Oh, how I love a good seafood shack. But to call them shacks is probably a disservice—it insinuates that they're somehow less worthy than a restaurant. Not the case: Most are markets first and eateries second. Kind of like, Hey, we've got all this fish here, why don't we go ahead and cook some of it? It can be one of the best, and cheapest, ways to enjoy a supremely fresh piece of fish. A market's kitchen is usually small and the menu limited to simple preparations, but basic is beautiful and a bit of kitchen mojo can take almost-perfect ingredients all the way home.
Not ultra casual or uncomfortably ritzy, The Fishery hits my just-right spot. I don't need a waterfront view or a white tablecloth, but it's nice to a drink out of a real glass and use a fork that won't snap in half if I get enthusiastic with my food. The restaurant is the dine-in location for local wholesaler Pacific Shellfish, which provides seafood to other area restaurants and sells it straight to consumers in its retail market, where a refrigerated display case blends nicely into the bright and open former warehouse warmed by recycled wood.
A friend and I stopped in for one of The Fishery's weekly Tuesday tastings, on this night a three-course menu, plus dessert, for $28. The special nights spotlight different seafood, and this time it was one of my favorites, sablefish. Other Tuesdays have highlighted oysters, wild-caught Pacific Petrale sole and local spot prawns, harvested just off our coast, with a sweet flavor and firm texture that's better than lobster.
This sablefish, also called black cod, is sustainably caught in Alaskan waters and labeled as all-clear on my Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list—thankfully, because I love its silky texture that retains a buttery melt-in-the-mouth quality even when fully cooked. My friend ordered from the sablefish menu so I picked a set of starters to synchronize with his succession of plates, since I'm all about more tastes at the table and he agreed to share.
I began with the Fishery soup—salmon and other fin fish in a Mediterranean tomato broth, a nice change from creamy clam chowder. His first course was a seafood twist on salade Lyonnaise, an awesome French salad of pleasantly bitter frisee lettuce, poached egg and thick-cut lardons of bacon. This version had bits of smoked sablefish subbing for the meat, pickled shallots and a tiny quail egg. Next was a perfectly seared square of sablefish with crisp skin next to a small tangle of homemade fettuccine. I had a tasty sea bass ceviche, served with chips and a hot sauce worthy of bottling, and drank citrusy, spicy Grüner Veltliner, a food-friendly white that might be my next summer-wine fling.
His last course was fried sablefish with matchstick potatoes and malt vinegar aioli (the straight-up fish and chips, made with cod or halibut, is also great). I finished with a bowl of mussels steamed with Portuguese Linguica sausage, fennel and roasted jalapeño butter. If I'd been at a seafood shack, I might have drunk the broth from the bowl, but I exercised restraint and just dipped some bread. I was just going to share my friend's dessert until I saw one of my trigger words, “coconut,” on the menu. A coconut panna cotta with passion fruit sorbet and sugared hazelnuts provided a fine finale to a meal that was not exactly cheap but, we thought, a fair deal, considering the quality of ingredients and creative care put into the dishes. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.