By Rob Kean
With winter still covering the region with something so cold it has no business being called a blanket, the concepts of raw bar and clam bakes lie buried deep beneath it all. Maybe it was a longing for the weather that usually accompanies such fare – if not a reaction to cabin fever – that inspired a Saturday night outing to Fish Restaurant & Wine Bar in Malborough.
Our party of four arrived on time for our 7 p.m. reservation, and was immediately seated at the last table not spoken for. On the way, we noticed a band setting up near the bar. The sight of its lone female member tuning her trumpet instilled dread that this meant Taps for any dinner conversation held below the level of shout. However, when the band began to play, they ruined nothing but our apparent prejudice against indoor horn-blowing; the jazz was soft and tone-setting, adding to an atmosphere already loaded with class.
Soon after taking our seats, we were greeted by our happy server. We ordered our drinks with an eye toward honoring the seafood cuisine. One of us ordered a Harpoon draft, one a Captain Morgan and Coke, and for the remaining two, glasses of L’Escargot sauvignon blanc, which, befitting its name, was unfortunately slow to impress.
The appetizers, though, were quick to do the exact opposite. We ordered the crab cakes ($11), which, prepared with frisée and candied pecans and served with aioli, were outrageously good. Similarly so was the calamari ($10), which one member of our party, an engineer not given to hyperbole, called “the best I’ve ever had.” Indeed, only in its crispiness did it admit to being fried, while beneath the cherry-peppered batter the squid was butter-soft. This dish only came up short in its presentation, but to this substance-over-style party of four, it barely registered.
Registering a bit more was the length of time it took for the entrees to arrive, though the company and people-watching were things to savor in their own right. And when our dinners arrived, they proved worth the wait.
In honor (or honour) of our British dinner guests, I’d ordered the fish and chips ($21), expecting the usual greasy yummy mess, but receiving the tidiest version I’d ever seen, and among the most delicious I’ve ever tasted (only the tartar sauce, of all things, was a little subpar). My better half had the sesame-crusted tuna ($24) over stir-fried noodles with vegetables, Baby Bok Choi and peanut sauce, a meal that received the ultimate compliment when none of it was saved for the most spoiled Chesapeake Bay Retriever who’s ever lived.
As for the engineer’s better half, a travel agent, she fittingly went with the dish that had traveled the farthest, taking on the grouper special ($26 ) and loving it to the point of not sharing it. Meanwhile, the engineer himself looked past the restaurant’s bluntly suggestive name and ordered the filet mignon ($26) with Brussels sprouts, bacon-comte cobbler, hand-cut fries and bordelaise sauce. And once again, he was wowed.
Perhaps the greatest testament to our meal was that, when the dessert menu arrived, none of us felt the need to do more than just glance at it. And while we all agreed we might have been more tempted had it offered more in the way of chocolate, we also agreed that satisfaction with dinner probably quelled our weakness for anything but the most irresistibly decadent.
Our check paid, our money’s worth more than gotten, we made our way to the exit, by way of the bar, where the TV was tuned to the Olympics. Footage of Dutch speed skaters and their entourages partying accompanied another piece about how seemingly the people of every other country in the world know how to enjoy life better than we do here.
We strolled back out into the night, content with our own Fish story.
Fish is located at 29 South Bolton Street, Marlborough. For reservations, call (508) 460-FISH.