January, It's A Wrap!

Oyster Bah

Seafood brunch is a phenomena which in my opinion hasn’t been explored fully.  And I don’t just say that as an ardent pescetarian, but because of the sheer potential of fish incorporated in a brunch meal.  And to prove my point, I want to talk about a recent tasting of the new brunch menu at Oyster Bah I tried recently. INCREDIBLE!

Now we all know that this New England inspired spot does seafood well, but their creative brunch menu truly puts it on the map of Chicago’s top restaurants and brunch spots.

I wasted no time in ordering the Bah’s Famous Bloody Mary when I sat down.  A tall, sleek glass of refreshing cocktail was served with a Miller High Life pony beer back, and for a garnish was one of the largest shrimp cocktail I have ever seen.  Off to a good start, I then ordered a variety of seafood items, such as the Smoked Trout Frittata, Fried Oyster Benedict and the Shrimp & Grits.  I asked for them to arrive together and for a few minutes my table represented paradise.

The Shrimp & Grits had a flavorful touch with a lobster-tomato gravy served with creamy and grainy parmesan grits.  How do they create such a smooth texture yet keep the grainy texture intact, I wonder? The benedict was one of the most decadent breakfast sandwiches I’ve even eaten.  Crispy fried oysters, arugula and poached farm egg exuding in Tabasco butter.  You can’t help but devour this dish!

The Spanish inspired Trout Frittata was yummy in his own right.  Served warm with house-made Crème Fraiche and sprinkled with picked mustard seeds, the picture doesn’t do it justice.

I also want to mention the warm muffins with maple butter, which were sent out as Chef’s courtesy while we waited for our food, took care of dessert before brunch. Exactly the order I prefer.

What a delectable brunch; you can’t help but fall in love with Oyster Bah.  Anyone looking to satisfy their fish cravings over the weekend, head to this restaurant and experience the magic for yourself!

Coco’s Deep Fried Lobster

As I continue my mission to discover Chicago’s best seafood, I stumbled upon a cozy, casual, seafood and soul food joint called Coco’s Deep Fried Lobster, located in the loop.  The owner was thrilled to hear of my seafood-focused blog and invited me in for a tasting last week.  As soon as I walked in and smelled the food, I knew that this was going to be one of my best discoveries of the year.  More popular for delivery, the restaurant also offers limited seating, for anyone who wants to make a pit stop.

The first restaurant was started in 1994 in the south suburbs and lucky for us it made its way to the city.  Food here is prepared daily from scratch, and that includes any seasonings and spice rubs.  Each item, as owner Calvin proudly mentioned, “is made to order!”

Everything on the menu looked great so I kept it simple and asked Calvin to order what he thought would be good for me to try.  Platters of fried shrimp, lobster and catfish came out with lots of soul sides like homemade mac n cheese, fried okra and collard greens.  While lobster is not an unknown crustacean to me and I’ve had it prepared in many different ways, deep-fried lobster was a first.

And a plus when none of the fish is frozen it tastes so much better.  Each item on the platter was coated in a unique blend of herbs – a secret family recipe I was told.  And even if you’re not a shrimp person, ask for a cup of their house-made cocktail sauce that comes with it, because it is the sweetest, tangiest cup of deliciousness you will have ever tasted!

Coco’s Fried Lobster is one restaurant you have to put on your list. Now go get some of this southern goodness!

Fish Bar

Don’t ever say I don’t share the wealth, because I’m about to share with you a true seafood gem that I recently visited for a menu tasting, called Fish Bar.  Fish Bar is a small seafood shack located in Lakeview offering fresh, sustainably sourced fish prepared in the most delicious ways!

Although the restaurant is not new to me, tastings always help me solidify my love for restaurants.  A DMK Restaurants product, this is one of those places where you can enjoy seaside fare in a true community type setting, no matter what the weather is outside. The menu doesn’t leave anything out, spanning from the raw to the crispy, from tacos to chowder; they have it all.

During my lunch tasting I got to sample a variety from the menu starting with their delicious New England style clam chowder.  A warm cup of cream based broth oozing with cayenne, celery and onion flavors; the soup set a nice tone to my appetite. Just a warning, that hearty portions of chopped clams and potatoes do make it quite filling, but that’s certainly not a bad thing!

