Tag Archives: seafood

New Orleans Food Tour: GW Fins

Chasing the Eclipse: Gastronomic Notes from a Trip to New Orleans and Dallas.

My first venture into a seafood restaurant was phenomenal

I don’t think I’d ever been to a seafood restaurant. I like white fish well enough, but I’m not a fun of any of crustaceans, red fish or any other sea creatures. Mike, as most people, loves seafood, but as most regular restaurants also serve seafood, he doesn’t usually feel deprived. So it was somewhat surprising, even to myself, that I decided to make a reservation at GW Fins for one of our only three dinners in New Orleans. My thought was that New Orleans is such a seafood city, that I couldn’t go to the city and not have fish at least once. And if I was going to have fish, I might as well have it in a restaurant that specializes in it.

GW Finn was highly recommended as one of the best restaurants in New Orleans in a number of publications and reddit posts, plus it was located only a few blocks from our hotel. I did read a comment that there was nothing particularly New Orleans about this restaurant – seafood restaurants of this sort exist in many major American cities -, but I figured not all of our meals in New Orleans needed to feature Creole food. In all, I’m very glad we went, as we (or really, I) had an amazing meal.

We had celebrated our thirty-first anniversary early during our February trip to New York City, but we had skipped going out to dinner on the actual date in favor of celebrating it once more in New Orleans. GW Fins welcomed us with a table decorated with sparkles and a ribbon-wrapped menu to take home. I thought it was a beautiful detail.

GW’s menu changes somewhat depending on what is available at the fish market that day, though not all of the seafood is local. Our waiter was very helpful in indicating what was. In addition to seafood, the menu includes entrees with chicken, pork and beef. Vegetarians, however, are out of luck unless they want to eat salad and sides.

I started my meal with a Poached Pear Salad (baby arugula, Danish blue cheese, candied walnuts, red grapes, balsamic reduction – $13). Seldom have I had a more perfectly balanced and well dressed salad. It was just delicious. The only minus were the poached pears themselves, which had been poached with cinnamon and other apple pie spices. This gave them a discordant note with the rest of the salad, though they were good in themselves. I think this salad would be much better with pears poached in plain water. But still, minus the pears, it was perfect.

Mike had the Lobster Bisque (Maine lobster, cognac crème fraîche – $14). They bring you a soup plate with large chunks of lobster and then they pour the bisque on top of it. Mike was wild about just how good it was – both the lobster itself and the creamy bisque. It might have been the best lobster bisque he’s had. I think I’ll try to recreate it for him when I go back to cooking.

I had a very hard time deciding on what actual fish dish I was going to get. The menu had a number of interesting, and even scary choices. Finally, I went with the wood grilled Golden Tilefish (sweet potato hash, chipotle butter, crisp plantains, pineapple basil glaze – $38) and it was phenomenal. Much to Mike’s chagrin, I couldn’t stop raving about it as I was eating it. First, the wood grilling of the fish was genius. It gave it a smoky flavor that contrasted very well with the sweetness of the sauce. And then, the combination of flavors and textures was just on point. Whoever is in the kitchen devising dishes like this deserves a raise. Flavors were both novel and balanced.

The tilefish itself had a mild flavor, so it was perfect to go along with all the other ones. The portion was substantial – so much so, that I was too full for dessert afterwards.

Mike, unfortunately, was much less lucky with his choice. He had loved the redfish we’d had at Brigtsen’s the night before, so he decided on the cast iron blackened Wild Redfish (fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, chili hollandaise, corn butter – $37). The main problem was the rub on the fish. It was a generic Creole rub, that made the fish taste just of that. It wasn’t as much bad, as lazy and unimaginative. If you are going to use a Creole rub, it should be better than what I can put together in my home kitchen. That said, Mike really liked the fish. He felt it was perfectly cooked, and liked how the redfish was meatier and less flaky than other white fish such as cod. He also liked the shrimp – though he generally dislikes having to remove heads and tails himself, and loved the shrimpy sauce. I liked it too, it had plenty of umami flavor.

GW Finn also needs to be noted for their biscuits and butter. The warm biscuits were incredible, they came apart by just looking at them, but they were very tasty.

Service was very good as well – out waiter went patiently over the menu, told us what fish were local and was very attentive. He made us feel quite special and welcomed. We did notice that most of the customers were white, while most of the service staff were people of color. This did make us feel mildly uncomfortable, though I’m not sure what the restaurant could do about it.

GW Fins
808 Bienville St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 581-3467
Su-Th: 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm
F-Sa: 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

New Orleans Food Tour

Pacific Catch in Dublin is a Fun Place for Drinks & Seafood

I’m celebrating my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM) and this time my friend Elektra took me out to dinner to Pacific Catch in Dublin. Pacific Catch is a Bay Area chain of restaurants (with one location in La Jolla) serving seafood dishes inspired by the cultures surrounding the Pacific ocean. It feels like an updated version of a tiki restaurant, though their drinks are more plebeian. Presentation and the fusion of Asian flavors and cuisine does seem to be the point here, however. And seafood.

