Forget everything you know about fish and chips. Because you’ve never actually had them until you’ve eaten them at Fish Story.
Imagine, if you will, angel wings of beer batter and flour gently floating over moist, flaky local rock cod. Take it for a salty, vinegary dunk. Cram it all into your mouth until your tongue sizzles and burns. Finish with a soul-satisfying crunch against your back molars. Kennebec french fries soak up wayward morsels of oil and fish and batter, all the more delightful for their service.
Best. Ever. And that’s no fish story.
Perched at the edge of the Napa River in the enviably cool Riverfront development (home to Morimoto and the soon-to-open Tyler Florence eatery, Rotisserie & Wine), this Lark Creek Restaurant Group (Bradley Ogden & crew) opening is a biggie.
At the helm is Chef Steven Barber who left BarbersQ to open the restaurant. A restaurant veteran of MECCA and Bambu in SF, he’s long been on the critic’s radar and will likely get plenty of nods for his this new venture.
With daily menu updates, the restaurant sources fish and shellfish according to the notoriously strict sustainability guidelines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and Barber’s using the former Copia gardens to farm herbs and produce. So don’t expect to see swordfish on the menu anytime soon.
Here’s the fork-11.
The Food: It’s a lengthy menu broken down in to Raw Bar, Soups & Salads, Starters, Rolls & Burgers, Features, Today’s Fish and Seasonal Sides.
You’re here for fish, so don’t miss the freshest flavors of the sea in their simplest form. Fish Story is bringing in seafood from around the US (and beyond), so you’ll find Massachusetts clams, Florida Shrimp, Hawaiian ahi tuna tartar (yes a usually yawn-worth menu inclusion, but given an incredible prep with hazelnut oil, avocado mousse and Fresno chili, $14). Fish Towers are date-impressers in three sizes (Keeper, $36; Whopper, $68 and Moby Dick, $99) showcasing a variety of shellfish. Of course bigger is always better.
Fried Monterey Bay Calamari ($10.5)and Fried Ipswich Full Belly Clams ($14) are getting high marks, but there’s no denying Fish Story’s take on the East Coast “Roll” — Bay Shrimp, Maine Lobster or Dungeness Crab. Its a wedge of soft bread stuffed with huge chunks of (in my case) lobster gently dressed with mayo and spices ($21).
Opening entrees include Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab ($18.5 for half/$34 whole), North Bay Cioppino ($26), pan-roasted Halibut and Grilled Idaho Trout ($18.5), along with the Rock Cod Fish & Chips (made with house-brewed Fish Story Ale, $16.5), and Shrimp and Grits ($19). There are, of course, several non-seafood options for abstainers. But come on, really?
Today’s Fish is similar in concept to what’s done over at Go Fish — a selection of daily fish prepared simply with a choice of sides, salsa verde or citrus butter ($17 to $39). Sometimes simplicity is best. And for dessert, don’t miss a cup of the Lark Creek group’s signature butterscotch pudding.
The Drinks: Wines on tap are a nice touch, and the Fish Story Ale on draft is currently “arriving soon” though other beers and speciality cocktails are available. A fresh blended lemonade ($3.95) and other mocktails make for a less tipsy indulgence.
The Vibe: The dining room isn’t huge, and even at lunch can fill up as eaters gawk at the live lobster tanks and spectacular riverside views. If you’re reservation-less, pull up to the bar, where service is polished and you can gab with your neighbors. Don’t feel the need to dress up, this is strictly casual. There’s a kids’ menu, so the nippers are welcome as well.
The Outlook: Things seem to be going swimmingly for Fish Story, a much-needed seafood-centric eatery that lets its fish do the talking. Beyond fresh and local, Fish Story walks the walk with serious sustainability as well.
Fish Story: 790 Main Street, Napa, 251-5600. Open M-F for lunch 11:30 to 2:30pm, Dinner Sun-Th, 5:30 to 9:30pm, Fri/Sat 5:30 to 10pm.