With a handsome whole pan-fried sole for $23, Teatro has quietly and stylishly pulled the rug out from under most of the live seafood establishments in Chinatown; and it's doing so right at their doorstep.
The cooking is straightforward and pure, an entire sole, head, tail and every single moist flavourful bone, seasoned lightly with only salt, pepper and a tendril of parsley, its elegant simplicity finished at the table with a squish of lemon.
The sole is fresh as water and moist as dew. Its texture soft and plump, its fibres delicate, its flesh smooth, giving off a tiny cottony tightness. Every part is delicious: the firm, little cheek, the shatteringly crispy tail and fins (completely edible, bones and all) and even the long, supple, veined organs in its belly, which I suppose is the source of roe (although I hasten to defer to more knowledgable scholars of fish anatomy), are clean tasting and delightful.
There are few pleasures as pleasurable as the unhurried partaking of a whole fish on bone. It is an artful unlocking of a delicious puzzle piece -- gently prying off the flesh, contemplating each fibre articulating itself on the tongue, peeling away the skeleton and slowly savouring the last moist morsels that linger on the bone. This was that rare chance where I could have a whole fish to myself.
(Incidentally, the sole is large, and could suffice as two entrees to be shared -- but why would you? -- especially since it comes with a side of verdant green beans in cooked richly in butter and topped with toasty shavings of almonds.)
The mussel appetizer is also excellent: fat mussels (sans shells) nesting in a suave cream and pesto cooking broth, carefully piqued with tiny pinpricks of heat that melt into a faint glower under the cream. Grilled triangles of lightly tangy and spongy sourfdough bread are perfect for sopping up each last delicious wetness.
And then before that, a fairly nice caramelized onion topped foccacia, dense instead of springy, a good vehicle for a bean puree and a fruitty oil olive touch gently with chilli flakes and basil.
A chillingly crisp pinot grigio (2001 Santa Maddalena, Alto Adige) was perfect for the meal, a subtle showing of sweetness, almost like honey.
I skipped dessert, and I was still satisfied.