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Shore thing 

Liz Feltham has big expectations for Little Fish. Here's why she's hooked.

Little Fish may be the more casual, baby sibling to the elegant Five Fisherman, but that doesn’t mean it’s simply a mini-version of the big dining room upstairs. Little Fish has its own identity and menu, and a fabulous oyster bar with an oyster “happy hour” every afternoon.

I’ve had several meals at Little Fish and I’m looking forward to tonight’s dinner—if past experience is any indication, it’s sure to be a good night.

We are led past the comfortably upholstered booths in the front window, past the brightly lit, inviting oyster bar, past the fish tank and more booths, and into the back room. We hang our coats on the giant fishhooks on the posts and settle in at our table.

The menu is small, focusing on seafood (although there is meat available). We opt for the flash-fried calamari ($8) and Little Fish brochette ($8) to start. Noticing the server pull a bunch of other tables together, I ask if they are expecting a large party. She assures us that the group will be arriving much later and they are seated just as we are finishing our desserts. (Another duo, just beginning their meal, are thoughtfully whisked to another table when it becomes evident this is a boisterous crowd.)

Reassured, we start on our calamari and brochette. The calamari is glazed with a sweet pepper coating that has a bit of a kick and is absolutely delightful: There are no rubber-textured rings here. Seafood sausage, jumbo shrimp and large scallops are lined up on the skewer of the brochette, which is served with two dipping sauces. There are large black grill marks on one side of the brochette but the other side indicates half-cooked shrimp and cold sausage; someone obviously forgot to turn the skewer before serving. It’s a little disappointing in a restaurant where I’ve only ever eaten flawless fish, but I forge ahead. The sausage tastes mainly of smoked whitefish and is delicious, and the scallops and shrimp are certainly fresh.

For our main courses we’ve chosen the Little Fish seafood plate ($23) and salmon ($18), and the kitchen is certainly on form here. I love the subtle garlic mashed potato that supports the generous salmon filet, and also the fragrant sundried-tomato basil butter that tops the fish.

The seafood plate sports an immense fish cake in the middle, ringed by pan-roasted shrimp and scallops, all set in a pool of lobster curry cream. The cake, made traditionally with plenty of onions, could use some lemon juice and salt to really make it sing. The shrimp and scallops are cooked much better than their brochette counterparts and there’s a richness to the cream sauce that definitely hints at decadence.

Speaking of decadence, we’ve saved room for dessert. A chocolate Marquis ($6.95) and maple creme brulee ($5.95) are executed perfectly, the crust of sugar on the top of the creme brulee breaking gently under my spoon, smooth custard waiting underneath. The Marquis, a semi-frozen dessert of chocolate pate, is a chocolate-lover’s delight.

With the exception of the brochette, this has been another evening well spent. The service is outstanding (every staff member greets you as you pass through and thanks you as you leave, regardless of whether they served you or not).

We depart as the last of the big table arrives and, strolling along Argyle giddy with the after-effects of good food, I am thinking that Little Fish is really a whale of a time.

Little Fish Restaurant and Oyster Bar1740 Argyle Street422-4421Mon-Thu 11:30am-9pmFri 11:30am-10pmSat 4-10pm

Liz Feltham casts her internet: www.foodcritic.ca

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