The Bay Fish & Chips

meter-ok-goodThe Bay Fish & Chips is one of those places I really want to like. It may actually be good, but my one experience with it was a bit lacking. I can’t even really say that it was one particular thing that put me off about this place; the whole experience was like a never-ending chain of small disappointments that ultimately resulted in an overall opinion of “meh”.

” Weird, blue cups of water “

For starters, the spousal unit and I (for simplicity I’ll just say “we” from here on out) were finally recovering from a relatively terrible meal and we decided that we had earned something fried and tasty for our sacrifice. Fish and chips sounded dandy, and so we consulted Google for a local place we hadn’t tried yet. We drove a short couple miles down the street, following our GPS, and arrived at a strange and mildly unpleasant shopping center growing cyst-like on the side of El Camino Real. Tiny disappointment #1. Ok, well… Sometimes the best places are in grungy little shopping centers. I hope.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Actually, you know what… The signage mounted in the corner of that shopping center archway looks fairly professional. Wait a second. That big archway thing isn’t actually the front of an entire restaurant, it’s just an empty shell covering a weird, sad little space hidden in the corner. Tiny disappointment #2.

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Now you can’t really photograph odor, so instead I opted for a picture of the menu board. As we walked in the door we realized that this place is not what we expected. It smelled like a noodle shop or similar Asian-style fast food joint, which is not a bad thing at all, of course, but it’s jarring when you are expecting to encounter the smell of… oh, I don’t know… perhaps fish and chips? It’s like going to take a big swig of your 7up only to discover that it’s tonic water. Euugh. Neither are bad things, but when you want one you usually don’t want the other. The place was also completely empty during lunch hour on a weekend, which was off-putting. Tiny disappointments #3 and #4.

Seriously, what's with those cups?

Seriously, what’s with those cups?

We skipped over the wonton soup and shrimp cake options on the menu and ordered what we came for: fried sea animal parts. The person at the register – I presume one of the owners – was courteous, fast, friendly, and happy to see customers. She invited us to choose whatever table we liked and brought us tartar sauce, vinegar, and cups of water. Weird, blue cups of water. Tupperware cups like what you’d find in the bargain aisle of a 1970s Walmart. Tiny disappointment #5. Around then I noticed the decor, a painfully stereotypical arrangement of wood paneling and gilded “paintings” of sailing ships braving untamed seas. If you looked closely at the paintings, you could see that each had a thin veneer of once-airborne fish fryer oil that had condensed into sticky little vertical driplets. Tiny disappointment #6. We tried not to touch the paintings (or the walls) and waited.

Well, it's fish and chips alright.

Well, it’s fish and chips alright.

I’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about all the things I didn’t like leading up to the one thing that matters: The food. A restaurant can get pretty much everything else wrong, but if they manage to produce an amazing plate of grub then quite a lot can be forgiven. Unfortunately, the fish and chips were not amazing. They were hot and crispy and overall just fine, but they weren’t exceptional. The fish was fair and very slightly too oily, and the fries were the standard crinkle-cut variety. Tiny disappointment #7. The surprising star of the show was the tartar sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was scratch made or not, but it was excellent. Certainly not a disappointment.

We left The Bay Fish & Chips unsure of whether or not we liked it. Both of us felt a little greasy from the experience, and neither of us seemed to be genuinely satisfied. The other online reviews for this restaurant are generally very positive, so I’m willing to give it another try to see if my opinion improves. From my limited experience here, however, I have to rate this place a slightly disappointing 5 out of 8 oily nautical paintings. Oh, oil paintings. I made an accidental funny.

The Bay Fish & Chips
826 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 732-5665
Google it

Bay Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Portola Valley Lobster Shack

meter-great-Portola Valley Lobster Shack is nestled away in a corner of Ladera Shopping Center along Alpine Road in, you guessed it, Portola Valley. Confusingly, this restaurant is sometimes called Old Port Lobster Shack, because that’s the name listed on the website. There are also two other locations listed under the Old Port moniker, but only one of the three follows this naming convention.

Yeah, I know. My head hurts too.

“Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist”

Weird naming quirks aside, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is a wonderful little place. It’s quintessentially New-England-ish in its decor and food choices, but unlike many establishments actually located in New England, the people at Portola Valley are polite and friendly. What’s that, you say? I’m implying that people on the east coast are rude? No, I’m not implying that at all, I’m stating it as a fact. Hey, I used to live there so shaddap. (There, how was that for east coast charm?)

The menu at Portola Valley is a joy to browse. It’s one of those places where you just want to say, “One of everything please” and eat yourself into a coma. On my first visit I wanted to try the clam chowder because, well, how else are you supposed to judge a seafood restaurant? Then I saw the fish and chips and wanted that, but then I saw the lobster rolls. Oh boy. Sold. Then, just as I was closing the menu, I saw the mac and cheese! I am a rabid fanatic of baked mac, and I ended up going for the pulled pork mac & cheese. Yes I know it’s not a seafood dish, but it sounded so amazing I just couldn’t resist.

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Before I knew it, my dish of baked heaven appeared before my eyes, and it was magnificent. The pulled pork was tender, smoky, and jammed with flavor molecules. (Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist, but you get the idea.) The mac & cheese was excellent as well, but ever so slightly understated. This is actually a good thing because it worked well to highlight the pulled pork, undoubtedly the star of the show. Alone, though, it could have used a teeny bit more flavor and/or cheesiness. It was still all kinds of epic win though.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

On subsequent visits and with additional fellow dinner-ists, I also got a chance to try the brisket sandwich. Yes yes, I can hear you whining that this is a review for a seafood place and I still have yet to try any actual seafood. Just keep your pants on, we’re getting to that. The brisket was on par with the pulled pork, meaning that it was very good indeed. The barbecue at this place is better than what you’d find at most dedicated barbecue places actually, and that fact goes a long way towards showing that the folks in the kitchen here really know what they’re doing.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

There, see? I finally got to the fish and chips. More specifically, it’s haddock and chips, which is a nice little detail that really impresses me. Haddock is fairly common anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean, but seeing haddock this far west means that this restaurant is serious about being New England-y. Don’t take my word for it though. I dragged a native Bostonian here to give it a try, and he wasn’t very thrilled… until he saw that it was haddock. At that point (and after tasting the fish and chips) he changed his tune completely and had nothing but very positive things to say. On yet another visit I overheard a guy from England make a point of flagging down one of the people running the restaurant and complimenting them on the food. “It’s the best fish and chips I have had outside of London” were his exact words. And yes, I agree – the fish and chips are that good here. They are spectacular in fact.

At the end of the day, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat. If you’re hankering for a taste of east coast seafood or a bit of barbecue, this is the place for you. Rumor has it they make a mean lobster roll and a dandy cup of chowder as well, but my opinions on those will have to wait for a revisit. I hereby bestow a rating of 35,098,552,670,980 flavor molecules (out of 38,000,000,000,000 of course), which should land this restaurant pretty close to the middle of your radar screen. Visit here soon.

Portola Valley Lobster Shack / Old Bay Lobster Shack
Multiple locations in the Bay Area
www.oplobster.com

Portola Valley Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon


Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.

Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.