From their On A Bun section of the menu, the Lobster Roll and the Crabby Patty are their most popular items, so I was definitely eager to try.  A lobster roll is usually the clincher for me when it comes to seafood restaurants so I was pleased to bite into a delicious 4oz lobster tossed in lemon juice and celery salt and served on a buttery bun. I have to also mention the spicy slaw and the salt & vinegar chips served on the side because they really did augment the whole dish, both in look and taste.

The only thing crabby about the Crab Patty was that I didn’t want it to end. A carefully crafted sandwich comprising of crab and cod meat, placed on a bun buttered with Old Bay mayo and generous amounts of lettuce, onion and tomatoes. This one’s a no brainer when you visit.

The Shrimp Fritters caught my attention and I’m glad I didn’t pass on this dish! Crisp and fluffy little golden brown fritters prepared in a delicious batter and fried in sesame oil, were paired with a house-made sweet and sour sauce with a tantalizing kick from the Fresno chilies its made with but balanced out with the rice wine vinegar.  Sometimes I wonder if they make these sauces in a lab. 

The Baby Octopus I ate there is one of their larger plates was also phenomenal, especially with the unique taste of sweet potatoes they were tossed with.  And the cranberry red wine sauce was divine.

Sweet meals should have sweet endings, so the Key Lime Pie which was on special, was in order. It was tangy, sweet, and lemony, and as close to the classic version as I had desired.

The only thing that got left behind were the oysters, but that was a calculated move on my part, because I plan to return and take advantage of $1 oysters offered from 9 to 11:00pm, Mondays to Thursdays.  And because oysters deserve undivided attention!

I was smiling cheek to cheek at the end of my meal but it wasn’t only because the food was so tasty. Everything from the community setting, nautical décor, big windows, the vibe, the music in the background to the most caring and enthusiastic servers added to the flavor of my meal.  Fish Bar truly cares to make your meal an experience. 

I think I'll go back for dinner!

New England Seafood Company (NESC)

My weekend rocked, because I got to visit Lakeview’s New England Seafood Company Restaurant and Fish Marked, and enjoy an array of fresh, superior seafood straight from the Boston Harbor.  NESC is a family owned seafood spot and the vision of two brothers Robert and Jeffrey Mazza, who wanted to bring some of that New England goodness they grew up with to us here in the midwest.

Onto the food my guest and I ate during our abundant tasting at the restaurant, the challenge at the onset was choosing from their phenomenal menu.  Luckily the manager stepped in to help us out and settled the debate with the Spicy Shrimp as our starter.

I’m always a happy camper when the first dish is my favorite dish of the meal.  Eight pieces of juicy shrimp marinated in a spicy sauce and sautéed in garlic oil, it was truly an all-star appetizer.  The big bowl of creamy Lobster Bisque brought out after was so perfect to tone down the spiciness from the shrimp.  The soup is definitely on the smoother side of strained lobster broth, but rich in taste and good for dipping the toast, which was served on the side.

The Lobster Grilled Cheese that came next doesn’t really need a description in my opinion, because there is nothing ordinary about Maine lobster and Wisconsin cheddar on buttered Texas toast.  And this is one no fuss sandwich with rich, meaty lobster chunks surrounded by gooey cheese, making every bite decadent.  The grilled cheese also came with housemade, handcut seasoned fries, which were deliciously crispy.

I finally finished with their Mixed Seafood Grill platter, which came highly recommended by both the manager and our server, so I possibly couldn’t pass.  A generous portion of swordfish, salmon and shrimp with lemon flavored rice and lightly sautéed vegetables was happily consumed by my friend and me.  I loved how incredibly simple yet impressive this dish was and offered a nice sampling of a variety of seafood all in one dish.

We satisfied our sweet tooth with their Key Lime Pie, which was just the perfect sweet and tangy to our amazing tasting.

The restaurant also has a retail section with fresh fish flown in from the shores of New England daily and is available for purchase.  And bonus is a very well informed staff that can answer any questions, especially if raw fish is not your forte.

If this isn’t enough to lure you into the restaurant, there are plenty of specials such as Taco Tuesday when you can get $2 Cod Tacos, $1 oyster Wednesdays and all you can eat fish-fry on Fridays.  And you can catch some of their seafood goodness at Lobsterfest, Tacofest and even the Auto Show, where they will be participating.

New England Seafood Company is a true gem for all fish lovers out there.  If you care about fresh, this is just the place for you!