Chow, Baby: Wednesday, August 09, 2006
If I Were Kingfish

Chow, Baby got to play several rounds of its favorite game, Second-Guess the Chef, last week at Kingfish (62 Main St., Colleyville). The seafood restaurant is the newest venture from David McMillan, the ex-Nana chef who opened fancy-pants 62 Main to great acclaim last year. Kingfish, downstairs from 62 Main in (Chow, Baby cringes to type this) “The Village at Colleyville,” is more fun and casual, geared toward families. Chow, Baby knows this because of the SpongeBob SquarePants piñatas twirling from the ceilings and the “We Like Kids!” section of the menu, which offers junior portions of fish sticks and other fried plates ($4.95). The quiet, well-mannered children (so it is possible!) at the next table seemed to enjoy it all.

Chow, Baby wasn’t so lucky. A starter of “The Best Hot Crawfish Dip with Garlic Toast” ($6.95) held a good quantity of firm crawfish, but the dip part was just cream cheese seasoned with onion-soup mix. Well, that’s what it tasted like, anyway. Chow, Baby ate it all only because it was mentally testing various flavor enhancers with each bite. Curry was definitely called for. Dill might have been good in this. Capers? Worth a try. Lemon juice or Tabasco for a sorely needed spark. Also Chow, Baby would have put some garlic on the alleged garlic toast.

No, no, no. Why would anyone go to the trouble of making a perfect crab cake just to bury it inside a big toasted bun ($8.95)? What a waste; the wonderfully delicate flavors of sautéed crabmeat, fresh tarragon, and lemon mayonnaise were buried beneath the bread. But once the bun was jettisoned, and the hickory-smoked bacon used to scoop up the crab shreds, the ex-sandwich was perfect. The side of fries sprinkled with sea salt was also perfect; Chow, Baby’s imagination could not find an improvement. The side of rice and black beans was perfect after salt and Tabasco were added.

For once in Chow, Baby’s life, paying extra for a salad to get tuna ($14.95) instead of chicken ($8.95) turned out to be worth it. The salad itself was fine, vinaigrette-dressed greens with slivered almonds, mandarin orange slices, carrot matchsticks, and crispy noodles, though Chow, Baby would have thrown in some pineapple mint, too. But oh, that tuna — two large chunks of yellowfin coated with black and white sesame seeds, beautifully seared on the outside and beautifully raw on the inside. One of the pieces was meltingly, sushi-grade fantastic; the other was tougher and had a slight fishy taste. If Chow, Baby had been choosing and cooking, surely they both would have been perfect.

Chow, Baby talks a lot about the New Orleans side of its family, the Chows, but the Carolina Coast-hailing Baby contingent has good taste, too. So Chow, Baby knows its shrimp and grits, and the only guessing here was how a chef from Dallas (and originally from California) can turn out such a wonderful rendition of the classic Charleston dish. McMillan’s version ($13.95) folds garlic-sautéed shrimp, mushrooms, and scallions into jack cheese-infused grits with some of that hickory-smoked bacon stirred in — a spectacular blend of coastal textures and flavors and a nice match for the whimsical seaside-themed décor. Chow, Baby wouldn’t change a thing.

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