Last night I was invited by my blogger pal Vicky (Momwhoruns) to another one of her great Media Nights with fellow food bloggers.
This one was at SEA WITCH Fish & Chips on St. Clair Ave. West. About a dozen food bloggers left the restaurant with very full bellies after sampling a few of their menu items.
We were welcomed by Co-owner Jacki Strahl who provided us with all of the dishes and the details of their restaurant and it's menu. Strahl and her husband Kevin Kowalczyk have only been open for about 8 months but the restaurant is already getting a lot of great reviews including a nod from Chris Nuttal-Smith in the Globe and Mail who said it was one of the best new restaurants.
Kevin was the former fry cook at the now defunct Penrose Fish and Chips where he spent many years perfecting the art of battering and frying fish. Jacki Strahl was also the owner of a pub in Richmond Hill where she spent many hours training staff and keeping the restaurant going. Jacki sold her restaurant 4 years ago after having kids and wanting to change the direction of their family life.
They searched for a location in their area which they knew was a great place with lots of different restaurants with a great community feel. They found their spot just around the corner from where they live and snapped it up quickly but took their time in creating the design of the store and the decor has a slightly nautical theme and mostly sort of an old world fish and chips shop. Lot's of old wood in their booths and tables and chairs.
They also thought carefully about their menu and chose to keep the menu simple and true to classic fish and chip shops from days gone by where the menu is comprised of all made from scratch foods.
They make their own hand cut fries, fresh made daily classic coleslaw. They cut their fish and do all their prep each morning and their is a guy assigned to only chipping potatoes.
They are an Ocean wise partner and try to get at least 20-25% of their fish that is sustainable.
They serve 5 different types of fish, Halibut, Pickerel, Pacific Cod, Artic Char and Atlantic Haddock.
MEDIA TASTING MENU included:
The Witch's Brew (house chowder) a very classic and simple chowder with potatoes, carrots, onions and corn and I think it was Haddock that they used. This was really back to basics with the seasonings of thyme and bay leaf. Not fancy but kind of what chowder originated as.
Halibut Cakes (aka Market Croquettes), They halibut cakes were perfectly seasoned with a balance of sweetness from the chopped vegetables inside. The pan fried cake was crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside and served with their house made pickled onions.
Onion Rings - the onion rings are made with the same simple 3 ingredient batter that they fry their fish in. It's just onions coated in batter and fried. Once again simple. No chefy tricks.
ColeSlaw - The coleslaw is a vinegar based slaw but very mild on the vinegar and not the usual punch of processed coleslaw. It's just fresh cabbage and carrots and onions and all the things that belong in coleslaw.
Halibut & Chips - The Chips are all hand cut daily and they go through tons of buckets of them. The ocean wish Halibut fish is battered in a special 3 ingredient process and cooked in Beef Towel an unsaturated natural fat that makes them golden brown and very crispy on the outside and the interior is light and moist and perfectly cooked.
Sweets - We also tried 2 of their rotating selection of cookies. One was a pecan shortbread cookie and the other was a 3 layer bar of shortbread, caramel and chocolate. Jacki said she started off baking pies but I guess it made more sense to have small grab bag sized treats that you can pick up from a tackle box on the counter. A very cute idea. The cookies were very good.
Even though Kowalczyk worked at Penrose he wanted to change some of the way he did things in his own restaurant and eliminated all the processed things like the tartar sauce and coleslaws and that's why they kept the menu short and simple and wanted to focus on just making great fish and chips and not have a million things that take away from the quality control of the fish.
If you want some great Fish & Chips from a nice little local shop then this is the place to go and support a nice family business and the nice owners Jacki and Kevin.