So many changes over the last few years at Fish On finally require a new (or at least edited) writeup. It’s no secret that Fish On struggled somewhat with food and service several years ago. But a complete revamping of the menu, and the installation of Chef Maurice Catlett (Maurice is now at the new Matt’s Fish Camp, also in Lewes), has the bright and inviting place batting a thousand. Need proof? Try to get a seat at happy hour on pretty much ANY day. See what I mean?
“We aspire to be a cutting-edge, aggressive restaurant group,” said the late chef and entrepreneur Matt Haley. “We want to be known for bringing great food, service and value.” That was back in 2007, and Fish On! is now one of 9 Delaware eateries operating as a part of the ever-expanding SoDelConcepts restaurant group. The place is unmistakably Haley: bright, with high ceilings, starkly decorated white walls, little surprises scattered about, and friendly service in an informal atmosphere. One of the highlights of any Matt Haley restaurant is the bread. They bake it themselves, and it is simply delicious. And I actually mean simple and delicious. If you appreciate good bread, it would be easy to make an entire meal of that soft, yeasty, ever-so-slightly sweet loaf — butter ‘n’ all. Fortunately, we didn’t make an entire meal of it, or this article would have ended right here.
Chef Raul Rodriguez has stepped into Maurice Catlett’s shoes, and the changeover was deliciously seamless. Raul continues to serve many of Maurice’s go-to dishes, but this talented chef has also added a few of his own favorites. Hope that the Smoked Trout Dip is on the menu! Chunks of smoky fish made bite-size whoopee with mildly pickled onions, capers and horseradish cream, resulting in a tasty schmear on dark, crackly crostini. The Foodie cannot go to a SoDelConcepts outpost without getting the Calamari. Darkly crunchy and not at all greasy, it’s simply presented with warm marinara. (The menu offers tartar sauce–yuck–get the marinara. What were they thinking?) Pleasantly al dente Shrimp and Scallop Dumplings are steamed and paired with chopsticks and an Orange Soy Dipping Sauce. Sadly, the promise of orange was unfulfilled. If it was in there, the saltiness of the soy masked it.
In that same vein, the happy hour menu will occasionally feature Vietnamese-style buns. “Speak to me of buns,” you say? A bun is a little pod of steamed bread that is wrapped around something amazing (like fried chicken chunks or crispy pork belly) with herbs (usually cilantro, but not always) and a nice fish-sauce style topping. You WILL NOT want to miss these. Scroll through the gallery for a look.
I try to make this as clear as I can throughout this web site: Menus change like the tides here at the beach! A dish I ordered last week that I’m writing about today might not be on the menu tomorrow. This is not quite as much of an issue with Matt Haley’s restaurants as it is with some others, but it still happens, usually at the change of the seasons. So use the article as a guideline, then check out the menu to see what’s happening.
OK. Back to business: A must-get in the Starter column is the Baked Crab Stuffed Oysters Rockefeller. This ain’t yo’ mamma’s Rockefeller, feller: Bright green spinach cavorts with the licorice edge of Sambuca, the bite of chilis and the soft sweetness of orange zest. It’s a party in your mouth if there ever was one. By the way, having tasted Matt’s White Bean concoctions at his other installations, I can’t imagine that the Hot Mashed White Beans with garlic and whole-grain mustard could be a bad thing. Try it there.
The Roasted Beets are the star of the Salad show. A wedge of blue-speckled Rosenborg blue lounges atop crimson cubes of cool beets. The nutty tone of spiced pecans is offset by a bracing mustard vinaigrette. This is a truly interesting dish and I urge beet lovers to order it immediately. In her enthusiasm, my Favorite Foodette besmirched her pretty white blouse with the impossible-to-remove beet juice. It was a small price to pay. Dear, next time you go, wear a red shirt. And maybe cut back a little on the martinis….
On subsequent visits we enjoyed the Blue Cheese Salad (…a Wedge by any other name…). The particularly sharp cheese and those pickled onions placed a nice exclamation point on the otherwise standard presentation. The Spinach Salad is also pretty typical (just how much can you do with a spinach salad!?) but the fresh ingredients and the addition of walnuts make it everything it could have possibly aspired to be.
