Oddfish goes for sim­ple and de­li­cious

Seafood eatery adds to an al­ready he­do­nis­tic block

The Province - - LIVE IT! - MIA STAINSBY mia.stainsby@shaw.ca twit­ter.com/mi­as­tainsby

To find a good meal, you can’t go wrong point­ing your­self in the di­rec­tion of the 1800 block of West 1st Av­enue, es­pe­cially since Oddfish opened ear­lier this sum­mer, mak­ing for a he­do­nis­tic street. Oddfish is within hail­ing dis­tance of An­naLena, Ca­cao and Koko Monk Ar­ti­san Choco­lates.

It’s run by vet­eran restau­ra­teurs Mike Jeffs, wife Nicole Welsh and part­ners Brad Roark and Jamie Maxwell (who’s done stages at Alinea and Fat Duck) and the fact we had to wait for a ta­ble mid-week gives you an idea of how it’s do­ing. (It’s no-reser­va­tions as per usual these days.)

For Jeffs and Welsh, it’s an aus­pi­cious street. They met 22 years ago when they worked at Carpac­cio, now long gone, where An­naLena is to­day.

Since hook­ing up, they founded the long-run­ning hit, Tavola (once upon a time, called Ta­pas­tree) in the West End as well as Nook pizze­ria, which is mor­ph­ing into a chain (a third one opens in Septem­ber at Olympic Vil­lage).

Oddfish is averse to meat, it ap­pears, and fo­cuses on seafood and veg­eta­bles. Upon ar­rival, a sniff test rec­og­nized aro­mas of fresh fish, whis­per­ing of ocean. Se­duc­tive!

“For me, per­son­ally, I’m done with meat,” says Jeffs, who re­turned to the kitchen re­cently af­ter a cou­ple of years out of it thanks to ten­dini­tis and sev­ered an­kle lig­a­ments. Surgery got him back on track.

“I’m tired of Ital­ian food. For a city by the sea, we don’t have a lot of seafood restau­rants. We have ex­pen­sive ones but not sim­ple ones.”

Sim­plic­ity is some­times sex­ier in its naked hon­esty. But sim­plic­ity isn’t sim­ple. It de­mands great in­gre­di­ents and on-point tech­nique. The kitchen’s use of the plan­cha cast iron grill gives dishes a bed­roomy look — a lit­tle bit wild and messy with charred bits from the plan­cha.

Take the cau­li­flower on spe­cial one evening, with pome­gran­ate mo­lasses, quark, yo­gurt and cher­moula, charred and so en­tic­ing that I copy­cat­ted it at home for guests. A bit of char (and even ash) is found on many mod­ern plates these days, but Jeffs says ev­ery night, a dish re­turns to the kitchen be­cause of it. There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween charred and burnt. (And a lit­tle bit of char, I’m told, is not gonna kill you.)

Mains dishes at Oddfish are $15 to $22 and the menu is tongue-tied and min­i­mally ver­bal (But­ter­flied Trout | Salsa Verde; Side Stripe Ce­viche | Leche de Ti­gre, and so on).

Jeffs’ favourite share plate, The Seafood Hot Mess, costs $65 but it’s a seafood bac­cha­na­lia. It’s cooked à la plan­cha and in­cludes half a lob­ster, squid, mus­sels, clams, scal­lops, prawns and other fish, and it’s served with salsa verde. “We sell a lot,” he says.

Spicy Squid looked like big flower blos­soms and were al­most as ten­der. It hits the grill with a lit­tle chili, gar­lic, olive oil and pars­ley and that’s it.

The Ahi Tuna Poke fea­tures silky tuna tossed with av­o­cado, red onion, herbs and is sweetly acid. Mus­sels, in a co­conut chili and lime broth, are plump and lovely and served with charred baguette slices.

The seafood isn’t lo­cal but they stick to Ocean Wise species. “We’re not mem­bers. We’re too lazy,” says Jeffs, “but what we use is 95 per cent Ocean Wise.”

Dessert was sim­ple, too. A dish of fresh figs with ricotta, honey and wal­nuts. And a straw­berry short­cake. The straw­ber­ries were the best of the sea­son but the bis­cuit for the short­bread lacked char­ac­ter to the point of tast­ing stale.

Wines are rea­son­ably priced with a Euro­pean fo­cus and a good se­lec­tion by the glass, es­pe­cially the seafood-pair­ing whites; and there’s lo­cal beer as well as cider on tap.

PHOTOS: MIA STAINSBY/PNG

Ahi tuna poke at Oddfish fea­tures silky tuna, av­o­cado, red onion and herbs.

Charred cau­li­flower with pome­gran­ate syrup, yo­gurt, cher­moula at Oddfish is en­tic­ing.

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