"Did you figure out where you wanted to go for dinner?"
"Let's go to Fish."
"Fish? I thought we were going to Prune?"
"They only had tables available at six and eleven."
"Okay. Where is Fish?"
"Bleecker Street, in Greenwich Village. It's near Canal Street."
I'm in New York for the weekend. Lucille and I are doing the usual: figuring out where we're going to eat. This time, it's an early birthday dinner for Lucille, and therefore, she gets to pick the place. Apparently she really has gotten into oysters, because she's taking me to a seafood restaurant she found while looking for places with good raw bars.
I don't know Greenwich Village terribly well, but it turns out that Fish is right near Cones, an ice-cream parlor I know for its fantastic hazelnut gelato. If proximity is any indication of quality, we're in for a good meal.
We walk up to an unassuming storefront with a small neon sign. There's a lobster trap and a fishing net in the tiny vestibule outside the door. Inside, the restaurant is dimly lit and very crowded. There's a line of people waiting for seats at either the stainless steel bar or one of the tiny, marble-topped tables lined up on the half-wood, half-tile floor. No-one seems to be in charge of seating, so Lucille and I just stand in line and wait for next available table.
The decor of the place is a cross between fish shack and French oyster bar, with plenty of sea-themed photographs and signage on the walls. The waitstaff wear shirts with "Fish" on the front and the slogan "Sex, Drugs, and Lobster Roll" on the back, and they reach right past people standing by the shucking counter to collect platters of oysters and clams on the half shell. The mood of the place is cheerful and boisterous: it's Friday night, and people are clearly having a good time.
The wait turns out to be a long one - nearly an hour - but eventually, one of the waitstaff leads us to one of the tiny tables and hands us two menus. We seat ourselves and start figuring out what we're going to eat.
The starter is easy: the special at Fish is the "Red, White, and Blue," half a dozen bluepoints or clams with your choice of house red, house white, or Pabst Blue Ribbon as an accompaniment. The entree, however, requires more careful thought.
The menu at Fish is long but straightforward, divided into sections. There are soups and starters and salads. There's fish from the grill, hot sandwiches ("fries on the side"), and seafood classics like New England lobster dinner and crayfish Creole.
Lucille's favorite is the "Pot O' Bass," a kind of fish stew, but tonight she decides to go with seared diver scallops. I'm in the mood for something with fries, so I opt for a blackened catfish sandwich. We put in our order with our server, and make ourselves comfortable.
"Did a friend tell you about this place?"
"No, I read about it in a magazine."
"Have you been here a lot?"
"A few times. I came here with my friends."
Our server returns with two glasses of the house white, which is light and refreshing, though not particularly memorable. After a few more minutes, she sets down a platter of ice with a dozen oysters on the half-shell. Lucille and I are of the same mind: we head straight for the lemon wedges, bypassing the shallot vinegar and an unidentified creamy sauce.
Once the contents of the platter have been suitably acidulated, we each pick up an oyster, loosen it from the shell with a fork, and slurp. The bluepoints have a mineral quality, and a light, flavorful brine. As it turns out, they pair quite well with the house white.
Lucille is happy with the oysters, but she didn't have much for lunch, and so she asks our server for a bread basket. It comes with the usual soft dinner rolls, but it also contains something that looks like a pair of hot dog buns at first glance. They turn out to be batons of jalapeno cornbread, and they're exceptional: buttery and just a little spicy, with a light, tender crumb. I'm on the verge of asking if we could have a few more when our entrees arrive.
The blackened catfish sandwich is true to its menu description: a fillet of blackened catfish with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a little mayonnaise on crusty French bread, accompanied by a heap of golden fries. The sandwich is a satisfying combination of softness and crunch, and the slightly salty catfish is balanced out by the sweetness of the mayonnaise. The fries are excellent too, crisp on the outside and soft within.
Lucille hasn't spoken for several minutes, which is a sign that she's enjoying her food. The scallops are arranged around a mound of lightly sauteed spinach with garlic, and the dish smells appealingly of herbed butter.
She offers me a scallop, which is sweet and tender and nicely seared, and takes a handful of my fries in exchange.
"Can I have a Fish t-shirt for my birthday?"
"Yeah. Like the ones the servers are wearing."
"Maybe." I make a note to ask our server about it later. I wouldn't mind a shirt that reads "Sex, Drugs, and Lobster Roll" myself.
Soon we're polishing off the last few bites of dinner. We've already decided that we'll go to Cones for dessert, so all that remains is to settle the bill. Unfortunately, our server has bad news when we inquire about t-shirts: they're sold out, and the next shipment won't be in for a few weeks. Lucille pouts a little at the news, but cheers up when I remind her that we've still got ice-cream to enjoy.
We'll have to come back again for the t-shirts. Maybe I'll even try the lobster roll next time.