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I've never been one for card games, but, boy, do I like Go Fish.
That, of course, is Go Fish seafood restaurant, a lovely spot no more than a stone's throw from the Mystic Aquarium.
Allow me to set the scene:
Walking into Go Fish with my wife and son on a recent Sunday afternoon, we were greeted by a wall of blown and stained glass fish of fantastic shapes and colors. They were enough to amaze any 3-year-old boy, including my little man. I noticed, too, the lunchtime crowd was kid-friendly, with families stopping by after trips to the aquarium or Mistick Village.
The atmosphere was casually elegant and fun. The black painted ceilings, fish prints and aqua blue water glasses at every table brought to mind a Fort Lauderdale-esque fantasy: pleasure boats, the Intercoastal, dock-side bars and grilles, swordfish and frozen drinks.
The music in the dining area was a well-picked mix of classic rock, '80s pop and your standard guilty pleasures.
Go Fish has been around a while now - December 1996, to be exact - and it markets itself as an "innovative seafood restaurant," serving up standards like fish and chips, clam chowder and lobster bisque as well as offerings from a sushi bar, raw bar, wine bar and coffee bar.
I enjoyed the bursts of the sea that were my Blue Point and Ninigret oysters ($2.50 each). I rode the appetizer wave to dry land, too, sampling the jerk chicken soup. This nicely balanced mix of rice, tomato, carrots, celery, kidney beans and chicken had a Cajun subtlety to it and a delayed kick. Indeed, I reached for my pencil and yellow legal pad to note it was less spicy than I'd expected, when the time-released zing hit me. Hey now!
For my main course I went with the fish tacos, three soft tortillas with crispy fried cod, Southwestern cabbage slaw and Mexican crema ($16). Separate bean and standard tomato salsas came on the side and made this an impressive take on Tacos de Pescado. The salsas provided complexity, the fish brought in the texture and the crema added moisture and flavor (teamwork, teamwork). This meal surprised, it refreshed, it delighted.
My wife's black pepper salmon sandwich ($12.50) was, as an art gallery curator might say, built on juxtaposition. Its charred and crispy exterior was a flavorful and well-seasoned introduction to the moist salmon meat below (upon first bite, I let out a bellow). A brioche bun and side of chips came together in culinary matrimony to make this a top-notch lunch option. I'd say if you prefer to walk on the blander side of the street, the potent black pepper taste might not be for you. If you're an adventurous eater, you'll be generously rewarded.
My son, the staunch traditionalist in the family, went with the fish and chips (kids: $8, adults: $17), and I tried it. It was flaky and moist. The thick batter was an ideal complement to the medium cut fries. While fish and chips is standard fare at the restaurants of coastal New England, this one is a cut above for both its conceptualization and its execution.
The portions at Go Fish are reasonable, enough to satiate but not too large to spoil dessert. This brings me to our final courses: the tartufo ($7.50) and pecan cookie ($7.50).
The tartufo was a delectably sweet ball of chocolate ice cream surrounded in a dusting of hazelnut tuile. Semi-sweet chocolate sauce and whipped cream played supporting roles that could not be overlooked. A more sophisticated man might compare this dessert to velvet or silk. I'll just call it smooth and not overly sweet.
But, with no insult intended to the tartufo, I'd say the pecan cookie took the cake. The name - pecan cookie - was a bit modest, though. This dessert was a serving of two liberal scoops of pecan ice cream topped with caramel drizzle. The cookie was more the accent, an exclamation point, if you will. Reminiscent of a waffle cone, this thin, though not delicately so, cookie balanced salty and sweet in a high-wire act both whimsical and bold. A dusting of cinnamon and sugar added texture and taste. In all, it was one of the more memorable desserts of my recent dining experiences.
27 Coogan Blvd. #22, Mystic
Service: Friendly and attentive
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 4:30-9: p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9 p.m.
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover
Handicapped access: Wheelchair accessible