Real Seafood in the Desert…
July 17, 2011
My biggest (and really only) disappointment on arriving in Corrales from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay was the dearth of really good seafood-specialty restaurants in the desert. We have found many fine places where some creative seafood is served (such as Lucia, Mariscos Altamar, Los Equipales, El Norteño, Pelican, and others), but traditional East- or West- or Gulf-Coast seafood houses were nowhere to be found.
This was remedied on December 10, 2010, when the playfully named Desert Fish opened its doors in Nob Hill. I am saved. And so are Duke City seafood lovers.
Jane and I decided to have a safe and sane New Year’s Eve celebration at this new place. As we were seated, the young and delightful owner, Peter Martin, came by our table to chat and welcome us. We wound up welcoming him. Under his guidance, an expert staff was put together — barkeeps, waitstaff, and (of course) a marvelous chef with imagination and magic hands.
This is Northwest Inspired Seafood – fresh and cooked to your specifications. They feature wild caught fish, an oyster bar, and seating for your intimate dinner or most lively party. They do not serve farm-raised seafood.
There are two main eating areas — a charming dining room with about a dozen tables sits on the right, and a light-filled room on the left has the bar, bandstand, and less formal seating. This room has glass wrapped around two sides, so you can watch the liveliness of Central as you sip or eat. This is a charming place.
OK. Is the food any good? Damn straight it is. Our knowledgeable young server guided us through the menu suggesting wines as he went along. Our selections were all better than we had expected. Jane started with a seafood bisque that was eerily stunning — close your eyes, take a sip, and you would swear that you were eating on a wharf by the sea. THAT’S good. Fresh seafood and quality ingredients make all the difference in the world.
Bombay Sapphire Dry Martini
I have not had a Classic Gin Martini since before Thanksgiving Day of 1986. This past New Year’s Eve at the new Desert Fish in Nob Hill seemed like the proper time to remedy that.
The barkeep prepared a very dry Bombay Sapphire martini, straight up, with a twist of lemon. Perfectly prepared, silky smooth, and the combination of ten botanicals used in the bottling of this gin added a sublime taste to this classic drink.
It is a shame to see younger folks drinking yuppified sweet pseudo martinis, and a delight to find a barkeep who knows the subtle art of making a classic drink, well, classic. Hat’s off.
Rock cod thinly sliced and marinated in lime juice, light rum, sugar and mint. Served with fresh made blue corn chips. I didn’t bother with the blue corn chips, finding them superfluous.
This is like no other ceviche you will get in this town Or Peru. Or anyplace else. It has an unbelievably succulent texture and tart-sweet taste. Lime and light rum are the topnotes. Superb rendition of a classic seafood appetizer. This set the stage for an incredibly good meal to follow.
Warm Dungeness crab meat, grilled prawns and scallops, with chilled asparagus, red pepper slivers and grilled onions on a bed of mesclun greens, citrus vinaigrette.
This an entrée salad, and as such, is wholly satisfying for a dinner. It is expertly prepared and dressed. The grilling adds a slightly smoky topnote to the sweetness of the prawns and scallops, which were succulent, with not a hint of dryness or toughness. In the hands of a lesser chef, grilling can be catastrophic, but we were in the hands of a true expert here. Superb dish.
Cedar Planked Salmon
Sockeye salmon broiled on a cedar plank with herbed butter. Served with roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus.
This is wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest, and not your farm-raised crap. It was prepared exactly as I asked — slightly flaky and still moist, without even a hint of dryness. Sublimely tasty, and the herbed butter added more interest to an excellent piece of fish. The asparagus had the taste and texture of first-growth spring asparagus, and the roasted fingerling potatos were also perfectly prepared and herbed.
This dish exceeded all my expectations. Among the very best seafood entrées I have had in the Duke City.
I have two favorite desserts: Carrot Cake and Bread Pudding. In the absence of Bread Pudding from a menu, I default to Carrot Cake. Good choice at Desert Fish.
