Last Tuesday, “Jazzy” needed to get her 4 months immunization shots at a clinic in New Westminster. She is such a little trooper, barely cried at all and she is most likely the bestest baby girl ever. OK, so I’m a little biased and a much too proud papa, but I can’t help it!
After the needles, we cruised down to Cockney King’s Fish and Chips[ 1035 Columbia St., #102, New Westminster, (604) 522-6099] for lunch. We have never eaten there before, but I had heard it was extremely popular. I had not eaten anything all day and only had a Nespresso earlier in the morning. Without much debate, “Monk” and I gluttonously decided to order the all-you-can-eat fish and chips. Now let me preface a few things. 1. I don’t usually believe in the all-you-can-eat concept and firmly subscribe to the belief in quality over quantity. 2. The server told us the fish was basa when he featured our table. Basa is a farmed catfish from Vietnam; in fact “Monk” and I toured around the Mekong Delta, where the basa industry thrives, during our epic 2007 south-east Asia trip. I justified ordering the AYCE because I was starving and when I think of fish and chips, it’s not really the fresh fish that is first and foremost. Let’s be realistic, almost all fish and chip shops will use frozen fish. If I want to eat a fresh, simply prepared piece of fish, I would not batter it and fry it. Fish and chips is about the crispy batter, the tartare sauce, the chips, the salt and the grease.
When our plates arrived, there were three pieces of fish and a generous amount of chips. The fish was beautifully golden, extremely hot and the chips were very crispy and tasty. The fish was so hot that “Monk” had to wait quite a few minutes before she could tuck in. The tartare sauce was in a grungy squeeze bottle and was clearly store-bought and industrial tasting. So back to the fish. It was good, it was hot, it was very flaky and not dry in any way. My only problem was the fish had no taste. It had no brightness to it or any fresh seafood sweetness to it that I associate with good fish. In fact we ordered two more pieces of fish while this basa dilemma raged on in my head. On another note, the server was incredible. He was by himself and at 2:30pm, he had at least 20 active tables. Granted, he’s not decanting a bottle of Orofino or describing intricate features, but I was impressed by his organization, his hustle and “intestinal fortitude”. When his co-worker arrived at the end of our meal, I noticed the high five he gave her, the sigh of relief and over heard bits of story telling recalling the hectic rush he just plowed through. I can’t help, but notice these things when I go out to eat.
I love fish and chips. I have many fond memories of fish and chips from my youth and am reminded of them each time I occasionally indulge in this fried fish treat. Growing up, we use to go to Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips when we were just “little guys” and also became fans of a local fish and chip shop close to our childhood home in Mississauga. Heck, my parents took me out for fish and chips last time I visited them in Toronto. I hate to admit it, but even to this day, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the filet of fish sandwich at Mickey D’s. One summer when I was a wee little chef, we were spending the summer in PEI and after catching a beautiful cod, my Mom made the most amazing fish and chips lunch ever. When I was working in London about 10 years ago, we use to make the most amazing fish and chips for staff meal out of fresh turbot trim and tempura batter. French turbot would definitely be my fish of choice for my ultimate fish and chips. Needless to say, fish and chips and I go way back.
At Tapenade, I recently put a “fish and chip” appy on the menu. It’s fried halibut cheeks, a Yukon gold croquette, house made tartare sauce, mushy peas, house made tomato confiture(ketchup) and a malt vinegar caramel. It has all the components of traditional fish and chips, but with our twist on it. I’m used to eating our awesome chunky tartare sauce, filled with chopped cornichon, non-pareilles capers, fresh chives, sherry vinegar and “Cheffrey’s” secret blend of herbs, seasonings and spices. Tartare sauce is not just relish and mayo mixed together. When I get dirty squeeze bottle goo at Cockney King’s, it’s just not a fair fight comparing the two.
My issue and concerns with Cockney Kings; when I asked the guys about the fish they were serving, they had no clue about where it was from, where it was sourced or the sustainability of it. The tartare sauce was really gross. The bathroom was raunchy and there was a greasy touch to the entire restaurant. Overall, I like the place, will try it again and look forward to trying the halibut and chip, the fried oyster sandwich and the battered hotdog. Maybe I’ll smuggle in my own little container of “Chef’s Tartare Sauce” next time around.
On my chef’s night out scale, Cockney Kings Fish and Chips receives 3/5 SOB (slices of bacon).