2933 Adams Avenue, University Heights
Fun Fact Number One:
University Heights seafood counter Beerfish couldn’t get www.beerfish.com because some obscure rod and tackle outfit with the tagline “Worse for wear and overpriced” has it locked down.
Fun Fact Number Two:
“Beer fish” is an obscure, regional speciality from China’s Guangxi region, where the Li river bisects spectacular karst rock formations. Travelers to the region report enjoying the dish (which consists of river carp and vegetables braised in beer and chiles) enormously.
Beerfish (the one on Adams) does not, as of this writing, carry this dish, and probably never will — though wouldn’t that be something! The kitchen does produce chowder in red and white, a maneuver that would constitute the most heretical fence sitting in a fish house anywhere in the Northeast, where what one considers “chowder” can be a matter of life and death.
Imagine trying to get San Diegans to eat carp. Americans, particularly those in major cities, have an incredibly narrow definition of what constitutes fine table fare. Where Europeans and Asians will consume mackerel and bonito with gusto, local fishermen consider them both bait at best, trash at worst, and neither will be showing up on the menu at hip local restaurants any time soon. Carp, to most, is the coarsest of the coarse fish, hardly worth mentioning.
On Beerfish’s menu, instead of any coarse fish, you’ll find up-and-coming opah ground into the fishcake sandwich. There’s yellowtail sliced and grilled for sandwiches or served raw and swimming in sauces beneath a pile of delicate microgreens. Lobster and oysters appear, of course.
In short, only the noblest of fish makes the cut for Beerfish, which makes sense when you consider that this isn’t really a New England fish house, where diners are likely to order fried smelts, heads and all. Nor is it a Southern catfish fry, where muddy river fish gets dressed up in remoulade — not to cover the flavor but to accent it.
Beerfish is not really salty at all, despite the design efforts such as buoys on the walls and white PVC deck boots on the staff. It’s an interesting experiment in translating arguably foreign cuisine into a San Diego-friendly form, but the onus lies almost entirely on the beer menu. Because if there’s one thing our local skippers and pinheads have in common with hipsters who would never set foot on a boat, it’s that they love drinking one too many Sculpins.