Whiting Innards @ A Salt & Battery
I can’t stand Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. If you aren’t familiar with the show, basically Bobby Flay, a classically trained chef, goes around the country challenging small-time cooks to a cook-off of their specialty dish. Unfair is an understatement, especially when you consider Bobby appears each time unannounced at the poor victim’s mom and pop shop, with high tech gadgets and gizmos, fancy ingredients, and two sous-chefs in tow. It’s completely absurd, but even more absurd is that Bobby Flay usually loses, even with the odds in his favor.
So normally, I don’t give in to the hype of any restaurants featured on the show, but when I saw the Fish and Chips Throwdown! a few weeks ago with Mat Arnfield from A Salt & Battery winning, I have to admit I was intrigued. David loves the fish and chips at the Coffee Shop in Union Square, so once in a while I’m dragged there against my will. You see, I’m not a big fan of the Coffee Shop. The food isn’t horrible, but the pretentious wannabe actors/models working there drive me crazy. The place seems to be more about scene rather than food. Once the bouncer there actually tried to start a fight with a guy in my group because he claimed he pushed him. Now aren’t bouncers supposed to be stopping fights not starting them? So as a result, I’ve been trying to find a decent fish and chips place without much luck in New York for the past few years. A Salt & Battery I heard was good, but when their 2nd Avenue location closed a while back, I thought they were gone for good. However, after watching the Fish and Chips Throwdown!, I learned they still had a shop in the West Village, so this past Sunday, I dragged David to A Salt & Battery with hopes of finding him a new favorite fish and chip shop.
Unfortunately, it seemed everyone had the same thing in mind this weekend. The tiny shop with only a counter along two sides of the store was packed to the “gills” (sorry, couldn’t resist). So I placed an order for one small Whiting ($5.50), one small Sea Bass ($6.50), one small order of chips ($3.50), and a Vimto ($2.75), and then waited outside. The place was too packed for us to eat inside, and also it reeked of oil, which I’m sure can’t be helped in such a small space. Around fifteen minutes later, our order was ready and we pounced on the empty bench outside as soon as another couple got up to leave.
I had initially ordered the whiting for David since he usually likes whiting, but after trying it and then tasting my sea bass, he said he preferred the sea bass and we traded. He claimed the whiting tasted too fishy. Personally, I didn’t find this to be the case. The whiting was cooked well, soft on the inside and fried crunchy on the outside. If anything, the whiting was just too bland. When I had been waiting outside for the food, I had seen people inside shaking salt on their fish as they ate, which I found odd, but after taking a few bites I understood. The fish and the batter was barely seasoned. As a result, to make the fish more palatable, we drenched each bite in one or more of the following condiments: tartar sauce, marie rose sauce (a tangy concoction of ketchup and mayonnaise), malt vinegar, and salt.
The sea bass, similar to the whiting, was also very tasteless. However, since sea bass, in general, is a more heartier fish, I preferred it over the whiting. Doused in malt vinegar and dunked in tartar sauce, the fish was indeed good. However, alone it was devoid of any flavor besides the taste of fried batter and fish. I think this is what David meant by the whiting being too fishy. A little seasoning pre-frying and after would have made a world of difference.
As for the chips, they were nice fat strips of potatoes crispy around the edges. Being American, I prefer thin french fries fried super crisp, but these were chips, so I couldn’t complain.
To wash down our fish, we got a Vimto, a soft drink from the UK made from grapes, raspberries, and black currants. The can claimed it contained herbs, but I’m not exactly sure what those herbs could be as the drink tasted like a regular fizzy artificial soda. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it. I especially like it now that I learned their motto is “shlurple the purple.” Hilarious. Had I known, I would have been shlurping the Vimto in front of A Salt & Battery instead of just sipping it.
Overall, fish and chips at A Salt & Battery were decent, but not fabulous. Coffee Shop, I’ll be seeing you again soon, attitude and all. As for Bobby Flay, you own how many restaurants and you still didn’t beat A Salt & Battery? Oh man, you suck.
A Salt & Battery
112 Greenwich Avenue (betw 12th St & Jane St)
NY, NY 10010