The Dublin restaurant is located at a supermarket-centered shopping center, so in the middle of suburbia. It has a fairly large dining room with a bar, a covered patio enclosed with plastic sheet walls and several roofed, walled but open to the air tiki booths set on the sidewalk (to call it that), between the restaurant and the parking lot. These are made from canes and are quite attractive, save for the fact that your view is of the parking lot and the big block stores beyond it. Some plants might have improved the look. But still, you get a whole booth to yourself and there is plenty of open air, so you can feel quite safe COVID-wise. Unfortunately, neither servers nor managers wore masks – and while they didn’t get close enough that I felt this was an issue for our sake, I didn’t feel they were safe spending time indoors maskless.

The restaurant also seems to have some free standing tables outside, though I didn’t see them well, and they do have heat lamps for them. For the booths, they have firepits that they put at the entrance. I don’t know how well these work, but there wasn’t one in front of ours and it did get a bit chilly as the evening progressed – fortunately I’d come prepared with a shawl for this eventuality.

We started our dinner with drinks – my third one this week and probably my last one until my next birthday. I’m just not much of a drinker. I had a caramelized piña colada ($15), which was sweeter than usual but otherwise not particularly remarkable. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but few piña coladas aren’t good – that’s why I order them. Elektra was happier with her island mule ($12), which she thought was very good

Next, we shared the pupu platter ($29), which came with three coconut shrimp, a small macaroni salad, two each ahi tataki bombs, chicken katsu musubis and bbq pork skewers, some pickled ginger and little bowls of a very sweet & sour sauce and a tangy chimichurri.

I’m not a fan of shrimp but Elektra, who does like them, felt these were too sweet. She felt that the chimichurri sauce helped balanced them, and wouldn’t eat them without it. The sauce itself was very tasty, and I finished it off with the French fries from my main dish. I also don’t like macaroni salad and that was a good thing as Elektra found this one very disappointing. We both did enjoy the ahi tataki “bombs”, which consisted of rice with a sweet soy sauce wrapped with a fried wonton skin and topped with a sesame crusted slice of raw lightly seared ahi tuna. The flavor of the tuna was a bit overwhelmed by al the other flavors on the platter – sesame seeds included, but everything in the bombs worked well together. The chicken katsu musbis, meanwhile, were sort of a failure. The chicken katsu and seasoned rice itself was pretty good (though I thought it was pork rather than chicken), but the sweet flavors were completely incongruent with the seaweed wrappers. I think it also had a seasoned mayo inside which Elektra didn’t like, but which didn’t bother me. Finally, the bbq pork skewers were tasty, but one of my two bites was pure gristle – I couldn’t eat any of it. Pork is a fairly cheap meat, this was an expensive plate, and they really should have used a better cut.

We had barely started on our appetizers, when the main dishes were brought to the table – something Pacific Catch might want to work on, as that meant by the end our meal we were eating lukewarm food (in particular, as we were outdoors). I had the 3-pieces of fish & chips ($19), which consisted of fried Alasklan cod, coleslaw and french fries of your choice. The choices included plain fries, sweet potato fries, fries spiced with furikake and fries with some other spice mix, which I don’t recall. I went for the furikake fries. The fish itself was fine, though not terribly remarkable. It probably needed more seasoning (on the fish itself, not the batter), and it definitely benefitted from being bathed in malt vinegar (the single slice of lemon juice wasn’t enough) and being dipped into the tartar sauce. The furikake fries were a tiny spicy but also otherwise unremarkable. I’m not a huge fan of french fries any more, and these ones didn’t convince me to become one.

Pacific Catch’s current special menu features three composite plates of items inspired by the cuisines of Hawaii, Japan or Korea. Some of these items are also available as appetizers or appear in the pupu platter we had as an appetizer. Elektra decided on the Japanese platter ($34) for her main entrée.

Overall, she liked the composition of the plate and the variety of textures and flavors. Like the pupu platter, the Japanese platter came with two ahi tataki bombs, but it also had a piece of grilled salmon served on a bed of Brussels sprouts okonimayki, a seaweed salad, steamed edamame and another veggie salad. Elektra liked the grilled salmon, though I vaguely remember her complaining it was mildly overcooked. It came with a mayo-based dressing she wasn’t a fond of, however, but she did like the pickled ginger. She is a big fan of Brussels sprouts and enjoyed these ones. She was also a fan of the seaweed salad which had a sesame dressing that brightened up its flavor. She found the edamame’s crunchiness to be a nice break from the other dishes and overall liked the salad. It also had a mayo-based dressing that she wasn’t too happy about, but she appreciated that it was lightly applied. She was happy to find tomatoes, not a usual thing on Japanese dishes. Overall, she liked her plate and had more comments that I cannot remember.