The Happy Hour Steam Bun1/21 Fish On2/21 Fish On3/21 Maurice’s seared scallop with ham and pea risotto.4/21 Fish On5/21 Fish On6/21 Fish On7/21 Fish On8/21 Happy Hour Oysters: Sweet Jesus and Beausoleil9/21 Crabcake Grilled Cheese10/21 That Short Rib Stroganoff11/21 Mo’s Steam Buns12/21 Fish On13/21 Chix & Waffles. Also more of a wintertime thing.14/21 The wintertime shortrib stroganoff.15/21 Love those buns of yours!16/21 Matt’s Fried Chicken with corn gravy17/21 Fried Oysters18/21 Those ridiculously good wings.19/21 Fish On20/21 Another shot of that short rib burger.21/21
The Foodie loves to perch by the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Hudson Cafeteria (not a cafeteria at all) high above W. 58th St. and 9th Ave. in Manhattan’s Hudson Hotel. He sips a Cosmo while noshing languidly on their $26 Lobster BLT. It’s difficult to get much closer to Foodie Nirvana than that, but I have to tell you that Fish On!’s Lobster BLT (piled high with claw meat and what had to be a half-pound of bacon) is right up there with the Big City version. Sadly, I haven’t seen it on the menu for a while, but a boy can hope. It’s served on grilled slices of that delicious bread I raved about earlier, and cozies up to a stack of hot, crispy fries. Sadly, the Lobster BLT appears and disappears depending on who knows what, so I hope they have it when you go.
Accompanying Foodies-in-Waiting ordered the Pan Roasted Salmon with Roasted Pumpkin, shaved Brussels Sprouts and bacon. The fish was glazed with a Sherry Maple sauce. It was way too sweet for me personally, but I have to tell you that they loved it. That’s the thing about sweet and proteins: You either like ’em or you don’t. The accompanying Roasted Pumpkin was delicious, as was the chiffonade of sprouts. Lupo Italian Kitchen (SoDel Concepts’ Rehoboth Avenue Italian joint) Shrimp on Grits (with Chorizo and Chili Grits) is close to perfect, and the same entree at Fish On! lives up to that reputation. It doesn’t look like a lot when it arrives, but it is buttery, rich and happily filling. The Ancho BBQ Flank Steak was well received along with the Southwestern bent of the yellow rice, black beans and sweet corn nuggets. Again, will these things grace the menu upon your arrival? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. But I guarantee that you will find something to make you happy.
Off-season at Fish On is a mecca for locals. We dream of the moment that Chef Raul returns the short rib stroganoff returns to the menu, but in the meantime you will NOT be sorry that you ordered the impossibly crunchy (and totally NOT greasy) fried oysters and fish ‘n’ chips. By the way, if you are not particularly enamored by our seagoing, finny friends, the double-decker short rib burger with the house-made tomato jam will make your little carnivorous heart leap for joy. It’s on a soft bun with those nice fries and a bunch of pickles. Frankly, it’s one of the best burgers around.
Fish On! is in the Villages of Five Points in the second building as you drive away from Savannah Road/Rt. 9. They are open year-round, but always call (302) 645-9790 to check. They also have an upbeat and busy happy hour. Click here to see a representative menu. (D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.
RehobothFoodie.com notes the sad passing of chef, award-winning restaurateur and SoDelConcepts founder Matt Haley, who passed away on August 19th, 2014 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash while on a humanitarian trip in the mountains of India. Matt is still missed by many, many people.
Off-season Specials & HoursSpecials & Moods change quickly. Always call a restaurant first.
Happy Hour 5-7
Sunday Supper! 3 courses only $19
Happy Hour 5-7
Crab cakes half price!
Happy Hour 5-7
Burgers half price!
Happy Hour 5-7
25% off your entire check (not including happy hour or other discounts)
Happy Hour 5-7
Fried Fish Night!
Happy Hour 5-7
Wine bottles half-price!
Happy Hour 5-7