Hungry for More

Resolutions are easy to keep at the Mission District's delightful Weird Fish

As sure as the new year brings resolutions, it brings the observation that resolutions are made to be broken. For instance, Anthony Bourdain's musing on a recent television promo for No Reservations: "You know, I've traveled all over this world, and I've encountered a lot of customs that some might call strange. But you know what's strange to me? New Year's resolutions. I mean, what's up with that? Who sticks with those things, anyway?"

I tend to feel more as Pascal Bruckner does. His Jan. 1 op-ed piece in the New York Times pointed out that resolutions might be lies, but they serve a purpose: "Making resolutions demonstrates optimism," he wrote, and resolutions are "lies of good faith, necessary illusions."

Along with the inevitable optimistic vows (eat less, move more), I like to sprinkle in a few ringers that I know will be pleasurable, even easy, to keep. This year I'm vowing to eat more — at least, to eat more fish. And vegetables. And fruit.

A Good Catch, if Small: the welcoming interior of Weird Fish.
James Sanders
A Good Catch, if Small: the welcoming interior of Weird Fish.

Location Info

Map

Dante's Weird Fish

2193 Mission
San Francisco, CA 94110

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights

Details

Weird Fish, 2193 Mission (at 18th St.), 863-4744. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; open Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until midnight. Closed Monday. Reservations not accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 14, 33, 49. Noise level: moderate.

Little b. Stack of grilled sweet potato and tofu $6

Clam chowdercup $4, bowl $6

Fish and chipstwo pieces $8, three pieces $11

Trout with Dijon and almonds $7

Fried plantains with red beans $6

Oh! Brother omelet or scramble with shrimp $9; crab $10

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I started early, at the end of 2006, when looking for a likely spot to have dinner after seeing a movie with Nicole, who was visiting San Francisco from Los Angeles. I phoned a new spot in the Mission District called Weird Fish. Its location had made me think it might specialize in fish tacos, which might feel old-hat to an Angeleno. But the terse reply to my question "What do you serve?" sounded interesting: "Vegetables," the staffer said, "and sustainable fish."

We had turned a weekday matinee (during the lovely hammock of time suspended between Christmas and New Year's) into a Cate Blanchett double bill, strolling from The Good German at the Century in the Westfield Shopping Centre to Notes on a Scandal at the Metreon. Both were exclusive engagements, which guaranteed full and appreciative audiences. There was a full and appreciative audience at the tiny sliver of a storefront that houses Weird Fish, too. Its whimsical hanging sign of a voluptuous mermaid had beckoned to us from the chilly, rather cheerless block, and the interior was even more welcoming. (The owners are veterans of the popular Mission hangouts Boogaloo's and the St. Francis Fountain.) The small space, containing only nine tables, alluded to the seafood theme with its cool blue paint and scattering of chic objets — bottles that might have been found on a beach, nautical-looking stars, framed fish prints. I admired the assortment of mirrors hung over the banquette running down one side of the room. In fact, the general effect was so charming that I considered asking who'd decorated the place, with an eye to getting him or her to help me out at home.

In the meantime, we cast an eye over the menu, which states: "We serve locally grown vegetables, & prepare fish that is primarily farmed and sustainable. We are making conscious efforts to embody a green business practice at the Weird Fish. Thank you for supporting us. Together we can make a difference."

Together Nicole and I were making a good dent in the menu. We started by sharing the mysteriously named Little b. Stack, a tasty and pretty layering of grilled sweet potato with spinach leaves, crumbles of goat cheese, and firm slices of tofu marinated in a sharp vinaigrette, and the equally mysteriously named New School Louie (available with crab, shrimp, or a combination). It seemed pretty much like a classic Louis salad to us, the ingredients (avocado, tomato, scallions, hard-boiled egg) laid out like a mosaic atop mostly chopped iceberg lettuce. Perhaps the "new school" was the garlicky remoulade dressing, considerably more garlicky than the classic Louis dressing. But I was a trifle disappointed by the advertised Dungeness crab; I asked our server if the restaurant picked the crab from its shell, knowing full well the answer would be no. Fishmongers turn out pre-picked crab that is pinkish, watery, and stringy, nothing like the fat, white, snowy flakes you get when you crack a Dungeness yourself. Still, it was a tasty enough and generous serving.

We admired our neighbor's starter — three plump rolls of cucumber stuffed with crab, avocado, red onion, and cilantro — as we dug into our main courses. I love love loved my fish and chips, three big chunks of tilapia dipped in beer batter (Weird Fish also offers a wheat-free soy batter) and served with rather limp fries (a mixture of potato and yam), crunchy house-made coleslaw, and tartar sauce. The restaurant had thoughtfully provided bottles of Pickapeppa sauce and malt vinegar. (I was surprised that the fish was fried to a golden crispness — covering steamy, moist flesh — that the potatoes didn't achieve.) Nicole was equally taken with her trout, a thin boneless filet encrusted with Dijon mustard and almonds; for its accompaniment, she chose lemon aioli (from a list of sauces that includes tartar, sesame-ginger, and chipotle), which seemed to be missing any garlic (maybe it was all in the remoulade). Other fish choices include grilled tilapia or catfish, which can also be served blackened, with mango salsa. We shared a generous plate of fried plantains atop long-cooked red beans, the whole plate squiggled with sour cream. When we heard our neighbors order fried dill pickles, we remembered that we'd forgotten to do so, too, especially because they're made with Guss' dills from the Lower East Side in New York.

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