Expanding the boundaries of seafood
Angler San Francisco
Joshua Skenes is “redefining the San Francisco fish house,” said Tejal Rao in The New York Times. The local chef, known for Saison, a small three-Michelin-starred restaurant where the tasting menu starts at $400 a head, recently created a spacious second restaurant where the bulk of the seafood is caught off the Pacific Coast, not half a world away. That leads to some odd sights: sausage-colored sea cucumbers, translucent jellyfish, purple sea urchins. Given the odd catch, “it helps that jellyfish and sea urchin taste good.” The first is served diced and raw with a dipping sauce; the urchins are pureed before being returned to their shells, and “they taste like a sweet and salty custard.” Petrale sole, a “plainly hideous” local flatfish, is beautiful here—grilled over the kitchen’s open fire and lacquered with a butter sauce. But Angler isn’t only, or even mostly, an educational experience. “The restaurant, overlooking the Bay Bridge, is grand fun, well-lit and expensively designed, with a deep wine list and a hunting lodge feel.” 132 The Embarcadero, (415) 872-9442
Saint Julivert Brooklyn
When you glance through the front window of Saint Julivert, “nothing about the restaurant suggests it’s a boundary-pushing establishment,” said Ryan Sutton in Eater.com. A small storefront nestled among $5 million Cobble Hill brownstones, it attracts a crowd that looks very J.Crew. The menu, however, thrills. Thanks to the inventiveness of chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Saint Julivert “succeeds more than any other venue in channeling the world’s oceans into a distinctly New York expression of maritime internationalism.” Start with a plate of gooseneck barnacles. They’re ugly, but also one of the world’s great delicacies, and “each bite is unique.” From there, the cooking becomes more adventurous. Oysters plumped under the broiler sit on layers of pig ear and kombu that have been doused in chile oil. Jamaican spices add “nuclear-powered” aromas to blackened yellowtail collar, which is wonderful paired with the Puerto Rican corn fritters. Really, though, “order anything except for the bland tuna bake” and you’ll be glad you visited Saint Julivert. 264 Clinton St., (347) 987-3710
Alewife Richmond, Va.
Lee Gregory has just the right seasoning for a seafood chef, said Genevelyn Steele in Richmond magazine. At his new restaurant in Church Hill, “passion runs deep” in every dish, but the three-time James Beard semifinalist plays off the familiar rather than scorning it. A typical Alewife entrée is like a New York Dolls song—“edgy but familiar, comfortable but creative.” Gregory focuses here on the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay and on fish that have no catch limits, such as smelt, sardines, and skate. The Siren Song, a platter of five or so ever-changing appetizers, might include yakitori-grilled rockfish collar or crab claws scented with Old Bay. Credit Gregory’s chef de cuisine for creating the orecchiette with rock shrimp and a “funky, tangy” Alfredo sauce made with miso. But it, too, manifests Gregory’s ethic. From its skate to its wagyu flank steak, Alewife stands for a few simple principles: quality ingredients prepared by practiced hands. For weeks I’ll be reliving my last meal there, bite for bite, knowing that “when I go back, they’ll be better still in reality.” 3120 E. Marshall St., (804) 325-3426 ■