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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,
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
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