Go Fish Saint Helena, CA Revisited: April 11, 2007 – Lunch
There have been a number of changes at Go Fish since our first review; the most major is that of Victor Scargle as the new executive chef. Our lunch was enough to convince us to return again, soon. The menu has changed to add a few more lighter and daily/market items and overall has been rearranged. The eight main sections of the old menu have been reordered and shrunk into a more manageable six, but it is still a daunting menu to face cold. The separate sushi menu has also been expanded to include small plates and sushi/sashimi plates and traditional items like edamame and miso soup, adding even more choices. The changes are positive though, and the menu’s reorganization and focus on daily/market fish make it more attractive and fun to order from. The waiter was quick to tell us we had probably ordered enough, as it is easy to over-order.
The décor is the same blue and white and yellow, with pillows still falling off the banquets quite regularly as guests seat and unseat themselves. It’s almost a Hamptons-like décor, albeit pleasant and the tables in the bay window have a nice natural light at lunchtime. Today’s lunch was a near perfect score for the food.
Service was attentive and helpful, but the timing once again was a little messy – even though the waiter tried hard to get it right. The kitchen and the sushi bar don’t seem to communicate except by the waiter so again the sushi arrived with the main courses, even though it was ordered as an appetizer. The sashimi we ordered had also turned into nigri and had to be redone.
If having all the courses arrive together doesn’t matter and the table will hold all the plates, then you are in for a fine meal, otherwise I suggest you either order in waves or stick to ordering from just one menu. Sushi/Sashimi is still quite expensive but the addition of small plates and fixed plates makes it more manageable and accessible. The market sushi today were fun and unusual selections and knowing Ken Tominaga’s passion for fish, they are worth asking about and taking a risk on.
A well decked out patio is now at the back of the restaurant complete with marble tabletops, cushions and a fireplace – it looks to be a great place to hang out in the summer.
Fish & Chips - fresh smelts & crispy potatoes
Thin shoestring potatoes and crispy whole little fish with a fantastic tartar sauce and malt vinegar. Ketchup was requested and was brought – it was a very nice slightly sweet tomato sauce and a nice surprise. A fun dish to share.
Ken’s Noodles - Hana broth, udon & bok choy
A meal in itself. The large bowl of Udon and broth with shitake mushrooms and seaweed is easily a main course and well done.
The Louie - crisp lettuce, avocado, hard boiled egg, cucumber with shrimp (or crab or loaded) The salad had been recommended to me and did not disappoint. The shrimp were fresh and perfectly cooked. The salad dressing was nicely balanced and not too rich. Greens were crisp.
Whole Orata - wood grilled with Olive & piquillo Tapenade
There was a choice of wood grilling or sauteing and five sauces. Jack loved this fish and particularly the way it tasted because of the wood-oven roasting. The skin was crispy, the flesh moist and flavorful. The tapenade was great with the fish (that being said by a non-olive eater). Recommended!
Firefly Squid (Hotaru-ika)
Tiny little squid atop seaweed and cucumber with a light dressing of sweet miso. Really fun.
Small Sea Bass Sashimi
So light on it’s own it is nearly flavorless – needs a little soy to bring out some dimensions.
We liked the breads - they're from Panorama. Gray salt garnished the cube of butter.
(The menu scores some goofy points for having the Executive Chef and General Manager on BOTH pages of the menu.)
Note on the wine list: Despite a recent review we read that the wine list had changed, it is, in fact, not significantly different. The list is very weighty in the under $50 category and offers very few interesting or unusual choices. (It makes no sense to have so few whites in the $50+ range at a seafood restaurant in wine country.)
Wine we ordered: 2005 La Viarte Pinot Bianco Colli Orientali del Friuli - A good wine but I would have liked something better than just good.
Restaurant Review - November 15, 2006 - Joanne
Go Fish St. Helena, CA Visited: October 8, 2006 - Dinner
Go Fish has us at sixes and sevens after a dinner of pretty good food and extremely uneven service. The price tag seems high for Cindy Pawlcyn's (along with Sean Knight and Ken Tominaga) latest endeavor. Although the food was good overall there was something lacking in the flow of the dinner - the flow of the service. The menu seems to be in evolution as the "take-home" menu I was given differed from the one we ordered from and the current online menu has different choices.
Lobster Shiitake Wontons in
ginger garlic scallion broth
The steaming bowl arrived and the fragrance was wonderful. The broth had crisp, sliced vegetables, such as celery and bell pepper, floating in it, as well as three large wontons. The wontons were hard to manage in the broth, as I had to cut one into smaller pieces with a spoon. Finally, I got my first bite and the broth was quite spicy. It reminded me more of hot and sour soup. I was expecting a lighter style and not one quite so spicy. The wonton itself was a big disappointment; no lobster-like taste. I took one apart to see if there was lobster inside. There were flecks of lobster in the salty brown paste which tasted more like pork and salt than anything else (I couldn't pick up the Shiitake flavors, either). I liked the crunch of the vegetables in the broth and the broth itself. This one is a pass if you are looking for lobster.
