Gone Fishin'

Perhaps they should.

Until then, the only evidence of excellence that Red Fish Blue shows is in the wine list, and in the desserts. Desserts are stellar, for what they are--namely sturdy creations invented for a busy restaurant dealing with a vast crowd. Both the amusing cherry bomb ($4.95) and the chocolate pudding make good use of a half-sphere chocolate mold. The cherry bomb is two chocolate half-spheres filled with cherry ice cream and fitted together. It emerges from the kitchen fitted with a sparkler and sizzles festively. That the chocolate and the ice cream are very good makes this the best gimmick dessert in town. Order "bubble bubble" and you get half a sphere filled with chocolate pudding and anchored to the plate with a bit of chocolate ($4.95). Dark, glossy, and topped with real whipped cream, this is the best--the only?--restaurant chocolate pudding I've had.

Red Fish Blue is indeed busy. Every night I've been there, people have been stacked up by the door, hoping for tables. It's a nice restaurant to wait in, a trio of big, dark-walled, amply windowed rooms with graphic murals of fish or bubbles on the largest walls. It's a great place to sample from a well-chosen, inexpensive, adventurous wine list. The handful of little tables right by the door function as a wine bar, something the Macalester area has needed for a long time. If you do have a glass of wine in the wine bar, do me a favor and check something for me: Is there any kind of sign dangling in the kitchen, one that reads Gone Fishin'?

TABLEHOPPING:

FOOLS AND THEIR MAHI: Still reservationless for Valentine's Day? Perhaps you should dine with the fishes, at the Fourth Annual Tunnel of Love Event, at Underwater Adventures. "It's fantastic, it's awesome!" trumpets the possibly fishily biased Cindy Grzanowski, UA's director of marketing. "The way the aquarium is set up, it's not a typical aquarium experience. You actually go through an acrylic tunnel, so the fish are on all sides and above you." For the Love Event, 36 tables are arranged in the tunnels, which Grzanowski says twist and turn every few yards, so it's not like dining in a corridor, but like a small, three-or-so-table restaurant surrounded by sharks. Or walleye.

You see, tables are assigned first-come, first-served, so early birds can pick between Caribbean Reef, Shark Cove, Mississippi River, and Minnesota Lake. What says "I love you" more clearly: the bottom of Big Muddy, or sharks? I just can't decide. Even better, dinner starts with a "cocktail social" in Starfish Beach. "It's a new area," says Grzanowski. "It's designed for families with kids and has touch-pools with real sharks and stingrays. That usually makes people smile." (Of course, nothing makes me smile more than getting my drink on and grabbing a handful of prehistoric sea critter. Except contemplating the potential wickedness, that is: Dump your sweetie whilst wielding a steak knife in the presence of sharks for instant admission into the Evil Devil Date Hall of Fame.) "There's also a new ride," says Grzanowski. "It's a simulator, basically an underwater roller coaster. I don't know if a lot of people are going to be going on it after dinner and Champagne, though."

Oh, I don't know. You'd be surprised. I had to ask: Serving fish? Nope. Tunnelers get a double entrée of chicken with wild mushrooms and peppered flank steak, as well as Champagne and some other treats. (Vegetarian meals and nonalcoholic bubbly available on request.) For the macabre, Grzanowski did reveal one tantalizing tidbit: Underwater Adventures may host occasional cocktail hours on Friday nights, featuring sushi. Who among us is brave enough to eat tuna belly only a few inches from a hungry shark?

For more information or reservations, call Heather at Underwater Adventures, (952) 853-0611. Tickets cost $125 per couple, which includes meal and Champagne. Seatings are at 6:00 p.m., with a 5:30 cocktail social, and 8:30 p.m., with an 8:00 social. (Underwater Adventures, Mall of America, Bloomington, www.underwateradventures.net.)

(RE)DESIGNING D'AMICO: There's much ado about something at D'Amico Cucina these days: The bar closed January 2 and will reopen February 13, and the main dining room is closed February 4-12. When D'Expensive reopens, expect a new menu, as well as new daily tasting menus. All this menu-ing is the work of new D'Amico chef Seth Doherty, who took over the kitchen in early December. Manager Bill Summerville says Doherty and his sous chef have taken advantage of the front-of-the-house remodeling to travel to Italy, where they've dined their way through Piedmont, Tuscany, and Emilia-Romagna. Summerville says Doherty cooked at D'Amico Cucina years ago and has more recently wielded his knives in New York's Le Bernardin, and the Washington, D.C., Four Seasons. What will these changes mean for the average diner? Stay D'tuned.

LONGITUDE UNKNOWN: So what happened to former D'Amico chef J.P. Samuelson? According to materials I've seen from Kitchen Window, where Samuelson teaches occasional classes, he's working on opening his own place in downtown Minneapolis. It's tentatively called "45th Parallel," a line that reportedly connects several places renowned for good food.

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