Fishing hole in the wall

Pommes Frites: Fish and chips have never tasted so good

Pommes Frites: 138 Broadway 893-9622 Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

I have this mean formula for measuring the quality of restaurant food. Let me give a negative example: Some restaurants advertise their asses off and dump a ton of money on a venue, donning oversized furniture and televisions. Occasionally, such places are able to serve good food. But even if they do, I cannot help but think of the markup on my meal. And unless the food is extraordinary, I feel like I end up spending half of my meal money on furniture and television upgrades.

Pommes Frites is the antithesis to my negative example. To start, yes, you’ve got to like fried food. Well, that includes most of you; after all, you’re American. And if you’re not, then this place will be a nice surprise, kind of like Amsterdam meets Chico.

The specialty at Pommes Frites is the fish and chips—inexpensive ($6.50 is the damage for one order) but not cheap for a modest little joint without televisions or Crate and Barrel décor. This was the first clue that my fried fish and skin-laced fries (chips) might be of a higher order, not to mention the gothic and straight-up servers, who didn’t put on any airs.

My server wasn’t in a hurry; as a matter of fact, he put my fries—I mean chips—in a large stainless-steel bowl after frying. He then dusted them with salt and tossed them repeatedly. Next he laid two fried fish fillets (cod, for all I know) next to my fries in a basket. He looked at me and asked, “Sauce?” It was so cool the way he said it—inferring, “Like, which sauce, man?” Pommes Frites offers a variety of dippin’ sauces, including tartar, curry chutney and the popular chili adobo. I went for the tartar (the best in town) and ketchup. Although impressed, I was still wary as my partner and I dug in. The chips were good: thin laced potatoes with some strands of potato skin. However, I didn’t get my fair share. Although skinny, my partner takes advantage of my slower pace when I’m writing a chow article in my head.

The fish was excellent—yes, excellent. That is where their heart is at Pommes Frites. It’s not in oversized TVs or furniture; it’s in the fish. Fried fish never tasted so good. No freezer taste or sogginess like at some chains or bars. And, sure, there was an element of grease; it’s fried, after all. But the grease was light in comparison to my previous fried-fish experiences. I liked the fact that I got just enough fish, quelling the fear that I was just getting overfed with questionable quality.

Second to the fish is the straight-up yet artistic atmosphere of Pommes Frites. I like the feeling that I am in some little funky London or Dublin fish-and-chips joint. I’ve been a few times, and each of my servers has been interesting—black-sheep interesting. What I mean is that the servers ain’t trying to be like everybody else. The only thing that’s hung up at Pommes Frites is the group of modern-funky-futuristic paintings dangling from the walls. I also enjoy the steel chairs and close quarters. If you’re lucky, you can snag one of the four tables. If not, here comes the sun; it’s almost spring, and outdoor seating will be available soon.

Pommes Frites also serves chicken strips (also $6.50) as well as chicken and rice bowls ($5.50) with a tofu option. The restaurant also offers a tasty bowl of clam chowder (bowl: $4.25; bread bowl: $6.25). The servings are hearty but not ridiculous.

A modest and artistic venue, coupled with great food at a fair price, Pommes Frites meets all of my formulaic whims. And somehow it keeps this low profile. I hope I didn’t ruin it.