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Weird Fish report: Not so very fantastic

pane Jan 3, 2007 03:16 PM

Cutting to the chase: not good.

I moved to Liberty Hill last week and set forth exploring the culinary neighborhood. Because Range was closed, We went yesterday to Weird Fish a little after six. When we arrived the place was entirely empty. It slowly filled to capacity in the hour or so we were there: eventually a line of about ten people formed outside.

We were seated immediately and ordered ginger lemonades to start. The lemonade, which was unsweetened, was too bitter for my taste and did not have enough of a ginger kick. I much prefer Burma Superstar's version.

We had read on Chowhound and Yelp that portions were small, so with that in mind we ordered shrimp louie salad, spinach soup, blackened trout with mango salsa, a halibut sandwich, and fried pickles. This was for two people.

For me, the highlight was the fried pickles. I love salty foods and fried foods; this was an ideal combination. The trout was good, fairly mild in taste, but nothing that made me take notice. The halibut sandwich was also okay, but had a bit too much tartar sauce on it. The 'creamy' spinach soup, which was vegan, tasted vegan: lacking a good dollop of real cream to add depth and richness. The salad I liked, but the proportion was out of whack: it was on the appetizer menu, but was entree sized and arrived along with our sandwich and fish. I could barely eat half, but would have been hungry with the trout alone.

Service was slow, despite the fact that it was mostly empty when we arrived. Our water glasses were not refilled until we received the check. When a group of four came in, the waitress asked a group of three to move from their table to a smaller one, then relented when a manager-type rebuked her.

Total bill was $55. If I had a friend who insisted, I would go back and order the salad with a side of pickles. However, I wouldn't return of my own volition and certainly would not wait in line for any length of time.

Being at this place reminded me of a visit a couple of years ago to Uglesich's in New Orleans: an old seafood shack with excellent ingredients cooked simply and with no pretensions. It was everything I didn't get in a visit to Weird Fish.

  1. n
    nyrestaurantfoodie Mar 6, 2007 05:54 AM

    You described "sustainable seafood" fairly well. Sustainable means managed in a way that ensures the supply for a lifetime. Good management means if the fish is wild, that the fishery where it lives has ample stocks and that fishers don't overfish the supply; that the fish is caught without doing harm to the environment or wild life shared with the fish; that by-catch (the catching of fish other than the target species) is minimal; that there is no chance for the fish to intermingle with farmed fish of any variety, and other logical, eco-friendly behaviors like that. If the fish is farmed, it's sustainable if it's farmed in a way that, again, does not harm the surrounding environment or other species; that the fish do not live in over-crowded conditions; the water is filtered to remove excess feed and waste (a closed system, land-based and not immersed in the oceans is best for this); it cannot escape to breed with wild fish, and that nothing sythetic goes into the fish. It's complicated to describe, but not so difficult to do, if you're a fisher, or to find, if you're a consumer.

    Thanks for bringing that to everyone's attention...

    1. c
      calburger Feb 23, 2007 03:08 PM

      agreed on Weird Fish, despite the buzz. didn't wow me

      1 Reply
      1. re: calburger
        chaddict Feb 23, 2007 03:18 PM

        Lunch a big NO. Surprisingly, brunch good...

      2. b
        bernalman Feb 21, 2007 12:48 PM

        Five of us had lunch there last Sunday, 2pm. No wait for a table!

        Two vegetarians, two fish eaters, and a 4-year -old

        Fish and chips were very good-- mine were cooked properly. Vegetarians enjoyed the tofu scramble with veggie sausage. One person's spinach never arrived; otherwise service was very good. Crayons and paper for the kid.

        Overall a very good experience. We'd been there once before for dinner, which was excellent, both for the fish eater, and the vegetarian.

        While one can go elsewhere for good fish, there are few places where fish eaters and vegetarians happily coexist. (Another such place on the same block is Minako.)

        1. b
          brian j Feb 20, 2007 10:29 AM

          We ate lunch there yesterday too. It's a funky little place. Started with the fried pickles. These were pretty good. Nice crunch on some battered pickle spears.

          Also ordered a oyster po'boy. Came on a roll (smaller than an ACME torpedo roll). The oysters were beer battered and stuck together in 2 large clumps. They also poured a whole bunch of red sauce (cocktail sauce, maybe) over the top of the fried oysters. I definitely would have preferred none of that. I was really hoping for a more New Orleans style po'boy, with inividually breaded oysters on a simple sub/hoagie roll, dressed with some shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles & mayo/tartar. It wasnt' bad, just not anything I'd want to really eat again.

          Saw a few people eating fish & chips and figured we better get an order of that too. The fish was not very crunchy, and most of the fries (although abundant) were soggy.

          I thought that everything really could have been fried much much better. Seems likely that whoever was manning the fryer wasn't allowing it to come up to proper temperature before frying.

          At least the bill wasn't very much. $26 for 2 people.

          1. Lori SF Feb 20, 2007 07:33 AM

            We had a good experience when they first opened and I would go back to try again.

            The food is good but nothing too out of the ordinary. I did see the Shrimp Louie Salad and decided not to order that.. Instead I had the fish and chips and a salad both were very good. My SO liked what he ordered although I don't remember what it was.