Salt-crusted Gulf Prawns
sweet and sour dipping sauce
They were cumbersome to eat as they had to be shelled and were steaming hot. I was rewarded with flavorful firm, perfect shrimp. The sauce was like a chili sauce and we found that it didn't enhance the shrimp.
Fish Your Way - Dayboat Scallops
We chose wood-grilled (other choices are steamed or sauteed) with the tomatillo avocado salsa (other choices: lemon caper parsley butter, tartar sauce, sesame garlic vinaigrette or piquillo sherry amadine). Jack was extremely happy with this dish and its preparation. He would definitely order it again.
I ordered Yellowtail, Albacore and Amberjack Nigiri and Tasmanian Salmon Sashimi. What arrived was 8 pieces of Nigiri (i.e., no sashimi) and according to the bill the salmon was the regular Sake rather than the Tasmanian. The sushi was served with gari and fresh wasabi. The soy sauce also had good flavor and wasn't too salty. Plain wooden chopsticks (which needed to be separated) and a little pot of soy sauce and a little dish.
I also ordered the Roll of the Day special. It was called a "Seattle Roll"," and was well constructed but the sweet and sour sauces seemed a bit odd with it.
Roasted Banana-Rum Ice Cream Sandwich with housemade banana bread, almond toffee
This bananas foster incarnation is strangely successful. It's composed of very hard banana ice cream firmly layered between two slices of banana bread, with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce. The garnish was half a banana with brulèe along the cut side keeping it erect. The dish is sprinkled with almond toffee. Yum. Jack ate more than two bites. The ice cream was extra firm and very, very cold. The ice cream was not very creamy and it worked great with this dessert.
Bittersweet Chocolate Bombe Cake chantilly cream. (We took this to go)
With a bed of caramel sauce this soft chocolate mousse cake is covered in chocolate ganache. Rich but not too heavy. Great!
Drinks & Wine:
The wine list was strange: Nearly every wine was between $22 and $42. This list is very good if you only want to spend that amount. If you want wine that costs more than $45, the few choices were not great picks. We'll probably bring our own wine on future visits.
We ordered:2005 Abbazia di Novacella Veltliner. Jack liked this wine but not enough to buy a bottle. Joanne disliked immensely (over-ripe fruit flavors.) The sparkling water was Pellegrino.
I ordered the El Guapo, one of the house cocktails. I was told that perhaps it would not be available, as yesterday there had been some problem with the mint... (they were out of mint?) So I ordered the Blackberry Cosmopolitan (Ketel One, Blackberry Puree) as a backup and received the Blackberry Cosmo with no more updates on the mint. It was okay, not too exciting and a little on the vodka-y side of balance. The restaurant has a full bar.
Notes on the Service: We placed the order and it wasn't too long before our appetizers arrived. Unfortunately, they came before the wine. The Cosmo arrived next with a mumbled "the sommelier is bringing the wine." The wine finally followed. After it was poured and we took a few bites of our appetizers, much to our surprise, Jack's main course (scallops) arrived and were set on the edge of the table next to him. Just a moment before the bread arrived leaving no other room on the table. We exchanged looks and went back to eating the first course.
A minute or two later the sushi arrived - two plates full (Joanne's main course). There was no space to put them as we hadn't finished our first courses and the only available table space was occupied by Jack's rapidly cooling scallops. So I sent them back and we were promised that someone would remove Jack's almost finished plate. After waiting a few minutes more a lady in a chef's jacket and apron asked how everything was. I asked her to remove Jack's plate and Jack mentioned that the scallops were now cold as they had been sitting around for a while. I did not noticed that the chef's jacket read Cindy Pawlcyn as I asked for the plate to be removed. Anyways, she quickly apologized and promised all would be made right, whisking the scallops away. The dishes were removed after another few minutes by the "sommelier" with assured promises that the sushi would be returned shortly. The sushi did return (not in enough time to remake it), as did the scallops.
The scallops returned with the sauce on top rather than underneath unlike the first time they brought them. Regardless, they were perfectly cooked. The sashimi I had ordered had managed to turn into sushi, but I accepted it, noting the oversight.
The sommelier and waiter were also given chance after chance to pour us more wine; the sommelier finally did on the fourth chance.
The "sommelier" comped us dessert, removed the lobster wontons and sashimi from the bill with apologies and promises that next time would be better.
The waitstaff seemed wet under the ears and trained but nervous. This night Ken Tominaga was manning the sushi bar, so things there seemed in good hands.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.