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Spotlight: Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar

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The servers at Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar, the new restaurant in the old Ravenous Pig space, have apparently been instructed to explain to new guests that it is “a contemporary version of a classic fish camp,” but they’ve not been told how to respond when someone asks, “What does that mean?”

So I can only assume that it means taking tastefully casual decor of the previous tenant, gluing some weathered planks to some walls and stenciling the words Fish Camp on a brick wall.

One will never confuse Reel Fish with, say, JB’s Fish Camp in New Smyrna Beach. In fact there’s very little that’s campy about it.

But fish? Yes, there is fish.

But here, too, the menu, which is under the direction of Michael Zajac and Michael Huffler, isn’t so much a reflection of fish camp cuisine as it is of simply a nice selection of seafood offerings.

The Ale-battered Fried Fish Sandwich, served with a side of fries, was more like a classic fish and chips on a bun. (I don’t think they have fish camps in Britain.) The cod was nice and flaky and the batter crispy and fried just right. It was served on a well-toasted bun with a leaf of lettuce, a slathering of tartar sauce, and a thick slice of tomato.

On another visit my companion and I started with House-smoked Fish Dip, a lovely bowl of lightly dressed fish served with packets of Lance Saltines (now there’s fish camp touch). I don’t know why it was thought that blending in matchsticks of green apples would make the dish better. I just found them annoying as I tried to spread the dip on a cracker.

For my entree I chose the Broiled Seafood Platter because it’s a classic fish camp type of offering and I wanted to see what a contemporary version would look and taste like. But nothing was done to modernize it or elevate it from its overall mundanity. The cod fillet and scallops had a dusting of buttery bread crumbs and both were just fine. The shrimp were just OK. The kitchen prep team might want to try a little harder to remove the shrimp’s sand vein. (Just to be clear: It’s not a vein and that’s not sand.)

My dinner guest chose the Amberjack, one of the specials of the day. A lovely piece of fish with a bit of a barbecue-like glaze, served on a corn and squash succotash and topped with crisp rings of fried onions.

I like the idea of “a contemporary version of a classic fish camp.” I’d love to see what that looks like. I’m pretty sure it will look like something more than any other seafood restaurant, even a good one like Reel Fish.

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