Perhaps I'm just an old dog unwilling to learn new tricks, but I am a fish and chips snob. I know perfectly well which pubs fry up the best filets. I am also a chowder aficionado, and I believe I know where to obtain the tastiest chowder in the Treasure Valley. So when I pulled my car into parking lot of the strip mall housing Fresh off the Hook, I was a bit skeptical, but still open to finding the perfect bowl of chowder and plate of fish and chips.
My dining companion and I were there for a late lunch, but the place was still pretty busy. The tables are small, the booth sides a bit cramped and some of the tables were dirty, probably due to an oversight of the lunch rush. There's a lot of light from the big store front windows, illuminating the plainness of the white painted walls. Some color would add a lot of appeal to the place.
We ordered their two soups: traditional clam chowder ($2.99 with meal) and a seafood tomato bisque. I tried the bisque first. It had big chunks of salmon and white fish, but wasn't overly creamy, which is nice for a bisque. Hunks of bread would have been a nice alternative to the plastic wrapped saltines on the side. But more importantly: the chowder! The cream base was delightfully light and lacked the weight many restaurants' chowder have.
For entrees, we ordered the halibut fish and chips ($10.99) and fish tacos ($5.99). The fish tacos were very good, with a yummy lime cilantro dressing and homemade salsa. The fish chunks were still hot, while the shredded cabbage and diced tomatoes were nice and cold inside the flour tortilla, an appealling contrast. My dining companion commented that it would be nice to be given the option of corn instead of only flour tortillas.
As for the fish and chips, the batter was delicious and the chunks of halibut were fried to perfection. The outside was perfectly crispy and the inside tender and steaming hot. I believe that if the fish is good enough then tartar sauce is unnecessary. However, the fish was excellent and I was pleasantly surprised by the tartar sauce which was loaded with dill, creamy and with a touch of lemon juice.
I have to admit I was disappointed with the fries. Usually, fries are just a vessel for my dipping sauces, and I enjoyed having the option of malt vinegar at Fresh off the Hook. But I didn't eat many of them at this meal, which is highly unusual for me.
The staff at Fresh off the Hook was very friendly. The prices were good too, so while the surroundings are stereotypical strip-mall fare, the food is worth the trip.
--Rachel Abrahamson is a creature of halibut, but she believes in the healing power of chowder