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Critic: Nicole Plett. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February
16, 2000. All rights reserved.
Dining Out: The Fish House
Honestly fresh fish and shellfish served in a
and somewhat noisy setting is what you’ll find at the Fish House,
Jim Hamilton’s newest restaurant recently opened in Lambertville.
Located in the middle of town, just off Bridge Street, next to the
canal, the Fish House is right in the swim of things, and making good
on its promise of fresh, top-quality seafood impressively prepared
to enhance but never mask inherent character.
Hamilton, a former Broadway scenic producer with credits that include
"Equus," "Hair," and the Ringling Brothers Circus,
strives to bring a bit of theater to his restaurant spaces. The Fish
House is designed to be more casual than his popular Hamilton’s Grill
Room. It bills its food as "no nonsense fish house fare,"
yet the quality of the dishes my companion and I enjoyed could readily
support a more elegant setting. Executive chef Paul Ripley, who has
been working in New York restaurants for a decade, was recruited from
the New York Yacht Club.
The most active theatrical element here is the kitchen, with a
dining room that wraps around it on all sides, with an open wood
raw bar, and a steaming system which, when opened, emits steam worthy
of Broadway’s best fog machine. Thus located at center stage, chef
and chef’s assistants work busily amidst a clatter of pots, pans,
and dishes. While this makes for a fascinating sight for the
diners, the drawback is the big metal hood and venting ducts that
rise up through the space, accompanied by the persistent sound of
the fan. Even on a recent winter week night, the capacity crowd of
diners, many in groups of four and six, had to raise their voices
above the ambient noise.
The upstairs dining-room, set off by a 40-foot-long mural in pleasing
underwater tones, would seem to offer a quieter locale, particularly
for couples. An intriguing mural, inspired by Russian folk art and
painted on weathered boards by New York artist Ilia Barger, depicts
"The Marriage Ceremony of the Czar’s Daughter to Neptune."
Both daughter, surrounded by her attentive retinue, and czar, are
clearly visible, although I never located Neptune amidst the Russian
Greeting every diner who enters the Fish House is a
glass case filled with an array of seafood on ice that serves double
duty as a retail counter and a preview of things to come. Yes, the
scallops (at $18 per pound) looked just as good here as they proved
on the plate in the form of one of the evening’s entree specials,
Curry Seared Sea Scallops.
Settling into our downstairs table for two about eight feet from the
chef’s serving station, we were offered a selection of appetizers,
priced from $3.75 to $8, that included a special pan roast soup of
scallops and oysters. A raw bar selection is also offered, as well
as seafood and green salads. The bucket of at least 20 large, plump,
tender steamed mussels ($7) selected by my partner would have
served us both. My own house-smoked salmon, impressive and full of
character, was served simply on toasted French bread with a garnish
of red onion and creme fraiche ($7).
From a wide choice of entrees — nothing, by the way, is fried
here — my companion chose the Curry Seared Sea Scallops special.
Priced at $21, this dish was at the high end of the entrees. The
of six sea scallops, lightly dusted in a spice blend and topped with
a dab of pesto, was designed to place the big moist scallops squarely
at center stage. I was equally well pleased by my choice of a regular
menu item, Seared Cod with Ginger Glaze. Modestly priced at $12, this
dish provided a hearty serving of marvelously light, moist cod, with
a hint on crispness on the outside where it met the mild ginger glaze.
Both entrees were accompanied by a tasty mixture of rice, wild rice,
and beluga lentils, and the vegetable of the evening, roasted fennel,
a welcome palate cleanser.
Other entrees include lobster served "any way" at market
a whole fish of the day, seared tuna, crab cakes, grilled Scottish
salmon, seafood pot pie, and a Fisherman’s Pasta plate topped with
eight varieties of fish and shellfish; the latter three all under
The small selection of homemade desserts included fresh peaches
in Port wine, house special bread pudding, creme brulee, or a
chocolate cake topped with cream.
This restaurant is BYOB, with wine service at the table encouraged,
so come prepared.
The Fish House wall of giant stainless-steel fish scales, down which
water customarily cascades, was suffering from frozen pipes the
we dined and non-functional. But this was one of the few flaws at
this new locale that provides a pleasing reminder that we do indeed
live on the Atlantic seaboard.
— Nicole Plett
Open seven days a week; retail fish market opens daily at 10 a.m.
Lunch served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner Monday to
5:30 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. BYOB.
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