REVIEW: Fish Story, Napa Riverfront

September 12, 2010

Fish Story opened in Napa’s Riverfront complex on September 20, and is a venture from the well-established Lark Creek Restaurant Group (known for Parcel 104, Yankee Pier, Lark Creek and others). All of the fish and shellfish on the menu is compliant with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch standards for sustainability.

The restaurant’s riverfront location is an elegantly-appointed space that was bustling even on a Tuesday night in October. I was greeted warmly by the hostess and promptly seated outdoors, on a part of the patio that was beneath an overhang of the building, sort of like a sheltered, covered porch. It was a perfect temperature on an unseasonably warm October evening. But it was dark – very, very dark – at my table. Surrounding tables seemed to be adequately lit, with directed halogen spotlights shining down from the high ceilings above. But mine was on the inside of a pillar, so remaining daylight was blocked, and even at 6:45 it was difficult to read the menu, the cocktail list, and the Food & Wine magazine I had brought with me. I used the light from my iPhone, and spotted a favorite Bay Area beer – Trumer Pils – and ordered it. Moments later my server came back and informed me that they had run out of Trumer. None of the other three beers on tap were similar, so I ordered a bottle of Amstel Light instead.

I asked my server if I could perhaps get a candle or something to help lighten my table a bit, and she quickly brought a candle, which helped. Meanwhile, I heard disappointment from a nearby table when they were informed that Fish Story had already run out of Dungeness Crab for the evening. (At this point it was only 6:45.)

I ordered a Little Gem salad (baby lettuce with beet, crumbled blue cheese and a vinaigrette), a lobster roll, and butterscotch pudding.

The fresh but sparse Little Gem salad

The salad was fresh and the vinaigrette was light but flavorful enough. The salad itself was not overly interesting, visually, with just a few ingredients in fairly large chunks. (Forgive the harsh camera phone photo of this and the other items.)

The lobster roll, with house-made potato chips and cole slaw

The lobster roll was simple and fresh, chunks of lobster salad on a toasted roll, though there was a slight mixup when it was delivered to the table. My server brought it, and told me she had been able to have it made with my special request of no pickles in the chopped lobster mixture. Then, thirty seconds later another staff member showed up with a lobster roll, saying, “here, this one is a little fresher.” Because he said that instead of referring to my special-order request, I was hesitant to swap the entrees with him. I explained my no pickles request, and he said, “yes, this is the right one.” So we traded, but it was sort of an awkward and odd exchange, and was representative of the the polite but halting, slightly disorganized flow of the service I experienced at Fish Story. The house-made potato chips served with the lobster roll were very good.

The butterscotch pudding was excellent, and is a favorite dessert of mine from the Yankee Pier, which has a location in my hometown of San Jose.

When the bill came - without the benefit of the camera flash seen here - I nearly mistook the sea glass for candy!

Overall, Fish Story has a sustainable menu of fresh seafood, with a good selection. The food that I experienced was not overly exciting or creative in its preparation or presentation, but it was good, nonetheless. The air of disorganization (true, it has only been open for a little under a month, but it was opened by an experienced restaurant group, so I think it’s fair to expect a bit more) makes me hesitant to order more complex/delicate fish dishes, at least until more of the new-restaurant bugs have been worked out. Keep an eye on Fish Story; the sustainable model is commendable, and it has all the right ingredients to potentially be excellent once it settles in.

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