East Meets East Fish Fry

Mister and I had dinner at Sea Salt last Saturday night. We had not been in a while owing to the very nice but not quite together wait staff and good but forever uneven meals. (Something, I swear, was tepid when served, but never the item twice.) Sea Salt had expanded into the shop next door, added meat to its menu, friends loved it so we went back. The place has, as before, considerable charm. The Lalime’s folks who own Sea Salt (and T-Rex and Jimmy Bean’s and so on) chose well in the not-too-nautical motif. We were given an option of tables (how nice!), opting to tuck away into the back corner.

Our waitress was efficient and friendly until we did not order drinks and declined a bottle of wine with dinner. Then she seemed indifferent if not a little irritated. Having waited tables for years, I find this attitude tiresome. The tips all work out in the end and while having an extra $50 bottle of wine on the tab is great, not all people tip on that $50, and … really … who cares? We tip well, someone else may not. I wonder if there is a Buddhist approach to tipping to be considered. Our dinners were considerably better than past experiences. I had a nice, if not a little bland, Caesar salad with beautiful anchovies filleted on top. Mister had a sweet salad of little gems. My fish, sturgeon, was lovely. Savory and moist. Mister had fish and chips which he enjoyed but I found totally unimpressive. (I prefer my fish to be encased in a crisp fry, not soggy or falling apart.)

We passed on dessert, much to our waitress’ further annoyance but given the Sea Salt style — she takes the order and never see her again, oh well.

Last night my friend Martha called for dinner. Sea Salt? How about Maritime East? I countered. Maritime East opened where Zax tavern, home to the best burger in the east bay, had been (yes, it is better than Cafe Rouge, which is terrific, and leaps above Wood Tavern). I hate the paint job on the outside. Hate it. The building’s flat front is painted in mid-Atlantic blue stripes that look cheap. Inside, the Zax marble-top bar and oak (?) shelves remain but the walls have been repainted in cool blues. We sat in the front at a four top across from the bar. It isn’t a warm and cozy kind of place, in fact Maritime East needs to realize its gestalt.

But, Martha arrived first and finished off a plate of onion rings before we arrived. She ordered a plate for me which I devoured when we finally sat down with her. She and I shared the baby lettuces with pomegranate “caviar” ($7.25) — nice but something was off, which may have been the radishes. Mister had a beautiful bowl of chowder that he said was “quite good.” His only complaint was that it came with shells and he prefers his chowder shell-free.

Martha and I shared two dishes but should have stuck with the “Deviled” Dungeness Crab Linguine ($22) as it was lovely — light tasting with a fresh, poached farm egg on top. Our other dish, sturgeon, was nice with lentils and pork belly (unnecessary) but the linguine hooked us.

The owner said good night as we left. Bumpy dinner (too long to wait for a salad) but overall a good experience.

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