A new restaurant joined the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina complex in late spring. Initially called the Blue Marlin Fish House, this expansive property opened in June as the Fish House.
Category: Neighborhood Favorite
Address: 20 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant
Bar: Full-service bar in dining room; Roof Top Bar, where only flatbread pizza is served
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner 5-10 p.m.
Food: 2 1/2
Costs: Lunch $8.95-$15.95; Dinner: appetizers $5.95-$13.95, soups and salads $6.95-$11.95, protein add-ons $6.95-$10.95, vegetarian dishes $13.95-$15.95, pastas $18.95-$20.95, entrees $15.95-$32.95. Market Price: oyster bar, daily specials, market board fish; children’s menu; flatbread pizza menu for rooftop bar, $9.95-$11.95 featuring four different toppings
Vegetarian Options: Yes and gluten-free
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Other: Reservations suggested on weekends; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; member Sustainable Seafood Initiative and Buy Local; OpenTable; 19 percent gratuity added to parties of 6 or more; marina access, Channel 16 or 284-7067; The Yacht Club event/meeting space, private dining room for small groups; open-air bar, main dining room with fireplace.
The complex is home to a marina store, a private event space called the Yacht Club that can host up to 150 guests, a rooftop bar with spectacular views and open-air pavilion, and private and main dining rooms.
The views are exceptional whether you search out the steeples of the Holy City, the masts of the nautical life, the span of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, vistas of downtown or the changing cloud formations and incredible colors of a Lowcountry sky.
Executive chef Charles Arena Jr. landed at the Fish House after a successful run at the Boathouse at Breach Inlet on the Isle of Palms. This New Yorker was schooled in the finer arts of cooking and eating at his nonna’s Sunday suppers. He also graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Stints at La Cote Basque (New York) and an opportunity to work with Tom Colicchio on Kiawah Island Club’s Tides at the Beach Club dining room further honed his cooking skills. Seven years at the Boathouse provided ample opportunity to master the simple art of finfish and shellfish cooking.
An early adapter to the “eat local, buy local” movement, Arena cultivated relationships with the coastal network of clammers, fishermen and shrimpers, netting the freshest possible for his kitchen. When he said “catch of the day,” it usually was.
Check out the restaurant’s Facebook page or Twitter account to see what beauties will make the short journey from sea to plate: wreckfish, grouper, mahi, sea trout, red snapper and striped bass are a few of the more recent catches.
The seafood-centric menu is expansive. The appetizers and starters are predominately fried (green tomatoes, hushpuppies, calamari, oysters, shrimp) or dips (smoked fish, crab) with pita chips. Mussels are steamed ($10.95) and local shrimp can be had as a cocktail or peel n’ eat style served in 1/4 and ½ pound portions for $9.95 and $13.95.
Arena has positioned vegetarian options as well as gluten-free choices on the Fish House menu. The “superfood” darling quinoa is topped with grilled vegetables ($13.95), and the flavors of a New Orleans jambalaya are made with Carolina gold rice and local black-eyed peas ($14.95).
Those who prefer turf over surf will find beef tenderloin ($27.95, $32.95), chicken dishes ($18.95-$19.95) and a $15.95 steak house burger.
Entrees included two sides from the Lowcountry staples of grits, collard greens, mac and cheese, sweet potato fries, Carolina Gold rice cakes and coleslaw.
The ubiquitous seafood platters can be ordered fried ($19.95-$21.95) or grilled with a choice of two or three shellfish ($23.95, $24.95) and two sides.
Lowcountry classics appear as shrimp and grits ($19.95), a steam pot ($28.95) with house made chorizo, crispy whole fried flounder ($25.95) and crab cakes ($23.95).
Soft, benne seed-encrusted bread sticks with honey and grain mustard butter accompany the entrees.
We ordered clam chowder ($6.95), calamari fritto misto ($10.95), shrimp ($19.95) and the whole fried flounder ($25.95). Most of our food was remarkably underseasoned.
The chowder was flush with tender clam meat (not so easy to accomplish) and yet the briny, mellow flavor tautology of a milk-based chowder was absent.
The calamari, flounder and Carolina gold rice cakes were dredged in the same nubby coating — no distinguishing seasons for these three different menu items.
The flounder was fresh and sweet, yet in getting it crisp, the kitchen got it too well done. Its companion sauce of ginger-mango puree spoke only to the bitter notes of ginger.
Then there was broccoli, perfectly steamed; and coleslaw, bland and unbalanced. It truly was an eating enigma, as Arena knows his way around seafood.
Market Board specials and catch of the day were gilded with sauces, vinaigrettes and glazes. In many cases, the dishes were “over-ingrediented”; simple would suffice. Do ask about pricing, if not volunteered, as many entrees were in the $30-plus range as specials.
Desserts are opulent: cheesecake, chocolate fondant cake, crackle pie and Key lime pie.
The servers and hosts are uniformed in navy slacks, jaunty blue and white tailored shirts and long white waiters’ aprons. The space is festooned with black-and white photographs of the billfish family, and nautical maps adorn the tabletops. Design and decor are a delight. Just bring your sunglasses.
The Fish House splits the difference between a coastal seafood shack and a “white-tableclother.” However, its prices reflect the latter. Its salient features are that magnificent view, one you feel you paid for when the check arrives.