Chef good, manager bad

Dinner last night at the Dead Fish, in Crockett. We’ve eaten there before, most recently last week, and enjoyed it enough to return for more delectable goodness.

Well, I still like the place, but they sure found ways to test my appreciation.

The Dead Fish is a lovely, very successful restaurant perched on a bluff overlooking the Carquinez Bridge and the straits it spans. The view is magnificent, and virtually every table faces the window and the panorama. There is a large patios with outdoor seating, well served by heaters, which also includes tiny curtained-off ‘rooms’ which provide an extraordinarily romantic atmosphere. The Dead Fish is owned by the same group that operates the Stinking Rose in the City, so they should know a thing or two about operating a high-volume destination establishment.

Last time we ate with Gail’s nephew Chris and his sweetie, Janice. They live quite close and frequent the Dead Fish, and started the meal with two orders of the Crab Crostini, a phenomenal appetizer consisting of toast, crab, smoked salmon, avocado and a drizzle of oil.

When we went back last night, with Barbara and Margaret for our monthly dinner, I wanted the same starter, but two orders is too much. There are 3 pieces in an order, for some reason they must teach in restaurant school. Most dinner groups are an even number—-two or four. Why 3 pieces?

So I asked the waiter to give us an order of 4 pieces. What’s the big deal? I don’t mind paying for the fourth piece, I just want one for each of us.

At the Dead Fish, though, the customer is not always right. The adamantly refuse to make that accommodation. An order is three pieces, no more and no less. No exceptions. He offered to bring out two orders, but that was too much for the delicate appetites of my tablemates, so we just took the one order and cut it up and made do. An inelegant solution, to be sure, but they left me little choice.

On the dinner menu, they offer a pasta dish with chicken, asparagus, olives and pesto. Sounds great, but in a house famous for its crab, why eat chicken? So I ordered it with crab instead—this was a change they were willing to make. And the dish is fabulous. Wonderful. Huge, juicy chunks of crab in a bowl of fettucine. I loved it.

The ladies all had the crab enchilada. This is signature dish of the Dead Fish, and highly recommended. The dish comes with two very large and rich enchiladas–two people could easily share this plate, and roughly have of what we ordered came home with us.

I wish I could offer you photos of the food, but the some designer got to the owners and installed bizarre halogen lighting with yellow/green filters, and there was no way I could get a good picture. The lighting is odd from a business standpoint, because it makes the people look sickly and the food just look weird and unappetizing.

Service, except for the inflexibility part, was very good. Each server uses an electronic ordering device, so when I asked for another iced tea he just clicked on his pad, the order came up in the pantry and a runner brought the fresh flagon of iced tea out in a matter of seconds. I was impressed.

Prices are mostly reasonable–the crab enchiladas were $18.95. You can spend big if you want–the slab of prime rib with crab is $57, but that would easily feed at least two, probably three people.

Overall, I like this place and will undoubtedly go back. But I’m still cranky about their rigidity about the appetizers, and I want to sit on the patio where the view is best and there isn’t that weird color thing from their outré lighting.

The Dead Fish on Urbanspoon

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