Chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Fergus Henderson have helped bring the quality of British cuisine to a very high level. But for the longest time, England's dining was not looked at with particularly kind eyes-- yet we here at Squid Ink like to focus on the positives, glorifying the idea of planting ourselves on a pub bar stool after a long day of hard work, ordering a few pints, then digging into a steak and kidney pie, or perhaps, a delicious heap of fish and chips. For today's Food Fight, we look at two L.A. restaurants known for their love of good beer, and for many customers, their fish and chips.
At Golden State Café on Fairfax, the fish and chips are a Friday special, often resulting in early arrivals from patrons so as to ensure they get their fix before the restaurant runs out. Just like the beers themselves at Golden State, the batter can change from week to week and on this visit, it included a dose of Craftsman 1903. Once fried, the batter comes out with a good crunch, while remaining light and airy. The fish, an Icelandic cod, is cooked rather nicely, remaining moist and tender through the cooking process. There is a definite presence of a mixture of dried herbs, which manage to accent rather than dominate, allowing the clean flavor of the fish to come through. The fries are pleasant, (and have been profiled on these pages before) with a strong taste of potato, and like the fish, are not greasy or oily. Overall it is a highly successful dish, with the fish holding firm ground as the undisputed star of the plate.
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The fish and chips at The Village Idiot, the popular Melrose gastropub, come from Alaskan cod rather than Icelandic, their tartar sauce has a stronger presence of pickled foodstuffs, and the batter is a bit crunchier, heavier and less precise-- though that is not to say that fried fish needs to be precise. We rather enjoy the large chunks of fried batter isolating themselves from the rest of the dish, but do wish they had a bit more flavor. We actually prefer these fries, which taste a little more of fat and seem happier to be accompanied by beer and malt vinegar. But in the end, the factor that sets this dish a notch below is the fish itself. It is slightly tougher, a little drier and tastes, ultimately, almost of nothing on its own. It is, of course, still a rather nice plate of food and one that we would not be averse to ordering again should we find ourselves at one of their tables at a later date. But this is a food fight, and thus a victor must be declared-- and in this instance, the spoils go to Golden State.