Fish & Chips is all that and much more

Orlando Sentinel - - SEE FOR YOURSELF - By Heather Mcpher­son FOOD EDI­TOR

From Or­lando In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Apopka, there are few stretches of State Road 436 where a driver is rarely brave or reck­less enough to check for restau­rants as they buzz through Orange County into Semi­nole County and back again into Orange.

Fish & Chips is in a bumper car-es­que stretch of road in Al­ta­monte Springs. Tucked into a worn strip mall be­tween West Lake Brant­ley Road/Academy Drive and Pearl Lake Cause­way, it is hard to gauge from the out­side what won­ders wait in­side.

On the first visit it was dif­fi­cult to see the sign in the land­scape con­ges­tion. But the tem­po­rary banner promis­ing “whole belly clams” caught my at­ten­tion.

Owner Ray­mond Goonewar­dena grew up in Sri Lanka, “but I learned to cook in the Bronx.” The weather brought him to Florida and a wel­com­ing com­mu­nity has made Cen­tral Florida his home.

Sri Lanka is fa­mous for its spices and for ex­port­ing tea, cof­fee, co­conuts and cin­na­mon. Fla­vor­ful cur­ries are a main­stay of the culi­nary reper­toires of home cooks.

The restau­rant’s menu “is a fu­sion of where I grew up, in­flu­ences I have picked up along the way and my own fa­vorite foods,” Goonewar­dena says.

The is­land spiced jumbo shrimp ($12.95) is a par­tic­u­lar fa­vorite of Goonewar­dena be­cause it is in­spired by recipes cre­ated by his mother. “It’s a sim­ple dish served with bas­mati rice,” he says. But it is the nicely bal­anced red curry sauce that makes it won­der­fully com­plex.

The restau­rant’s name­sake entrees do the Brits proud. De­pend­ing on mar­ket avail­abil­ity guests can choose from had­dock, cod, cat­fish, whit­ing and Florida black grouper. Prices can vary de­pend­ing on sea­sons. My gen­er­ous din­ner or­der of had­dock and chips was $10.95 and there is a daily fish and chips lunch spe­cial that will only set you back $7.95. Din­ner or­ders come with creamy fresh coleslaw. At lunch you can add slaw or hush­pup­pies for $1 more.

The fish was blanketed in a golden brown crunchy coat­ing and the potato planks (the chips) were hot-from-the-fryer crisp.

Goonewar­dena has two soups on most days. Keep your fin­gers crossed for the she crab bisque (mar­ket price). The soup has gen­er­ous lumps of crab meat and is kissed with just the right amount of sherry. The New Eng­land Style clam chow­der is equally as good.

The crab cake ap­pe­tizer ($5.45) comes with a pep­pery curry sauce on the side. The sauce was a nice foil for the two thick ob­long pat­ties that were packed with rich, ivory lumps of crab meat.

We added a side of roasted veg­eta­bles ($2.95) be­cause I was

Heather McPher­son can be reached at 407-420-5498 or hm­cpher­son@tri­bune.com. woe­fully off the mark for my rec­om­mended serv­ings for the day. The mix­ture was a de­li­cious, well-sea­soned blend of sliced okra, red bell pep­per strips, whole green beans, sliced car­rots and a few pieces of aro­matic gar­lic.

A reader tip sent me to Fish & Chips and I am for­ever grate­ful.

I have driven by this place many times since it opened in 2007. With hands firmly grasp­ing the steer­ing wheel and eyes fo­cused on the cars in front of me, I’ve been miss­ing out for years. Thank­fully, I now know when to en­gage the turn sig­nal and get my fix of she crab soup, the name­sake fare and roasted veg­eta­bles.

GARY W. GREEN/ STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Crispy fried had­dock and potato planks at Fish & Chips in Al­ta­monte Springs.

EAT GLOBAL, SHOP LO­CAL: Cel­e­brate Cen­tral Florida’s di­ver­sity in its eth­nic cafes and mar­kets. Or­lan­doSen­tinel.com/eth­nic­gro­ceryguide

COOK­ING WITH MICKEY: Check out the culi­nary trea­sures in our Walt Dis­ney World re­sort restau­rant recipe archive. TheDai­lyDis­ney.com

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