I went to Go Fish in St. Helena last night. We arrived a few minutes early for our 7:30pm reservation and were told almost immediately that they were running about 15 minutes late with their second turn . There was very little room to wait inside the door unless you stepped up to the bar, so we just stood and watched the show. About 20 minutes passed and we were offered drinks, but still no table. I took the opportunity to chat with the hostess about the construction on the patio, which will include some raised beds and an outdoor bar area.
The interior was warm and sophistocated without being stuffy. The the building was gutted and redone so it looks very different from its previous incarnation--Pinot Blanc. I'm tempted to write a lot about the decor and ambiance, but this chowhound needs to skip ahead to the food!
When we were seated we had a chance to survey the surrounding tables and were delighted to see such generous portions and mostly beautiful food. The sushi was rolling, but I saw no asian faces at the sushi bar--which leads to an interesting sidebar regarding the evolution of ethnic cuisine, probably for another board. We decided against sushi.
The menu was cleverly divided into categories such as "Fish Your Way," "Fish Our Way," "Raw Fish," "Shell Fish," "No Fish," etc. The "Fish Your Way" listed about five types of fish (i.e. wild King salmon, sole, swordfish) with your choice of method of cooking (saute, wood grilled, steamed) and choice of five sauces (i.e. seseme ginger vinegrette, lemon caper butter parsley). These were served a la carte with the option of adding sides like the cilantro basmati rice, and vegetable of the day (succotash with cranberry beans and corn). The "No Fish" section had one vegetarian pasta dish, one beef and one chicken dish. There was a section of steamers (mussels or clams) in a lemon herb wine broth or curry coconut broth with or without linguini. There was a San Francisco Cioppino with half a crab that you had to "get involved" with. There were about 8 small plates/starters that sounded good, too, including lobster wontons which I'm still curious about.
After much discussion about what we could eat without hurting ourselves (and deciding we had to come back based on the variety of the menu) we ordered.
We started with the "Hot and Bubbly Crab Dip." This was further described to us by our server as a 1950's style crab dip in a beschemel sauce with parmesan crouton crust and served with toasted bread crackers. Sounded delish, but it was rather disappointing. The sauce was runny, which made it difficult to eat on the cracker--it dripped all over the table, my hand, my shirt. The first bite I got into my mouth had a big piece of hot pepper (canned jalepeno?) which I was not expecting. I was suddenly reminded that Cindy Pawlcyn always seems to have peppers (hot and/or sweet) in all of her food. [This made me laugh when remembering her comment about one of the contestants of "Top Chef" using way too much pepper and being a "pepper monkey."] It wasn't bad, but it didn't quite hit the spot. I can't recommend that dish.
For our entrees I had the King Salmon, wood grilled with sesame soy ginger vinegrette, with the cilantro basmati rice on the side. My date had the sole with lemon butter caper parsley sauce and asked for a side of the sour cream mashed potatoes and the basmati rice. Our server said the "sides" were large portions and that the rice I ordered would be enough for us both, so he got just the potatoes.
It seemed to be a long time for our food to come out of the kitchen. Also, our empty appetizer plate sat on our table for about 20 minutes and was still there when our entrees were dropped at our table. Okay, so they need some work on timing, but they just opened, so we were prepared for some bumps in the service.
My salmon was very good--the marinade was "umami" and paired perfectly with the wood grilling and the salmon. The rice should not have been described as cilantro basmati. I couldn't taste any cilantro and there were frenched green beans and yet more peppers in the rice, and toasted sliced almonds. Not bad, but not what I expected. The sole was a surprisingly small portion, and the white fish with the white sauce on the large white plate looked sad and limp. It wasn't particularly flavorful--surprising as Pawlcyn's food is usually very flavorful (probably because of all the peppers). His potatoes were chunky mashed red potatoes, but sort of thoughtlessly plopped onto the plate--smooshed to one side and not a very big portion. The potatoes also were not hot--more like slightly warm. That was disappointing. If anything get's me down it's poorly planned/executed potatoes. Alas.
We opted to skip dessert as nothing jumped out from the menu. Our wine had been comped so with tip our bill came to about $65. We will go back again, maybe in about a month when they get some of the kinks worked out.
If anyone wants more details on the ambiance, physical description of the dining room or bar I'd be happy to post it.
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