By Bernard Whitmore
Marlborough has long been a special dining destination, home to some of the area’s most creative and hospitable restaurants. Long before Worcester could claim a restaurant district, an excursion to Marlborough guaranteed a special dining experience.
That tradition lives on at Fish, the recent reboot of Coral Seafood. The menu’s been retooled, the wine list enhanced, and there’s a new executive chef, Sasha St. Germain. After sampling some of his creative dishes at a special event, I put Fish on my must-go list. It took a couple months, but I finally made good on that promise.
On the day we made our trek to Fish, a June rainstorm had been raging all afternoon. But that wasn’t enough to stop the town from turning out for the annual Taste of Marlborough & Brewfest. Bad weather can cause all sorts of harm, but it’s often great to bond people together. Marlborough appeared to be a very happy community that evening.
After finding a place to park, my friend and I made a dash from the car to Fish, where the greeting was warm and we were promptly shown to a table. Beau, our server, possessed more knowledge of wine than I’ve encountered anywhere in years. He guided me to a decision that proved ideal with each of my food courses.
When complimented Beau on his knowledge, he simply replied, “That’s how we’re trained at Fish.” And that is a prime example of what makes a restaurant exceptional. Another, of course, is the food. And we decided to start with the Shellfish Sampler.
The Sampler contains trios of oysters and cherrystones on the half shell, as well as two jumbo shrimp. Whilst I enjoy anything on the half shell, I couldn’t avoid the startling conclusion that I prefer cherrystones over oysters. After all, aren’t oysters the crowned king of the raw bar? Both were pristine-fresh at Fish, but these cherrystones seemed to embody the cleanest virtue of cold, sandy shores.
That wasn’t the only surprise. My glass of Cucao Pedro Ximenez PX was a perfect match for the shellfish, with its crisp and clean flavor ~ Beau aptly termed it “minerally.” All this from a Spanish grape that’s traditionally used to make sweet dessert sherry!
My entrée choice, Sesame Crusted Tuna, was served over a bed of stir-fried noodles in spicy Thai peanut sauce, which provided sharp contrasts of flavors and textures. But this thick cut of sushi-grade tuna was clearly the star; its edges were thick with golden sesame seeds, its top was draped with a ribbon of deep-green baby bok choy, and it was drizzled with the peanut sauce. The tuna’s moist center was a deep red and just warm ~ exactly as I ordered.
Shrimp & Grits have not been in the canon of menu items in Central New England for very long. But Fish is already doing remarkable things with them, as reported by my friend, who ordered the dish after being intrigued by its description.
Fish’s Shrimp & Grits featured four truly jumbo shrimp that had been grilled and served over thin stalks of broccolini. Beside the shrimp was a thick pool of creamy, cheesy grits, topped with a golden, crusty orb. This soft-boiled egg had been peeled, wrapped in panko crumbs and deep-fried for crunchiness.
“When you break it open, the warm yolk oozes golden lusciousness into the grits!” my friend enthused. Specks of grilling char imparted their own tastiness to the juicy jumbo shrimp.
For those who equate seafood dining to fried seafood platters, there are still a few options at Fish ~ but this is available anywhere a vat of hot oil is waiting. Fish Restaurant & Wine Bar is a restaurant that’s taking a more creative approach to seafood. The elegantly spare dining room has an urban feel, combined with New England warmth. And there’s Beau talking wine …
Now, if I can just convince that New York chef to fix this Connecticut native a bowl of proper Manhattan chowder!
Fish Restaurant & Wine Bar
29 S. Bolton St., Marlborough
(508) 460-3474 | eatatfish.com