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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 21, 2000. All rights reserved.

Dining: Big Fish Bistro

A crowd of more than 600 was treated to a festive opening

bash at the Big Fish Seafood Bistro on Tuesday, June 13, celebrating

the arrival of the newest tenant at MarketFair. Although the tightly

packed crowd was a touch older than the diners you’ll probably meet

there in the future, the mutual attraction was undeniable. Set in

spacious, high-ceilinged quarters on the north side of the mall, with

direct access from the parking lot, the Big Fish offers bar service,

tables, and upholstered booths all designed for high-energy entertaining

and dining fun.

New to Central Jersey, the Big Fish is the latest of 22 restaurant

holdings of the Chuck Muer Restaurant Corporation of Michigan, and

the fifth Big Fish. Distinctive to the MarketFair restaurant is a

reception station that looks like Ariel’s lair and a 12-foot by 10-foot

stone fish sculpture, by Don Brown. A trio of Princeton architects

who were part of the opening day crowd — Annabelle Radcliffe-Trenner,

Max Hayden, and Caroline Hancock — saw this sculpture as a cross

between Michael Graves (who often works with rusticated stone) and

Frank Gehry (known for his affection for fish subjects).

A steel band, Caribbean Sunrise, played for the opening celebration.

Bubbles were everywhere — in the carpeting, in the light fixtures,

in cylindrical tubes along the wall, plus "real" bubbles floating

everywhere. "This one will be a keeper," quipped Ellie Pierce,

events planner at the Mercer Chamber, who came with Sharon Perlman,

also of the chamber.

Erik Huber, the chef, offers eleven kinds of fresh fish that can be

grilled, broiled, sauteed, fried, or blackened at prices ranging from

$10 for farm-raised catfish to $16 for Chilean sea bass. Other traditional

Muer dishes include clam chowder, Maryland crab cakes, seafood pasta,

and Asian sampler (sashimi, noodles, and dumplings in a Bento box).

Huber also is offering regional dish specials such as sea scallops

with pancetta cream, and potato encrusted Arctic char ($17). Huber

promises that he can accommodate special diet requirements, such as

no salt and no fat or low-fat grilled dishes. "It may take a few

extra minutes, but we can do whatever you’d like," he says.

Also featured is a raw bar (six "East Meets West Oysters"

$8.95), housemade soups and salads, lunchtime sandwiches (from $6.95),

and a Really Big Fish Burger ($7.50).

Young professionals will appreciate the pagers provided so that they

can walk the mall while they wait for their table. Big Fish Bistro

also bills itself as "very children friendly," with youngsters

greeted with a tackle box of games and crayons to keep them occupied.

The children’s menu, served at both lunch and dinner, features an

array of staples, all priced at $3.95, including macaroni and cheese,

fish and chips, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and pizza.

Construction was by a Detroit firm, Columbia Construction, and the

architect was Ron Rea of Michigan-based JPRA. Because the MarketFair

location — with its two-story windows and giant mural — is

ideal for Rea’s design for this restaurant, the company expects to

use the Route 1 restaurant as the model for future Big Fishes. "The

inside of the restaurant was intentionally left open and big, yet

still conveys a feeling of warmth due to the use of art, color and

lighting," says Rea. "The view from the street was designed

to give the appearance of looking into a massive aquarium."

To open this restaurant cost $2 million, says James Blake, the corporate

chef, who flew in rare Copper River Salmon for the festivities. Copper

River Salmon is available for just one month out of the year, and

this year’s crop was particularly scanty, so chefs around the country

were pressuring suppliers to get their share. "I had to pull in

some of my markers for this," said Blake.

Dinner service is now underway. Regular lunch service begins Monday,

June 26.

The Big Fish Seafood Bistro, MarketFair, Route 1 South,

West Windsor, 609-919-1179. Lunch and dinner served daily. Lunch prices

from $6.95 to $15.75. Dinner from $9.75 to $18.95. Full bar. Dinner

to 10:30 p.m. weekdays; to 11:30 Fridays and Saturdays; Sundays to

10 p.m.

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