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Dining Review: Jamestown FiSH in Jamestown, RI

IMG_1916Two years is about how long Cheri and I have talked about going to Jamestown FiSH to see what the fuss is about.  We’ve had bites of chef Matthew MacCartney’s food at various wine events, seen the restaurant’s name in various places, and certainly noticed the consecutive Food & Wine “People’s Best New Chef” New England awards that Matthew has taken home.  Our visit is well overdue.  This past weekend we finally had reservations and met some friends there for dinner.  We were not to be disappointed.

The restaurant is right on Narragansett Avenue in Jamestown in the heart of the village.  Although subdued on a Saturday night in November this is a vibrant area with a lot of shops and restaurants.  Parking is all on street, or in the lot near the ferry landing.  We had a short walk on a beautiful late fall evening.  When you approach you’ll see the

The main dining room

The main dining room

double doors in the front, which have been closed off and are not an entrance.  Walk around the side and up the ramp instead.  You’ll be greeted warmly upon entering by the host or hostess.  The main dining room is to your left, and very elegant, but comfortably appointed.  IMG_1914We got a sense of feeling right at home almost immediately.  Since we were early we went to the right, and up the stairs to the Bridge Bar.  On the second deck the bar has seats for about 8-10 people as well as several tables to one side that would accommodate about the same number.  It is well stocked, and carries an impressive assortment of scotch and bourbon.  I availed myself of that.  Outside is a deck, open in the warmer months.  We waited here for our friends and had a chance to talk to Matthew about the restaurant.

About four years into their existence, he explained how Jamestown FiSH has been evolving, listening to their customer base as much as possible while staying within a viable business model.  They have added a large patio outside on the first floor, with a large pizza oven that is fired up and cooking in season.  This space takes the restaurant’s capacity from 70 guests to 180, a huge swing in numbers.  Matthew talked a bit about the demands of maintaining a menu that can handle that huge potential range of diners as well as the different preferences the spaces are likely to bring.  Basically you can’t do it with one menu, and you can’t really do two completely separate ones either.  The compromise is you have two complimentary menus.  Be aware there are things on each that don’t cross the lines.  That’s fine with us, and we are looking forward to visiting the patio this coming summer.

Let’s talk about the menu they are serving right now.  If you read the name of the restaurant you can guess what is featured.  Seafood rules here.  Appetizers cover both cooked and raw offerings.  Also on the appetizer menu are some

The calamari special appetizer

The calamari special appetizer

Italian inspired offerings, such as Squash Soup with parmigiano and ricotta, Eggplant and a Salumi plate.  On the entree side it is all fish except for a Vermont Quail.  Signature dishes include the Jamestown FiSH Cookpot, a small dutch oven filled with a variety of ocean goodness, as well as the Linguini and Clams, which uses no butter or wine in it’s preparation.  Everything sounded great.  There were also a few specials to consider, and the appetizer special was an olive oil poached calamari, with potatoes and capers.  We had a chance to try this and I thought it excellent.  It is served cold, and the calamari was tender with the capers lending a good level of salinity that carried the dish.  This recipe was taken from local author Jane Sigal’s new book: “bistronomy – Recipes from the Best New Paris Bistros.”  Based on the calamari we tried this is a book worth taking a look at.  If you’re interested Jane will be doing a Q&A session with WSJ Wine Columnist Lettie Teague at the Jamestown Arts Center on Dec. 5th at 5 PM, and I believe signing books right after it.

Our group ordered a variety of appetizers and entrees.  On the appetizer side we sampled the Fish Soup, Squash

Squash soup - Cheri loved it!

Squash soup – Cheri loved it!

Soup, Tuna and Blood Orange, Cheese plate and the Beet and Arugula Salad.  Every plate was clean when we had finished. I personally had the Tuna & Blood Orange, which featured two rows of raw yellowfin with a row of blood orange slices between them.  An olive oil, cilantro and red pepper sauce finished it.  Cheri had the Squash Soup, and absolutely raved about it, calling it the best she’d ever had.  It was certainly a good start.

Entrees included the Cookpot, Linguini & Clams, Lobster Linguini and Halibut.  Again, everyone expressed satisfaction.  I had the Linguini & Clams, and it was perfectly cooked

Linguini & Clams

Linguini & Clams

linguini with sliced clams in a clean broth.  It had more of an edge to it than your normal version, where the wine and/or butter would smooth everything out.  Here you could still taste the sea.  I really liked it.  Cheri’s Halibut was beautifully presented over a sweet potato puree, with spinach substituted for the normal brussel sprouts.  She loved this as well.  The Cookpot looked downright amazing, and I am likely to go for that the next time we visit the dining room.  This is all good.

Halibut

Halibut

The wine list is extensive, so be prepared.  They also offer a good selection of wines by the glass, and these are all chosen to pair well with the menu.  I ended up with the Muller-Thurgau, not on the list that I could see but recommended by the server, which was great with my dinner.  You can get a standard or a larger pour as well.  If you do opt for a bottle leave yourself a few extra minutes to peruse. France and Italy are very well represented.

Desserts were equally impressive.  We ended up with the Chocolate Pot, Pumpkin Cheescake and the trios of Sorbet and Ice Cream, all home made.  Sorbets included Mandarin,

Daily ice creams and sorbets

Daily ice creams and sorbets

Pomegranate and Banana, with ice creams covering Eggnog, Gingerbread and Maple Walnut.  All were good, but the Chocolate Pot was fabulous, almost like the world’s best chocolate pudding that your grandmother cooked on the stove.  The banana sorbet was equally incredible, just exploding with banana flavor.  Coffee and conversation wrapped up a very good meal.

The service here is impeccable, and everyone is obviously well trained and knows their jobs.  Attentive but not smothering, the staff was gracious throughout the evening.  Things can move at your pace here, and we were chatting away so dinner lasted three hours.  It could have moved faster but the staff wasn’t rushing us.  Other groups came and went while we were there.   Throughout the evening Matthew found the time to get out and interact with his guests.  It’s a great atmosphere.

Our wallet is out for Jamestown FiSH.  We will certainly be back to try it in all seasons.

A votre santé!

The particulars:

Jamestown FiSH
14 Narragansett Avenue
Jamestown, Rhode Island
401-423-FiSH (3474)

Website: http://www.jamestownfishri.com/

Open Wed – Sat as well as Sunday for brunch.

Jamestown Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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