Pacific Catch’s weakness is desserts. It seems they feel they have to offer them, but they’re not really into them. Apparently, they used to have more but they realized it took too much time and effort to make them inhouse and now they outsource them. It shows.

They only offer four desserts, including a scoop of ice cream ($5) and a mochi fondue ($9) consisting of 3 small mochi balls to dip in a chocolate sauce. Instead, we shared the other two:

I got the Crispy Dulce de Leche “Spring Roll” ($9), which were basically eggrolls filled with sweetened cream cheese (the description said cheesecake, but I don’t think the filling was baked into a cheesecake first. They were topped with a dulce de leche ice cream that was similar to that from Haagen Daaz, but which is apparently made by a gelato store in Berkeley, and then it was drizzled with a commercial caramel that actually tasted like jarred butterscotch sauce. It really would have been better without it. But all in all I enjoyed the dish and it’s really large enough to share – we did have trouble finishing our desserts.

Elektra got the Hula Brownie Sundae ($9) which consisted of a brownie topped with a coconut gelato and chocolate sauce. It was unremarkable and a bit too sweet.

Service was quite good and our waitress was very friendly. She didn’t really check on us after we got our main dishes, however, so it took a while before we could order dessert – but not an inordinate amount of time. Really, it’s a minor complain. All in all, service was good and we had a really wonderful time. I need to celebrate birthdays more often.

Pacific Catch
Persimmon Place
5251 Martinelli Way
Dublin, CA
(925) 999-8053
Su-Th 11 AM - 9 PM, F-Sa 11 AM - 10 PM

Bag O’Crab Review

They literally mean “bag”

A new Bag O’Crab franchise opened in the old The Englander spot in San Leandro, which is sad in many, many levels. My husband decided he had to try it out. While I’m not a fan of crab myself, a quick look at the menu assured me they had other stuff, including wings and fried fish, so I said I was game. He got take out and brought it home. I don’t think we’re going to make it a regular haunt.

Bag O’Crab’s menu consists of seafood and chicken cooked in a variety of ways. You can have different flavors of chicken wings ($8/$13 for 6/10 pieces) and french fries ($4/4.5), fried fish/shrimp/calamari/oysters/chicken tenders ($11-14), fish/chicken/shrimp po’ boy sandwiches ($12), a $25 lobster roll, grilled shortribs ($13) and cajun fish ($12) and a few soups, saladas, pastas and sides. But the main attraction, as suggested by the name of the restaurant, are their bags of seafood cooked in your choice of sauce at your choice of spiciness. These are sold by the pound and in combinations. My husband went for the bag of head-off shrimp, in a medium spiciness original cajun sauce ($16 for 3/4 lbs); he wasn’t impressed

The first disappointment was the bag. Now, we definitely can’t accuse Bag O’Crab of being circumspect about the fact that their bags of seafood are exactly that: plastic bags filled with seafood and sauce. It’s in the name of the store, after all, and of the particular dish he ordered. Still, we didn’t expect that they would be so literal – having the dish come in a transparent plastic bag seemed precarious and cheap. I’m assuming these are food grade plastic bags they are using, but it feels weird as they don’t look that way. They are also unwieldy and not exactly something you want to store as-in in the fridge.

I will admit that my husband is somewhat of a lazy eater. Other people may enjoy nothing more than cracking crab legs, gnawing at bones or cooking their own food at restaurants – but he wants all the work done for him in the kitchen. Thus, he was quite unhappy to find out that the head off shrimp, while indeed being devoid of heads, still had their exoskeleton (his word) on. Deshelling shrimp is never fun, but particularly not when the shrimp comes in a thin sauce. Needless to say, he wouldn’t order this again.

I should ad, that he did enjoy the flavor of the sauce, and it was correctly spiced. So there is that.

I, meanwhile, decided on the fish po’ boy sandwich ($12) with a garlic fried upgrade ($1 additional). The fries were pretty standard, thinnish and with a nice garlic flavor. It’s the type of fries you can eat a a handful of, and be done. The sandwich itself was too heavy for me. I think the combination of the oil from the fried fish and the dressing/remoulade was too much. I could only eat about half of it. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I did enjoy having the other half for lunch. Still, I can’t see ordering it again.

Indeed, I don’t see us returning to Bag O’Crab which I think it’s a good thing. Their website does not mention where they source their seafood from, and given the widespread use of slave labor in producing sea food – not to mention sustainability issues – I find this very problematic.

With this, I hope our foray into chain restaurant eating is over. And, indeed, it’s inspired me to do more cooking at home going forward.

Bag O’Crab
101 Parrott St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 878-9965