Friday, March 13, 2009

The Great Fish and Chips Search

Friday afternoon blogging: what do you expect, economics? No, my attention shifts elsewhere...

Being the son of an Englishwoman I was bred with an appreciation for fine English cuisine. And there is no finer example of the fine art of English cooking than fish and chips. Okay so maybe you think it is low-brow, but there is not much worse than fish and chips done badly - it becomes a greasy, slimy, tasteless fat fiesta. But done well, the batter is crisp and the fish is moist and juicy and wonderful.

In the US, bad is the norm and good is elusive in the fish and chips world. So I am always on the lookout for good spot. The worst offense in my mind is to try and make it too fancy - using bread crumbs and spices and fancying up the fries just misses the point. Also using too much batter and - gasp - overcooking it are crimes against humanity.

It is a typical pub food and as Oregon is awash with good pubs, you often find it on the menu. But one suspects that in most cases this is just because the pub thinks it 'should' and is not really serious about it. I keep trying however because I am determined to find a great spot for fish and chips.

The best I have had in the last few years was at the McMenamins Corvallis. One summer day me mum and I arrived and both ordered the F&C and a little while later were told that they would be delayed as a new batch of batter had to be whipped up. I suspect this was to our great fortune as, after a wait, the meals arrived piping hot, with absolutely perfectly cooked fish on top of McMenamins perfectly unadorned fries. Mum said it was fabulous and I agreed. But subsequent visits to that and other McPubs have not yielded as good results - the kitchen does not pay enough attention usually is my conclusion - but is probably the best I have yet found on average. Deschutes pub in Portland tries to be too fancy, as does the Rogue pubs, the Thirsty Lion yesterday was decent but not memorable and the Pilsner Room/McCormick and Schmicks use too much/too fancy batter. Glaringly, I have never tried the fish and chips at the Horse Brass, which might be expected to have the best.

So I ask you, fellow fish and chips enthusiasts, where to go next in my quest?

15 comments:

alexis said...

Have you tried Halibut's on Alberta? I'm no expert, and they do fancy it up with different types of fish (including salmon), but it's one of my favorites in town.

Jacob Grier said...

I don't know, but I hope you'll follow up when you find something good. I've also never tried them at the Horse Brass, mainly because I'm always too tempted by the Scotch egg. (Well, that and the fact that my patronage of the place has dropped drastically since the smoking ban took effect.)

Will N said...

You might try Ponzi's Dundee Bistro in Dundee next time you are in wine country. (Tho the truffling of the fries might be too out there for you.)

Torrid said...

Kells makes it pretty well, and last I ate there it was still $9. Paddy's has a light breading, but is now $14 for not as much fish IMO.

I really didn't like Corbett Fish House at all; I think they're trans fat and it was terrible.

Alberta Fish House is good and the guy is serious about his fish.

I thought Full Sail in Hood River was pretty darn good. `

LisaMona said...

Go to your kitchen. Fish and Chips is great home made. All you need is Cod or some similar fish, Flour, Salt, Pepper and very cold Beer. Pale Ale works well. I do not use exact amounts. A Wok with a couple of inches of oil on a high heat gas burner works better than a deep fryer. Drip a drop of batter in the oil, if it sizzles and rises the temp is right. I fry the potatoes in the oven, they are coated in oil and sprinkled with herbs. The whole thing is quick, cheap and quite impressive to guests.

Dann Cutter said...

Old Market Pub and Brewery.

Decent fair, and the beer is excellent. Mix the Black Magic with the Gravelberry for a Blackberry - truly delightful. Add the best damned Rueben I've found, and you'll be happy.

http://www.drinkbeerhere.com/directions/

Doug said...

Newman's Fish Market (near 15th and Willamette in Eugene) is VERY good.

Patrick Emerson said...

Thanks everyone for all of your comments so far. Keep them coming.

LisaMona: it is true that I could probably do it best myself, it is something of a guilty pleasure so I tend to relegate it to the special occasion of dining out in a pub.

Torrid, Kells is a good idea - I'll give them a try.

Dann, I had not known about Old Market. Don't often get out that way, but I'll have to give it a try.

Doug, I'll be in Eugene for a talk in April. I'll see if I can give Newman's a try.

Robert said...

Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport. Fresh, local, simple. The closest I've found to matching the Fish & Chips I remember from growing up in the UK - which, of course, come from Fish & Chip shops, not Pubs (where you are often likely to get a disappointing version).

Patrick Emerson said...

Robert,

Yes, Local Ocean is my favorite seafood spot in Newport, but have never tried their F&C - I will do so.

But excellent point about Fish and Chips in English pubs - often mediocre and pretty much always served with peas. I like peas, but always wondered why...

My best F&C memories are from Fish and Chip shops (or vans) and newspaper wrappings.

Scotland has an interesting take - smother it in brown sauce. I guess just to be different from the English. I prefer malt vinegar but always enjoy local variants. I stop at Haggis though.

Robert said...

Getting a little off topic, but if you get the chance to try Haggis (preferably in Scotland) I would recommend it.

Patrick Emerson said...

Robert,

I have actually had a go at Haggis. I went to a wonderful Edinburgh restaurant called Stac Polly - highly recommended - had a bit of my mate's Haggis. It was not the taste, but the idea. I am a bit squeamish, so frogs legs and snails are a bit much for me as well - though I DO try!

Mick said...

Go to "The Fish and Chip Shop" 1218 N. Killingsworth St. www.thefishandchipshop.com and your search will be over

Patrick Emerson said...

Mick,

I just read about this place in the Portland Monthly Mag and, in fact, was going to go today but couldn't. Perhaps tomorrow. Looks perfect! I shall report when I have sampled the goods. Thanks!

Eva said...

That you were able to find decent Fish and Chips in the U.S. is mind boggling; sounds like a business opportunity to me, should you have enough expats over there. Or you could just open a real pub and do traditional pub fare as it should be...I'm sure they'd love that over there. Maybe.