On Thursday night I joined an old coworker for dinner at a little place in the Mission called Weird Fish. This coworker recently left the place I work for greener pastures. It's all going great for her but part of her new job is to do the kind of work that I do, at which she's a little rusty. So she offered me a swap: a good piece of fish and a glass of wine for whatever kernels of wisdom I might be able to scrape together to help her avoid too many bumps in the road.
Weird Fish has been written up a bit over the last year, including a short feature in The New York Times. In addition to having a cool hipster vibe, they serve sustainably farmed fish and locally grown vegetables. I was curious to check it out.
To cut to the chase, there were things I liked and things I didn't. Let's start with the good stuff:
* Cool atmosphere. It feels like an authentic fish house. It's casual, there are weathered wooden tables and benches, a chalkboard with specials, and handkerchiefs for napkins.
* Friendly and funny service. Our waiter was a deadringer in looks and manner for the Crabman from "My Name is Earl." He talked about the specials in ambiguous terms we didn't understand that seemed mostly to relate to how happy they made him feel and not how they were prepared. Whether he was stoned or naturally blissful, there was no denying his charisma, which went a long way in furthering the good vibe of the place.
* The fish. I had steelhead, pan-seared with an olive and caper sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce a delicious complement.
Now for the downsides:
*The seating. While there are some small tables, a portion of the tables are for communal seating. We had a choice: either the bar or a shared table. I'm not much for communal seating and neither was my friend. Communal eating reminds me of my college dining hall. Ugh. We opted for the bar.
* The menu. Two problems here. One is that much of the menu was fried. Don't get me wrong--I can eat fried fish, and I do. But, when the menu is largely divided between different fish and chip combos and lightly-battered tacos, I start to yearn for lighter fare. So, ultimately I did like the steelhead, but it was also the only thing I wanted to order. The second problem was that everything was a la carte. So when I ordered my fish, it arrived all by its lonesome. My friend had suggested we order the sweet potato home fries to share, which was a good idea for variety, although I wasn't too impressed with them. (Sidebar: I think if I never saw a home fry again, I'd be fine. Does every single breakfast, crepe, and fish place have to serve them, most often too oily and smothered in rosemary? Home fries seem so 1995.) This a la carte business, I don't get it. I don't want to assemble a whole plate of food when I go to a restaurant. I want the chef to have some of his/her own ideas. You show me what works.
There was something else about the menu that turned me off, although I think some people would really dig it. Every night they have a "Suspicious Fish" dish. The waiter will only divulge a few hints about the dish, so you order at your own risk. Crabman told us that that night's Suspicious Fish was "really, really good and had something orange in it and a really common green herb." Forget it. I like to know what I've ordered--I at least want a general outline of what's headed my way. So, that concept seemed gimmicky to me. But, I'm sure there are people who order the Suspicious Fish every single time, just for the sheer excitement.
Overall, I'd give Weird Fish a B. It's good, but I probably won't go back. I have to give props to the Crabman though, as he did something I thought was very nice at the end of the meal. My friend had ordered a second glass of wine and I decided to pass, as two full glasses make me a menace behind the wheel. When he brought her second glass, he also brought over the bottle of wine I had ordered (a spicy Roshambo zinfandel) and poured me an extra third of a glass so she wouldn't drink alone. I thought that was a nice touch--gave me the feeling of being at a friend's house, which now, thinking more about it, kind of makes me want to return.
Weird Fish is located at 2193 Mission Street, San Francisco.