Cape Fear Foodie: Salt Fish
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It was brought to my attention that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, followed by the question of whether or not I had any favorite spots for a romantic meal. To be honest, I had not thought about creating a short list for everyone about where to venture to for a lovely dinner with that special someone. Personally, I’ve always believed that whatever you or your loved one’s favorite food is, go with that. If that means pizza, get pizza, if you’re pining for tacos and margaritas, grab some Mexican food. You don’t have to secure a difficult reservation at a fine dining establishment to express your admiration for someone...though it certainly can’t hurt!
That being said, I did spend an evening at one restaurant in Carolina Beach that stole my heart. Not only does Salt Fish have a nice array of seafood, Southern, and Asian-inspired dishes, it also has several authentic tiki cocktails (which is a sure fire way to get the hearts pouring from my eyes, a la Pepe Le Pew).
It’s a small restaurant, with capacity for about 25 or so people, so reservations are recommended. For those in-the-know, Salt Fish is likely one of their favorite spots on the island, but I’ve talked to many people that have either never heard of it or never been. Well, consider this a call to arms to try this bodacious bungalow of tasty eats and drinks.
Salt Fish has a wine and craft beer list, but you really must try one of their rum concoctions. From the classic “Mai Tai”, to inventive “Blue Ring Octopus,” the bar serves up some delightful drinks, inside decorative mugs with a host of garnishes. Take for example this “Big Belly Buddha,” comprised of various rums, lemongrass and coconut water. It’s light, refreshing, and completely unlike a frozen Pina Colada or Strawberry Daiquiri that have hijacked the intricate tiki cocktail scene.
Now that you have your tropical drink in hand, it’s time to hop on the culinary boat of adventure and take off to some exotic land. Check out these shrimp wraps, served with crispy lettuce, various pickled veggies and fresh shrimp tossed in thai chili sauce and yum yum sauce. They’re a little messy, but it’s “finger lickin’ good” without the guilt.
If you order nothing else at Salt Fish, you must get some of the “Hand-Breaded Fresh Clam Strips.” These aren’t the battered, fried clams you’ve seen on seafood buffets up and down the coast. The kitchen starts with fresh clams, cuts them into strips, breads them and then fries them up for a glorious crunch. The seasoning is just right too, and the dipping sauces only add to the flavor instead of masking it. They are the best fried clams I’ve ever had, and maybe will ever have, they are that good.
When it comes to an entrée, consider the special for the evening. The menu staples are more than enough to tempt your taste buds, but this is where the chef can branch out and try new things. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but one dish caught my eye from the get-go. The “Half Pineapple” is completely Instagram worthy, that is if you can think to take a picture before digging in. The pineapple is cut in half, then hits the grill. The contents are then raked out and mixed with fresh fried rice containing Chinese sausage, edamame, sesame seeds and big, fresh shrimp. It sounds strange saying this, especially after eating at some marvelous Asian restaurants in the area, but this is the most unique fried rice I’ve ever tried and likely the best of the bunch.
Now when it comes to the special, I went with the Seared Monk Fish, with blue corn grits, fried green beans, smoked tomatoes with a goat cheese beurre blanc drizzle. Each bite was packed with flavor, from the perfectly seared fish, to the creamy grits, the crunchy green beans and the tomatoes that were seemingly pulled from a campfire. I was in love with this dish, and others were too, with a patron at another table exclaiming “this is absolutely incredible.”
Come to think of it, the entire evening at Salt Fish was absolutely incredible. At first glance, it may not seem like a top-level establishment, with a small setting and modest place settings, but once the drinks are poured and the food is served, you’re immediately enthralled by what is on your table. And that’s the sign of a truly special place. Keep that in mind as Valentine’s Day nears, if you’re in love with the food in front of you, that’s all that matters, whether it’s seafood and tiki drinks or not.
IF YOU GO:
Salt Fish Restaurant and Tiki Bar is located at 718 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!
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