This is a Carrot Cake like no other I have had. Heady and spicy rich taste, dense texture, wonderfully moist, and iced with a not-too-sweet icing, it was a delightful finish to a perfect meal. This cake is not made on the premises, but is created at ABC, a premiere cakery on San Pedro near the Fairgrounds.
I would be happy to show up late some evening, sit at the bar, and sip a nice sweet white wine with a chunk of this glorious cake.
I asked the owner to start up some Bread Pudding. He grinned. Whatever that means.
He also assured then me that the menu will expand a bit in the near future. Nonetheless, Desert Fish has become a polished eatery and imbibery in the three short weeks that it has been open. If you, like me, are a seafood fan, you owe it to yourself to eat here. Often. Superior food and experience. And listen to the live music.
Oh — add Bread Pudding.
Return: Mussels Two Ways
Our first meal here was six-and-a-half months ago, and while excellent, we love to return much later to see if a new place has found or lost its groove.
Desert Fish is grroovin’, folks. Kept their mojo.
We started a strict weight-control diet six weeks ago, and our new quest is to find the best restaurants that will work with us and bend over backwards to accommodate us. Nicky V’s passed this test admirably (imagine ordering diet food in a pizza/pasta house, if you will :-)).
Fresh Green salad with seared scallops
Jane’s appetizer salad consisted on baby greens and butter lettuce plus some other goodies with two perfectly seared sea scallops atop. Impeccable lo-cal dish.
Mussels in a white wine broth
The menu lists a dish consisting of one pound of mussels and clams in a white wine and garlic broth. I opted for mussels only(knowing that clams would be a part of my entrée to follow later). Each of the maybe two dozen or more mussels were open, contained no sand, and tasted fabulous. Sweet. tender, and succulent, they were perfectly prepared, and the broth was great. There were two lightly toasted hunks of garlic/butter toast to sop up the broth with, but waistline concerns forbade this. Not to worry, a soupspoon did the job. Outstanding broth.
Cioppino is not an Italian dish. Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco. Despite being considered an Italian dish, it is unknown in Italy, and it is only slightly comparable with various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.It was developed in the late 1800s by Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Originally it was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning “to chop” or “chopped” which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day’s catch. At least one restaurant in San Francisco, the eponymous Cioppino’s, describes an apocryphal story in which the name derived from the heavily Italian-accented cry of the wharf cooks for the fishermen to “chip in” some of their catch to the collective soup pot.
The version we had last night had shrimp, mussels (again), clams, sockeye salmon, and a cluster od Dungeness crab legs. Done up in a spicy (cayenne) red tomato broth, it was as good a seafood stew as I have ever had. It, too, is served with the same toast that came with the mussels, but Joey, our excellent server removed then quickly without asking. Superb dish, diet or not.
We had no dessert this night. Joey didn’t even ask. He pays attention.
So. What has six-and-a-half months done for Desert Fish? First, Peter Martin is no longer there. His departure didn’t affect any of the food or service. This meal (and the whole dining experience) was, if anything, slightly better than our New Year’s Eve meal. Both were fabulous. Desert Fish has not lost it.
I will come back again after reaching my target weight (and stabilizing). By then I expect that they will have developed a prize-winning bread pudding.
August 4, 2011 Mixed Green Salad with Bacon-Wrapped Prawns and Scallop.
Mesclun greens, heirloom tomatos, fresh cucumber in honey balsamic vinaigrette.This was a special salad on the day that I visited for lunch with my friend Ryan Scott, host of the Break The Chain radio show that airs every Saturday afternoon at 4:00 in Albuquerque on KIVA 1350 AM. Ryan loves to visit a restaurant for his initial visit with someone who has already been there, and it was my turn. Gladly.
This salad was excellent (as were all dishes I have ever had at DF). Greens crisp and fresh with a very fine balsamic vinaigrette having just the right amount of gentle acidity and smokiness. The prawns and scallop were as if they were just pulled from the water, they were perfectly grilled, the texture was correct — tender and juicy — and the bacon wrapping was delicious. There were also slightly crunchy bits of bacon mixed into the greens. Really fine lunch. Ryan loved his meal (oysters, Mojito Ceviche, and Cioppino.