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A Big Fish Story

The Fish Market
Christopher Gardner

Look Who's Coming to Dinner: The Fish Market chain clawed its way to the top with its menu of very fresh seafood.

The newest Fish Market makes a huge splash into a grateful neighborhood

By Christina Waters

WHAT STARTED 20 years ago in Palo Alto--the Fish Market dynasty of restaurants, markets and fishing boats--has just opened its latest baby on Blossom Hill Road. And just like the other six attractive bastions of the freshest in seafood, the place looks terrific. Though it opened less than a month ago, the place was packed with waiting lists and patient patrons lining the outdoor decks and hallways when we visited last week.

Nursing glasses of an excellent Honig Sauvignon Blanc 1996 ($4.50), we checked out the wine bar, the sushi bar with sushi chef blazing, and the fireside nook with deep, comfy couches, Oriental rugs and a discreetly located television. In another part of the vast entryway, an oyster bar played to a full crowd, while down the photo-lined hallway--ablaze with gleaming hardwoods and brass--an actual fish market offered beautiful items showcased on ice. In short, this place has its act together--as must any restaurant that can and does feed more than 300 people at once.

The Fish Market's raison d'etre--its extensive seafood menu--includes Chinook salmon, Mississippi catfish, Catalina swordfish, Columbia River sturgeon, Idaho rainbow trout, mahi mahi, Alaskan halibut, Florida yellowfin tuna, Pacific red snapper and many others, all fresh. Sure, there were house-smoked fish appetizers, a line of pastas, even ribeye steak and teriyaki chicken, but otherwise, this place is serious about fresh fish.

Well, so were we. We started with Caesar salads topped by fresh Dungeness crab meat ($12.55). Our helpful and well-trained young waiter brought these to us split into two portions, and they were wonderful with the excellent sourdough that we'd already attacked the minute we sat down. The right amount of garlic and anchovy, impeccable hearts of romaine, and succulent, very sweet crabmeat made this a huge hit with us and our glasses of sauvignon blanc. Halfway through the salad a pretty platter of spicy tuna roll ($5.60) arrived. Classically presented, the rolls were quite nice, not intensely spicy but satisfying and well made.

The place was busy, so we had to wait a few minutes for our main dishes. That's why God made sauvignon blanc. My order of Hawaiian opakapaka--a gorgeously flavored reef fish--was perfectly grilled with a bit of paprika and herbs on top ($19.25). Three filets offered a rich, firm flesh, reminiscent of a cross between mahi mahi and halibut. With it came a voluptuous mound of au gratin mashed potatoes--great concept--and a tangy cole slaw.

My companion loved her order of fresh Chilean sea bass ($16.40), again expertly grilled, and accompanied by cherry tomatoes and some rather silly rice pilaf in the same family as Rice-a-roni. And just for the record, the Fish Market's tartar sauce is archetypal.

Looking around us, we quickly picked up on the obvious--dessert is a good idea here. With our waiter's guidance, we chose chocolate seduction ($3.35) and lemon cheesecake ($3.85) to go with our decaf capuccinos ($1.95). Restaurant critics have a technical term to describe desserts like these: "Yeow!" The chocolate was smooth, flourless, essentially a superior fudge frosted with satiny ganache icing in a light oatmeal crust. The cheesecake was like having a lemon meringue pie on top of a creamy homemade cheesecake.

Like everybody else in the place, we liked what we saw--and tasted--at the Fish Market, the newest reason to cruise Blossom Hill Road.


The Fish Market
Cuisine: Fresh seafood
Entrees: $11-$20
Extras: Sushi bar, wine bar, liquor bar, oyster bar, you name it!
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11am-9:30pm (Fri.-Sat. until 10pm); Sun. noon-9:30pm
Address: 1007 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose
Phone: 408/269-FISH

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From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of Metro.

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