Scaling new heights
I don't know about you, but I believe when a restaurant calls itself Tha Fish, there's little point in going there to order steak.
They may well be perfectly adept at preparing and serving steak, but if they’ve set their stall out to tell the world fish is their speciality, I’m going to give the fish a go.
So, we do just that on a recent lunch visit.
Arriving without a reservation is no problem.
We’re seated promptly and quickly offered cold water and menus.
Though, on reflection, a reservation is not a bad idea if you’ve got your heart set on seafood here.
The restaurant fills up quickly and by the time we’re leaving, it’s packed.
For those who think fish is a straightforward thing, think again.
There are multiple choices, and that’s just the menus.
You can have a budget-conscious $20 lunch special, which looks great judging by our next-door table neighbours, who plough through massive plates of fish, chips and salad with crusty bread and glasses of cold white wine.
Or you can order from the lunch menu, which seems to have plenty of variety, with starters such as salt and pepper whitebait with lime aioli ($5.90) or spanner crab bruschetta with tomato, caper and rocket ($12.50).
Main courses include mussels in tomato, vanilla and curry leaf broth served with bread for mopping ($29.90) or creamy clam and corn chowder with crab, salmon pearls and truffle oil ($19.90).
We delve further, however, and are enticed by “Tha Fish List” a menu which changes fortnightly and consists of six fish dishes that offer the option of inter‑changeable fish to style of cooking.
For example, my dining companion likes the sound of the coral trout with fatboy chips and a walnut, grape, celery and apple salad drizzled with goat’s cheese and honey dressing ($37.90), but would rather not have his fish battered, so requests it grilled.
Without hesitation, the waiter agrees and his meal arrives exactly to his liking.
Two juicy pieces of fish on massive wedges with a delightful aioli on the side for dipping.
His first impression is, “They could have spared a couple more chips”, as they number just four (though they are substantial).
On completion, however, he concedes, “It really is sufficient”.
I am torn between two barramundi dishes.
The first, a baked whole baby barra with dry red curry sauce, Asian greens and jasmine rice ($35.90) sounds mouth-watering, but in the end I opt for something less challenging (read, needing finger bowl usage).
I am not disappointed.
My baked barramundi with lemon pepper beurre blanc, asparagus, snow peas and crispy kipfler potatoes ($32.90) is beautifully presented.
There’s just the right amount of sauce to ensure the fish is not overwhelmed, greens are al dente and spuds a little decadent.
Overall, both meals are satisfying and indulgent, yet still on the right side of healthy.
In truth, both, though quite different, are posh variations on fish and chips.
Service is slick, yet you’re never made to feel hurried, friendly without being pushy and consistently down-to-earth.
One multilingual waiter makes South American guests feel right at home, seizing a chance to polish up his Spanish.
You get the impression the staff all want you to enjoy your meal and leave feeling better for having been there.
There’s an extensive cocktail list and ample beers and spirits and the wine list is really well thought out with mainly Aussie and New Zealand offerings and a couple of French specials.
When it comes to wine, most tastes are catered for.
You can shop at the top end with a $400 bottle of Cristal champagne, choose from a good selection of perfectly enjoyable bottles around the $40 mark, or opt for a glass or two, with prices feasible for experimentation.
With 21 wines by the glass (two bubbles, 11 whites, one rose and seven reds), there’s enough range.
Tha Fish has always marketed itself as a fish eatery, firmly focusing on what it clearly does best.
However, should the occasion arise when one in a party requires something other than ocean bounty, you could feel confident the rest of the menu would be handled more than competently.
Tha Fish? Yes, please.
Tha Fish, Pier Point Rd. Phone 4041 5350.
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Kyle Ronnfeldt with a stunning fish dish at Tha Fish restaurant. photo // Tom Lee