2 1/2 Bells for Fish
If Craig LaBan gave half-bells you know that he would have awarded at least 2 1/2 and maybe 2 3/4 bells to Mike Stollenwerk’s fish. In fact he holds a third bell out like a carrot to the Center City South seafood restaurant.
A cracker-skinned and flaky suzuki (Japanese bass) came over creamy orzo filled with tiny clams, crispy nuggets of house-cured bacon, and a spicy flicker of fresh fresno chiles threaded with preserved lemon. Pan-roasted monkfish were paired with an earthily exotic Madras curry of butternut squash, mussels and chewy couscous beads of fregola sarda. Crisply seared skate wing over spaetzle in parmesan broth practically fanned the aroma of shaved French truffles, the decadence was so intense. Red snapper with gigante white beans, piquillo peppers, and cuminy chorizo was evocative of a Spanish pantry.
Two simpler offerings – a Thai-curried mussel pot and a classic bowl of fines herbes-steamed littlenecks – proved familiar doesn’t equal dull. With attention to great ingredients (like those slightly larger but more flavorful wild littlenecks), these alone were worth returning for.