This week I reviewed the Sandbar, still one of my favorite restaurants in town, despite a few grumbles about the new location. If I could afford to, I'd eat there at least once a week. Print means limitations, though, so as promised a few notes that didn't make it into the story:
• Sandbar serves an over-the-top iceberg wedge that is like a treasure hunt: Navigate around the fresh avocado island, through a delightfully light sea of dressing to find fresh cheese crumbles, plump and savory tomato confit, and tender hardboiled egg. Fresh chives, shallot, thin slivers of crisp bacon (note: we ordered extra) -- at our house we call iceberg lettuce crunchy water but it makes perfect sense here as the sturdy but unobtrusive anchor.
• Lobster-roll economics: Judging by comments at Urban Spoon, I'm not the only diner who misses the lobster roll at lunch -- in fact, it makes a lot more sense as a meal at lunch -- but not $$-wise, apparently, which is why it's currently regulated to evening-only. Chef Weissman is said to be considering installing a lobster tank, which I gather might make a difference, but in the meantime, if you care as I do -- please order it more often at dinnertime.
• The whole fried fish is served with an addictive sauce with the consistency of ponzu (and like a ginger ponzu, fresh with ginger, citrus, and scallion flavor), but clearly of a higher order. James Martin says it's made with, among other things, salted black beans, fish sauce, and fresh garlic, scallion, and ginger. Which sounds like it could be overpowering, but it's actually almost delicate. I love it almost as much as the fish itself.
• The hot plate: My biggest gripe will make little sense to folks who prefer their fish hot and cooked, but there are a few other places in town to get very good dishes along these lines (although as always, you'll find more attention to detail at Sandbar, and seldom will something be out of balance), while what was so exciting about Sandbar's debut is that it presented the opportunit to eat seafood like those lucky coastal bastards to the East and West of us. But to be fair, the new Sandbar has a full kitchen, which the original location did not and more seats to fill -- Current critic Ron Bechtol says they used to cook the whole fried fish at next-door Le Reve, for instance, as well as the unctuous (in a very good way) lobster bisque ...
• ... which James says is a classic French preparation that gets some of that rich flavor from Cognac, and takes something like 7 hours to prepare. I've noticed more complaints about this dish than any other in food-site user reviews of Sandbar (tastes burned, say some; no actual pieces of lobster, say others) and I sincerely hope Chefs Weissman and Carlson pay no attention whatsoever. SA could be on culinary maps for this soup alone.