Saturday, March 1, 2008

FOOD CZAR REVIEW #24: ROCKFISH SEAFOOD GRILL

Body And Sole is not just the name of an old jazz standard. It's the nom du guerre of the new menu touted by Rockfish, that lovely chain which pretty much pioneered the concept of corner-diner seafood in this area. You know what I mean: Smallish dining room area which looks very much like your basic local hangout, daily specials on chalkboards, retro-chic bar in the center of the action. In other words, your friendly fun neighborhood place, the kind most people would rather patronize on a Friday nite after a busy week rather than the latest-and-greatest. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I have known about Rockfish for years, particularly the Campbell-Coit location, as her formidable mother The Momma lives nearby. We've have long held their cuisine in high regard, but felt that like all good places their menu was in need of some rejuvenation. So, when I received an invitation to taste their new fresher, lighter Body And Sole menu, I jumped at the chance, and the Rock Star joined me on a recent Friday afternoon in quest of a late lunch.

ATMOSPHERE

The Campbell-Coit location of Rockfish still retains the neighborhood feel, only now it has been expanded. Twice. Still, peanut shells are in evidence on the floor (nice to have a place that gives you complimentary appetizers), there are more booths, and the waitresses still sport t-shirts with pithy sayings. ("Your Fish is my Command," and "May the Fish Be With You" were two of the noteworthy examples on display). We were greeted by the manager (no, dagnabit, I do not remember her name, nor do I remember the name of the excellent gent who waited on us. Darn! And I took a notebook, too! Oh, well, guys, I'm sorry, but just know you done good. Okay?), who promptly escorted us to a choice booth. There, we were greeted effusively by Corporate Chef Daniel Stewart and Chef/Partner Jeff Pierce, who prepared us expertly for the repast that lay ahead.

FOOD

What can I give to such excellent cuisine except sincere, (almost) unqualified praise? Not only that, but over and over during the tasting, my lovely bride and I exclaimed "I can't believe this is lite cuisine!" because it tasted so good. For the first round, Chef brought Seared Ahi Tuna Salad, Baked Stuffed Shrimp, and North Atlantic Salmon, this last from their Be The Chef menu where you can mix-and-match fishes, preparation and sauces to your taste. Great idea, that! The tuna was seared rare and served with mixed greens, roasted corn salsa, and shallot vinagrette. After sampling it, I promptly wrote the word "buttery" in my notebook to describe it (a term I would use frequently throughout the tasting.) For her part, the Rock Star stated this was her favorite dish of the entire day (She is, after all a Certified Ahi Aficionado), and I thoroughly enjoyed it's melt-in-your-mouth goodness as well. My personal favorite of the day was the Baked & Stuffed Shrimp, bursting with crab, smoked sausage, and Ritz Cracker crumbs, and drizzled with lemon butter. Those shrimp kept disappearing, until my wife advised me to please pace myself so I could enjoy the wonders which lay ahead. The North Atlantic Salmon was just a little dry, but delightfully punched up by the tomatillo salsa. (I was also brought some ancho-maple glaze as well. Good, but not really my style, as I rarely mix sweet and savory with my entrees. That's just me.) At this point I should mention our wine of choice for all courses was the Nobilio Sauvignon Blanc, a New Zealand varietal just made for seafood with pear, nectarine, and grapefruit notes. Rockfish has a small but well-chosen wine list, but they should consider adding a few Texas bottles: Becker Fume Blanc, Fall Creek Chenin Blanc, or Dry Comal Creek Black Spanish would work wonders with this fare.

In the second round of noshing, Chef brought three more delights: A simple, unaffected bowl of Louisiana Gumbo (quite good once I added a splash of Louisiana sauce thoughtfully placed at each table), Pacific Cove Crab Salad (the clear winner of this round: Lump crab tossed with tomatoes, celery, red onions, red bell peppers, and avocados served with sun-dried tomato vinagrette), and Blackened (yes!) Sole/Flounder served with the delicious ancho-cream sauce. The Rock Star loved all three as well, particularly the Crab Salad, which is perfect picnic-in-the-park fare, just dying to be enjoyed with a blanket and cold Vouvray. In discussing the menu with Chef, I let it slip that I am a Confirmed Soupaholic, whereupon he retreated back to the kitchen, only to reemerge with cups of Crab Bisque and Lobster Bisque, both of which should warm the cockles of anyone's heart, paticularly the Crab Bisque with it's kiss of roasted red pepper. (Neither of these latter soups are on the Body And Sole menu; get them anyway, you'll be glad you did.) For dessert, we were presented with Key Lime Pie, which is a great, light and tangy choice to finish up an outstanding meal.

SERVICE

Since this was after all a tasting, Chefs Daniel and Jeff were very vigilant in attending to my needs. In fairness, on the dozen or more occasions where we've been to this Rockfish locations, service has always been stellar. For us, the best part of the entire experience was getting to meet and have a lengthy chat with two such dedicated and consummate artists. It's always refreshing and invigorating to work with the best, and both of these gentlemen fill the bill; in fact corporate should take note and consider raising the compensation for each before they get away. Website is www.rockfish.com, and you will want to consider joining their internet club to get free goodies.

OVERALL

Rockfish is still a top-quality, neighborhood-type place, only now they've raised the (sand)bar, and they want your business hook, line, and sinker, if not body and soul. Visit soon, and remember:

LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

1 comment:

Robert said...

Used to visit online stores like Pfaelzer Brothers for seafood.