puzzled by a recent dying-off of sea stars.
How apt for my outing to the newest dock on the block.
I’ve never tasted a sea star, nor will I ever, since no one does, but this brought to mind how conscientious we should be towards the living seas. It was just a thought I carried with me throughout the evening.
Now that I’ve stepped down off the soapbox, I’ll proceed as Tastebud and I cruised into what was — less than a couple of weeks ago — just a shell (pardon me) at Park Place.
Our eyes fell upon a room filled with soft blues, ocean-motif mosaics and a warm, casual atmosphere as we two fish mongers stepped inside.
It was a Tuesday and the spanking-new place was just beginning to perk.
Shedding coats, we were escorted to our booth.
Befitting such a lovely place, we encountered a starched white-cloth setting and a very charming server who promised we would enjoy the evening.
“I happened to know the executive chef, Alex Schifman, when he was just a tadpole,” I announced. “Actually, I know his mother and father,” I added smugly, as if that was going to make a shred of difference besides showing my age.
“This is Alex’s night off,” said the server.
It would have been nice to schmooze with him but, a couple weeks prior, I met with Alex and we chatted about his move from the Chophouse to the fish house.
At that point, we were schooled by our server that this was a new launch by Jimmy Lynch of Pig & Finch and 801 Chophouse.
“The Lynch outfit has snagged premier spots throughout Park Place’s already food-heavy little village,” noted Tastebud, whom I mentally gave kudos to upon her astute observation.
We gawked at the soothing décor, especially the uber fiberglass fish hanging in the center of the room, before getting down to the business of ordering.
“I’ll have a glass of pinot and the New Zealand salmon ceviche,” said Tastebud. ($8)
“It’s a good thing you like citrified fish,” I said, since it’s squarely in the same category as bait — sorry, sushi — in my book.
Meanwhile, I cast my net and ordered a cup of New England clam chowder. ($9)
“I think one of the signs of a good fish house is whether they know the difference between New England and Manhattan chowder,” said Tastebud.
“Agreed,” and without a hiccup, my creamy white bowl of chunky clams was delivered, piping hot.
“I know you won’t consider a bite of the ceviche,” said Tastebud, mentioning that she had never seen the dish “deconstructed” as per the menu.
“Deconstructed?” I asked. “Be careful, you’re venturing into deep water with the technical talk.”
Glossing right over the answer, our entrees appeared.
I only get grouper if I’m by the coast conjuring a memorable meal, but I have to say, for fish flown in daily, this was grand — beautifully finished, flaky with savory spinach, butternut squash puree and gnocchi. ($32)
“And yours?” I asked Tastebud about her hunk of John Dory, sauteed kale and cauliflower. ($30)
“You’ll love this,” sliding over a forkful.
Translation: I had to reciprocate.
“Mmmm,” she cooed.
Since we weren’t in a rush, we lingered with coffee, wine and good conversation, easily done since I’ve also known this Tastebud since she, too, was a tadpole.
We were about to take the 25-cent tour of the restaurant, but were first cajoled into dessert; actually fine for the both of us, as we stated that we’d only have a bite.
I figured fish is low-cal (much the same as you probably do). Thus, dessert instantly became a no-brainer.
We left it to the server to suggest the apple tart with a salted caramel ice cream that, not surprisingly, completely disappeared.
So much for our calorie count.
This was a good meal. And we didn’t even scratch the surface of a menu filled with courses of fresh fish, oysters, claws and caviar.
“We do have cuts of meat for the surf-and-turf types,” said our server.
That’s nuts, I thought. If you want meat, Chophouse is down the street.
This place will do well, I suspect.
Before the lines form, sink in. Let me know what you think.
photos: Brooke Vandever