Eat & Run: At SoPo Seafood, the fishmongers also prepare a good lunch for you
The first time I tried to order takeout from SoPo Seafood in Knightville, the website wouldn’t accept orders. The second time I was able to order, but the market/restaurant texted me a whole day early to let me know my order was ready to be picked up.
“Disregard this message,” said the jolly man in a British accent who answered the phone when I called, puzzled. I received the same message the next day at the appointed time. But when I arrived at the laid-back, blue-gray-blonde (reminiscent of sea and beach?) spot on a Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., my order actually wasn’t ready. I had to wait 10-15 minutes.
No matter. I haven’t been anywhere for months – how about you? – which is not too short and requires patience. I took the opportunity to stroll through the market, its shelves and crates filled with seaweed seasonings, seaweed tea, canned fish, fresh fish, shellfish, smoked fish and the ubiquitous “merch” these lately, in this case branded hats and t-shirts. It’s a spacious, bright space with a small counter and a few tables, inside and – at this time of year – outside too. While I was there several lunching patrons occupied each of these sections.
Then I settled in for several minutes with “The River Cottage Fish Book”, one of many attractive cookbooks peering into odd nooks and crannies – my selection was propped up on a chair by the front window. The combination of a good cookbook, a plump and pristine fish and a pleasant fragrance touched me; You can always recognize a good fish shop by its smell: reminiscent of the ocean without being suspicious. Before my lunch was ready, I had bought a fillet of salmon to take home to cook.
While the restaurant’s menu includes more items from its raw bar, SoPo Seafood’s take-out menu is clean and appealing — largely simple preparations that make the very fresh fish and seafood shine. There are two types of chowder, lobster rolls, smoked trout rolls, salad with dulse dressing, shelled oysters, rice bowl. Oh, and potato chips, because who doesn’t need potato chips to complete lunch?
The bowl of rice ($16.50, plus $4 for my addition of marinated tofu; you can also add eel, salmon, lobster, tuna, or eggs) is the perfect on-the-go meal. Clean, pretty and nothing that will get cold or soggy in transit. It lived up to its looks, as I discovered on my way home. In my experience, rice is the downfall of many rice dishes. Not here. The beans were fresh and plump. Atop the rice were delicate piles of pickled ginger, quick-pickled onions and cucumbers, finely grated carrots, braised baby turnips, edamame, mashed avocado, tangled seaweed salad and cubes neatly arranged tofu. Flavors and colors were fresh and balanced. The textures also played well against each other – forks, or rather chopsticks of smooshy avocado, bright seaweed and slightly crunchy pickled vegetables. The bowl of rice came with a small plastic ramekin of spicy mayonnaise, which I didn’t find necessary, although it made a nice addition to my egg salad sandwich the next day.
For dinner (didn’t think I’d stop at lunch?) I brought home a pub-style chowder with swordfish, scallops and bacon ($8.50), which was also excellent: creamy and peppery with the taste of the sea. The portion is more like a cup than a bowl. It wouldn’t have seemed to me to put scallops or swordfish in a chowder, but in the future it will. Nitpick: A few more pieces of fish could have been nice.
If the test of a great restaurant meal is whether you’ll return, and at your own expense, SoPo Seafood scored high marks. It offers yet another reason for foodies to visit Knightville.