Only the noblest fish makes the cut for Beerfish. She’s confirming that on her phone.
  • Only the noblest fish makes the cut for Beerfish. She’s confirming that on her phone.
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Beerfish

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 exterior

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.

Beerfish interior

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.

Fishcake sandwich

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.

Grilled yellowtail sandwich

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.

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Comments

Charlie Morgenstern Aug. 2, 2016 @ 8:45 p.m.

Mercy:

You're right. The halcyon days of restaurant criticism have been left laughably far behind us. There's not much point in describing the food, since nobody will decide whether or not to eat here based on what I have to say, as I assume they have already gotten their Yelp and Facebook fix (having been targeted by extremely powerful algorithms) before they even make it to the Reader. Instead, how about taking the time we have together to learn something that adds perspective to a meal?

For what it's worth, the food at Beerfish is of no particular distinction, neither particularly good nor noticeably bad, and requires little description beyond what the restaurant gives on its menu (Incidentally, I could say the same for the vast majority of restaurants in the city). There are no surprises here....but that's not very fun to read, now, is it?

—CM

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Ian Pike Aug. 8, 2016 @ 6:39 p.m.

I'm with Morgenstern. Seems like a good opportunity to engage in a little dialogue. I already made up my mind not to go there (I'm over it with hipster stuff and no longer think "craft beer" is worth the effort or expense), so might as well learn a thing or two.

Although, he isn't firm enough on one point...anything red is NOT chowder. Chowder is white, and contains clams, potatos, and onions ONLY! #NewEnglandAuthority

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