Fishhook lands strong on flavour

Monday Magazine's Allan Reid reviews Fishhook on Fort Street

Squint, and you will find this small dark restaurant with its small round sign squeezed behind the much larger and more flashy Starbuck’s on the corner of Fort and Blanchard. It may lack presence, but it makes up for it in attitude. It is attitude that has taken root in Victoria in recent years, owing to a trend toward small restaurants that are local to their core, eco-wise, and that throw everything traditional into the dumpster out back to put forward menus filled with unique, refreshing combinations of familiar and exotic flavours. The sadly departed Lady Marmalade was one, Jam is another, as is Olo, and more recently, Fishhook.

Fishhook lacks presence, I have said: it also lacks parking. Street parking is available but available spots were not plentiful on the day I visited. This may be an effect of having been Sunday, when downtown parking is free. Still, I was able to find a spot a block or so away. On the street, Fishhook offers a few small metal tables and chairs. Be careful not to walk into the Chorizo restaurant next door (which I may review on another day). Inside a selection of tables, counters, chairs and benches congregate before an open kitchen. It’s not the prettiest kitchen. Space is precious. One orders and pays at a till almost engulfed by the encroaching kitchen—the menu is on blackboards to your left. Once you have ordered, find a seat. Your fare will be delivered. My dining partners and I arrived at about noon and had no trouble finding a table. When we departed a bit after 12:30 our un-bussed table was snatched up almost before we stood up, and there was a good line of people waiting to place their orders

Fishhook describes its menu as “Pescatarian Indo-French Inspired.” Warning: One may need Google in hand while reviewing the menu. Read the above claim as “serving fish with Indian spices and French flair.” Beef, pork and chicken are not on the menu, so not everyone will love Fishhook, but that’s okay. Rather than cater to all tastes poorly, Fishhook caters to a few tastes exceptionally. One of my friends realized immediately that there was absolutely nothing on the menu that interested him. Even the Devilled Egg Tartine (Google? Open-faced sandwich), contained smoked lox and harissa (Google? Indian chilli paste). Happily for him, the staff at Fishhook were eager to accommodate and, just for him, reduced their devilled egg sandwich to slices of hard boiled eggs layered on a long crust of bread and sprinkled with diced onion and pepper. My friend was very pleased.

I am more adventurous. I ordered the Pondicherry. This is described as “Mixed wild seafood koftas, tamarind coconut, chana masala, golden basmati.” Excuse me while I dig out Google again. Koftas are hand-formed meatballs made of fish. In this case mixed fish. Judging by the other menu items, I suspect salmon, tuna, and rock-cod. The dish included two koftas of good size sitting atop the rice and chana masala sauce. Chana (pronounced sha’ na) indicates that the masala (curried spice sauce) features chickpeas. The spiciness of the koftas and chana masala was tempered by a sweet thin pinkish paste that, by process of elimination, and taste, turned out to be the tamarind coconut. The combination of sweet and spicy is classic, and for very good reason. This is a dish to enliven anyone’s palate. Best, the various components, while resting atop one another, were not incorporated, leaving it up to me to taste my way through the bowl and to mix the flavours to suit my own adventurous soul.

There is probably nothing better than a good beer to wash down Indian food, and Fishhook carries a good selection of local craft brews from Hoyne, Driftwood and Phillips. In addition, they carry Merridale cider and BC wines. Oddly, coffee is not available. Another tradition tossed, I guess. Frankly, I didn’t miss it.

 

Fishhook805 Fort Street, Victoria250-477-0470www.fishhookvic.cominfo@fishhookvic.com

 

 

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