            We had a friendly server and liked the vibe going on in this little place. I would not expect highly professional service in a place like this.. it's more of a diner type of place so the service was what it was.

            This might be the type of place that it is better a Sunday at 11:30 AM instead of a Friday night. There are things to order and others that might be disappointing. I would try not to have such high expectations on the service like you would if going to a Boulevard, Zuni kinda of place.

            My friends just went there last week and really enjoyed themselves and agree that the shrimp louie salad is not worth ordering but overall had a good experience and friendly service. Perhaps, there is some inconsistency.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lori SF
              Atomica Feb 20, 2007 07:41 AM

              If you go on Sunday at 11:30 AM, you'll be standing out on the street for a long time, waiting.

            2. grishnackh Feb 20, 2007 06:49 AM

              I tried this place on Friday night and wasn't unduly impressed.

              The calamari were fresh and nicely-fried. I tried hard to get into the fried pickles, but I wasn't too impressed. They were incompletely battered and served too hot. A seafood cocktail was nothing bad, but nothing memorable.

              The surprise 'Suspicious Fish' entree for the evening was blackened...tilapia. While this wasn't much of a surprise, it was a passable entree, served with somewhat dry [vegan?] mashed potatoes and tasty broccoli. The fish and chips were the real letdown of the evening, however. The thin cornmeal batter on the fish would have been fine for pan-fried catfish filets, but for fish and chips I want a thicker, almost breadlike batter. The fries were nicely salted, and wholly decent in terms of crispness. Our vegan dining companion had a lasagna special that he loved.

              They did have a very clear tap serving delicious pints of Anchor Steam.

              All in all though, I don't understand much of the fuss about Weird Fish. I can only speculate that a lot of it comes from their wide variety of vegan options. Their fishy options however, could really use a revamp.

              1. s
                sarvey Feb 11, 2007 06:58 PM

                I made a mad dash through the rain to eat at Weird Fish on Saturday evening and was very happy with my meal. The space is small but pleasing: Flea market style tables, nicely lit with candles, cool fish pictures. The only problem was that it was difficult to hear. The service was attentive, no complaints at all.

                We thought the portions for most dishes to be huge. We started with an appetizer of shrimp and crab cocktail with avocado and cucumber. While it wasn't the biggest portion, there was an ample amount of crab meat and shrimp. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fried calamari and a 2 piece fish and chip meal were really big portions. Delicious sauces, aioli, tartar, and some tomatoey thing accompanied the entrees (while I don't think that the calamari was meant to be an entree, my husband made it his). The amount of fries that accompanied the fish put a girl to shame. I couldn't eat even a third of them and had to get help from my dinner partner. A Trumer pilsner went perfectly with the food.

                Finally, a plus for me was knowing that the restaurant went to great effort to use sustainable seafood (sustainably caught or raised or ?? I can't think of how you describe this right now). Our meal, food plus 3 beers, came to only $29.00. A great deal and a fun restaurant.

                1. f
                  finchycocoa Feb 11, 2007 10:31 AM

                  I am relieved that I am not the only person unimpressed with Weird Fish. I have had the crab louie, fish and chips and the calamari. I found everything ok but it missed the mark somehow. Some people rave about the light quality of the fried tilapia but it is still greasy and fried. I would much rather have a thicker battered fish if it's fried. The only memorable items are the deep fried pickle and clam chowder. Save your money.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: finchycocoa
                    Windy Feb 11, 2007 05:10 PM

                    Over brunch today, I compared notes on Weird Fish with a friend. He'd had a grilled fish and the fish and chips and basically liked everything about it :)

                  2. Windy Feb 11, 2007 09:56 AM

                    I had lunch there this week and found it too expensive for lunch (nearly $20 with tax and tip). Prices would have been fine for dinner. Decor is funky and charming, and service was friendly enough. But the food is disappointing.

                    I had the crab and avocado sandwich; my companion had the fried tofu and chips. We also got the tempura green beans, which were greasy and served with mayo. Yuk. The best item was the fried tofu, which was crunchy and not overfried. That and discovering Pick-A-Peppa, the Jamaican vegan Worcestershire like sauce in bottles on all the tables. (Does anyone know where I can buy a bottle?) Ginger lemonade wasn't as good as it sounds.

                    Woodhouse doesn't have the same atmosphere, but the food and service are much better.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Windy
                      Big Larry Feb 20, 2007 08:43 AM

                      Park Chow has Pick-A-Peppa at the seats at the bar. Not sure about all the tables.

                    2. Frosty Melon Feb 11, 2007 09:07 AM

                      Quick update: Went last night at the last minute and had a nice basket of fish & chips. The service was remarkably good, but not surprising given the limited space (this place is the size of a shoebox). I'd go back if it were closer, but I am still glad Woodhouse Fish Co. is nearby.

                      1. n
                        ngardet Jan 14, 2007 12:28 AM

                        Had lunch there Friday. Service was amateur but friendly (starter arrived after entree). I didn't find the portions small. The tarter sauce was excellent so was the coffee.
                        The fish and chips was good but it's fish and chips so nothing to write home about. I am not convinced the sweet potato fries are a good idea, not crunchy enough. The chowder was tasty.
                        Overall this is an ok place if you want fish and chips. It si quite pricey for the neighborhood.

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