|443 Shurs Lane (Manayunk)
[November 21, 1994]
It's as if entering a dilapidated dimly lit fishtank. The cinderblock wall to one's left is opaque aqua upon which swim multitudinous fish forms in sizes and shapes from minnow to Moby. Exposed silver-cased wires meander down from the ceiling hugging the blocks, emulating air hoses. A lonely unstaked plant needs so much pruning, it's beginning to resemble seaweed.
The waiters and waitresses swim between tables smoothly in denim shirts with goldfish emblazoned upon left chest. Their view of the outside world is blocked by bottles of peppersauces lining an unwashed window.
There is a real fishtank glowing neon at the restaurant's center. It is guarded by a luminescent green miniature tank-toy Incredible Hulk. The chef ("Corbin") is in clear view at the rear of the shebang, his pony-tailed head bobbing above sizzling pots and pans as if it were bait. Three overhead fans provide currents of circulation for the air that the animated crowd of patrons requires. They lean close to each other to hear their respective conversations over the burbling din, then they surface to nibble and bite their food.
Every table is covered by a linoleum textured dark green plastic coverlet upon which rests Pickapepper Pepper Sauce, Pepper Greek Farms Jalapeno Hot Sauce, Lang's Tangy Bangy (salt-free) Hot Sauce and a canister of sherry. The sauces must be used sparingly unless your fish believes fervently in "school" prayer. A waitperson promptly arrives with a basket full of chewy long rolls, thick sesame-crusted sticks and a curious ceramic cup of humus chastened with hints of horseradish. The wine you've brought from home is opened and deposited into a silver bucket whose presence upon the table is most chilling.
There are a number of appetizers that should not be overlooked. Grilled Mashed Potato Fishcakes with Grainy Mustard Sauce ($6.95) are pucklike patties an inch and a half high. Inhale. Place a quarter wedge onto your tongue and close your mouth & "Squoosh." Your ears hear the marvelous mush pressed through clenched teeth into your cheeks just as salivary glands exude with liquidity. If you had already dipped the dollop of "mashpofish" into the mustard, your nasal passages shall begin to tickle. Your taste buds go against the grain and toward the garlic. Exhale heartily in the direction of the persons across the table. Watch them sway and swoon as you swallow.
More elemental is Three Smoked Fish Salad ($6.95) where chunks of smoked grouper, bluefish and salmon are accompanied by individually apportioned puddles of condiments. The blue is on a creamy white tarp, redolent of tartar; the salmon is resting up on a verdant green pool smelling of the scent of dill. Meanwhile, the grouper is upon a mellow cushion plush with corn, red pepper specks and crushed pineapple. Before long, the urge to mix and match overwhelms. After all is said and done, the platter resembles a kindergartner's finger painting. Resist your tablemates' requests to lick the plate.
Meander away, however, from Grilled Baby Octopus with Creamy Chopped Salad ($5.95). Over a bed of decent cole slaw, are served legs (and other less appetizing parts) of a creature caught somewhere below 20,000 leagues, who kicked and fought every in ch of the way up. The fibrous materials interposed with cabbage smell like toy rubber replicas of octopus' thighs, and taste like mattresses removed from the ill-reputed Monteray Bay Photo Company.
Entrées concocted here can be found nowhere else in the city. The homemade essence of each dish is a gush of neighborliness. As an example, a platter of Pan Roasted Wild Rockfish with "Dirty" Rice, Brussel Sprouts and Rich Rosemary Broth ($12.95) is so perfectly balanced and beautiful that you think you're viewing it on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Steam rises from the wantonly glistening pearlwhite flesh of the rockfish. Its aroma is clean and fragrant. A forkful carrying a plump sweating portion slips easily between loosened lips, and is jostled to tepidness by heavy breathing. Make room for the oval legumes and for rice swollen from the broth. Rosemary rebounds from sprouts to cerebrum.
For those who adore pasta, place your medley where your mouth is. Seafood Medley with Shrimp Broth, Aromatic Vegetables and Herbs de Provence over Skillet Pasta ($11.95) arrives at tableside in a humongous glass bowl, brimming with noodles whose thickness are that of coldwater pipes, and whose shapes are that of a corkscrew used only for opening magnums. Ask for extra napkins and five long rolls of hardened bread. Use the former to protect your shirt or blouse, because the thrashing and gnashing that occurs to tame the slippery slinky strands into submission is sloppy. The latter loaves are to be engorged in the shrimp broth, and taken damp for squeezing between jaws. The veins at your neck's side pound in lubrication.
For a sour jolt, order the Teryaki Mahi Mahi with Pickled Vegetable Salad ($10.95). Slivers of carrots and cucumbers have been cut to the quick in three inch lengths. They've slept together overnight in a brine, to cure them of their natural sweetness, and to sour their prospects. Seated on the salted salad is a grilled crosshatched hunk of filet polished by soy. One presses a knife across and into the fish, which opens into thick marbled layers of silken sable.
I will not mention the usual specials of Whole Florida Pompano On a Bed of Harvest Vegetables Ratatouille ($12.95) or Yellow Corn Crusted Rainbow Trout with Yellow Eye Peas, Zucchini, Tomato Ragout & Grits ($11.95), except to exclaim their freshness and flavor.
Valet parking is offered. A gratuity of even a fifth of a fin seems appreciated.
|Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq.||Back|