We all have our strengths. Chef Chris Svalesen, for example, is a diligent, industrious worker who’d just as soon be sweating in the kitchen as schmoozing out front.
The guy also has a sense of style. Fish, his millennium seafood restaurant in downtown Dallas, was well-funded and thus elegantly appointed. By contrast, 36 Degrees, his last place in the recently shuttered Hamburger Mary’s space on Lemmon Avenue, was a shoestring deal, yet he still made it feel like a chic supper club. And now Go Fish, which he’s opened with financier Mike Hoque, already has a crackle and buzz you might not expect in an Addison strip center.
But the strength that’ll go on the gravestone is that Svalesen knows fish. This skill may not get much note in the land of steaks, even as we gratefully welcome Oceanaire Seafood Room, McCormick & Schmick’s, et cetera into our realm. But Svalesen’s fish smarts, acknowledged by, among other sources, Esquire magazine and the James Beard house (where he was invited to cook), rank on a national level. He knows how to cut fish, and he knows how to cook it.
The Go Fish dish that hammers this home is the ahi. Zzzz, uh-huh, lots of restaurants are searing ahi these days. It’s starting to feel a mite trite. But get ready to embrace every pathetic cliché you’ve kicked to the curb, because the tuna at Go Fish will have you high-fiving your friends while exclaiming, “Good times!” and finding the beauty in a drop of rain.
The dish held two mighty chunks of tuna, cut on the diag, accompanied by a couple of shrimp and a slaw made of shredded carrot and thin strands of purple cabbage in a cilantro-spiked dressing. The tuna was, yes, seared, its interior as raw and red as rare steak.
The tuna was definitely higher, fatter, and rosier than the other brands, but it wasn’t just size or visual appeal that set it apart. It was the way the triangles of soft flesh had been cut, with the savvy of a sushi master, so that no little hairline strings of fat got in the way. Sliding a fork down was effortless; a bowl of Jell-O would have put up more of a fight.
Never mind the damn fork; sinking your teeth into it was even better. First came the seared edge: browned, crisp, slightly shriveled from the heat, with a pale, salty undertone. From there, it was like a blissful descent into a smooth, slick pool, as the cooler flesh melted in the mouth, then collapsed. The shrimp were a crunchy contrast, thanks to their thick tempura crust, as bodacious as a beer batter.
Svalesen has deep sources for Copper River salmon. (In 2003, he nearly opened a restaurant on McKinney Avenue called Copper River, until his financing fell through.) The particulars might change from night to night; in June, he was serving it with a handful of mussels that again generated a sense of rediscovery. Mussels are easy and readily available, which is why so many restaurants offer them, but these were cooked to prime tenderness, not a second more.
[inline_image id=”1″ align=”” crop=””]Despite the name, Go Fish has the obligatory chops such as lamb, pork, and steak. His initial stab at a ribeye was to grill it in a straightforward manner that somehow made a juicy piece of meat dull. He’s since sexed it up with a peppercorn crust and replaced the mashed potatoes with pommes dauphines, his upscale version of tater tots. Sirloin steak salad, with sliced sirloin splayed over a bed of heavily dressed lettuce, was a good deal at $14.
Lobster bisque and clam chowder both started out right with good stocks, made more complex with seafood and cream. Appetizers took small spins on convention: crab claws with a ladle of spinach béchamel and calamari with hot pepper bits to add some bite. Members of the green-soup cult will thrill to hear that his chile-warmed version of bouillabaisse is at Go Fish, though in an economized version, with snow crab replacing the lobster.
Desserts rotate, so seek out the dense, eggy bread pudding made not with bread but with croissants and streaked with fat veins of chocolate. Svalesen always does a nice job on house bread. This time, it’s flatbread crackers studded with black sesame seeds and soft breadsticks sprinkled with coarse salt.
While we all have our strengths, no one is without weaknesses, and for Go Fish, that would be service, which was mostly masculine and a little rough around the edges. It’s a good group of unusual personalities, but there seemed to be some gaps between orders placed and orders served.
Another Svalesen signature is champagne by the glass at below-market price. At Fish, it was Veuve Clicquot. Now it’s the superior, less-hackneyed Taittinger, only $8 per. That’s the kind of thing that helps elevate the elegance factor, though Go Fish already has it going on with its stone-laid patio in front, small bar at the entrance, and pervasive cosmopolitan vibe. We all have our strengths; few of us have so many. 4950 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 190, Addison. 972-980-1919. $$-$$$.