Marin IJ Review
Dining review: Seafood Peddler a quintessential Sausalito experience
Posted: 12/26/2012 05:51:00 AM PST
Tartare of Pacific ahi tuna is plated at Seafood Peddler in Sausalito, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (IJ photo/Alan Dep) Alan Dep
Blackened horseradish crusted Hawaiian swordfish is served at Seafood Peddler in Sausalito,...
The Seafood Peddler, a San Rafael institution for years until Phil Lesh's Terrapin Station took its spot, reopened in Sausalito at the end of July. "We were not looking to move," says co-owner and general manager Richard Mayfield, "but Phil made us an offer we could not refuse."
So move they did, into a waterfront spot that at one time housed Flynn's Landing and the Cat & the Fiddle. Smaller than its former self, the newly revived Seafood Peddler fits a lot of character into its two snug rooms. Aglow with holiday lights, illuminated TVs and lots of glossy, polished wood, the front room is dominated by a curving bar and a stationary ship's steering wheel. Walk past the fish market where a well-lit display case and lobster and crab tanks allow you to hand-select your dinner into a cozier and quieter back room.
Wherever you sit, you may recognize your server. Most of the San Rafael staff returned to the relocated Peddler and are as welcoming as ever. That includes co-owner and executive chef Fidel Chacon, who has been behind the stoves for more than 13 years. At first glance, Chacon's American seafood menu appears to have shifted little, but the changes are mostly in the background. Chacon entirely removed peanut products from the kitchen and added some gluten-free ones (any pasta dish can now be made with gluten-free noodles). Gone are the environmentally unsustainable prawns, in is line-caught tuna.
There is one new dish, lobster fra diavolo ($29.99). With its meat removed, the lobster, seasoned with a suave sauce of fresh tomato, olive oil, chili flakes and jalapeños and then replaced into the body, was warmly spicy, sweet-fresh and playful. The ample side of linguini, plumped with the same sauce, took on a rich character. Stacked askance over sautéed broccoli and whipped potatoes, blackened horseradish-crusted Hawaiian swordfish ($25.99), seared to well with the spices and horseradish already aboard, had only the faintest hint of chili heat and not a nip of the root's pungent self.
Appetizers, too, feature mostly American flavors. Tartare of Pacific ahi tuna ($14.99) featured sashimi-grade tuna daubed with aioli and bedecked with a whole leaf parsley, cilantro and frisée salad, and was spirited and herbaceous. Caesar salad ($8.99) dressed with a classic egg yolk, anchovy and garlic emulsion, was enticingly fresh and light. Soups skew to the seafood flavors of the Eastern seaboard where co-owner Al Silvestri began his career as a restaurateur. Look for the signature Maine lobster bisque ($6.99) and New England clam chowder ($5.99).
There is a menu just for the kids; the petrale sole in the fish and chips ($9.99) was crisp-fried and tender and the fries were easily swapped out for sautéed veggies. For the adult version ($22.99), it's Boston scrod or halibut when in season, swathed in an Anchor Steam batter with the same light texture as the kid's version. Add a glass of wine from the mostly Californian but sprinkled with Italian wine list, grab a seat on the patio and you've got yourself a quintessential Sausalito experience.
And that is what the Seafood Peddler is all about — premium, ultra-fresh seafood served in a familiar style in a comfortable setting.
The Seafood Peddler's iconic boat still floats alongside 101 over its former San Rafael haunt, but the energy and spirit of American seafood that defines the Peddler is comfortably ensconced in Sausalito. Welcome back.
Christina Mueller writes about food — restaurants, chefs, products and trends — for local and national publications as well as other industry clients. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEAFOOD PEDDLER RESTAURANT & FISH MARKET
Address: 303 Johnson St., Sausalito, just off Bridgeway.
Website: www.seafood peddler.com
Cuisine: American seafood
Noise level: Medium-high
Recommended items: Lobster fra diavolo, lobster bisque, fish and chips, Caesar salad, tartare of Pacific ahi tuna
Liquor selection: Full bar
Heart-healthy and vegetarian selections: Yes
Gluten-free selections: Yes
Dog friendly: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays
Credit cards: All major
Prices: $19 to $25
Summary: Seafood Peddler Restaurant & Fish Market re-opened in July a new, cozier spot near Sausalito's downtown. With executive chef Fidel Chacon still manning the stoves and a menu familiar to long-time regulars, the restaurant brings back its American seafood menu with subtle changes in style and flavor.
Marin Scope Article
Peddler better than ever
Seafood Peddler in Sausalito features a lively bar scene in the front section of the restaurant’s three dining rooms. Leslie Harlib/Marinscope
Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 3:15 pm | Updated: 3:54 pm, Wed Jan 23, 2013.
There’s something about a good seafood restaurant that hooks a built-in audience. A lot of people like fish, especially shellfish, but don’t know how to prepare it— or are even afraid to try.
And they tend to like the breezy, nautical atmosphere typical of most seafood restaurants. Kind of makes you feel that after dinner, you just might take off for a port unknown — even if that port arrives in a wine glass.
Seafood Peddler, in business in San Rafael since 1998, lured a county-wide following thanks to its full bar, oyster bar, comprehensive menu of East and West Coast fish, on-site fish market and deck overlooking the San Rafael Canal. When the eatery closed at the end of 2011 to make way for Terrapin Crossing, it felt like the end of an era.
But happily, The Seafood Peddler has set sail once again in a smaller but even more maritime-appropriate site.
It has been doing a brisk business since July 2012 on Johnson Street on the Sausalito waterfront, occupying the second-story set of rambling rooms that housed the Cat & the Fiddle for more than 20 years, followed by a short-lived Italian restaurant.
I couldn’t be happier with the new location. I love the space’s sweeping views from three sides that showcase either Mount Tam, a bustling little harbor or a distant view of San Francisco and the bay, depending on where you sit. The décor is simple, clean and warm. Gleaming wood walls and tables evoke images of dining salons on vintage private yachts.
The full bar is still packed with folks enjoying classic cocktails along with assorted oysters, shellfish, and lobster specials. Even the store is still there.
If you are inclined to “try this at home,” you can purchase live lobsters or Dungeness crab as well as assorted raw fish, to do your own thing at your own stove.
With fewer tables, the whole operation feels more intimate now. Many of the staff, including the kitchen team, have been part of the Peddler since its San Rafael beginnings.
Well-trained and knowledgeable, servers bring food quickly and can discuss the dishes on the menu. Ours had decided opinions on what we should eat, which I appreciated.
There’s also a solidity, a reliability to the bill of fare that’s as appealing as ever. Starters include both West and East Coast oysters raw and cooked in preparations such as Oysters Rockefeller, as well as clams and prawns.
I generally favor more complex appetizers because they showcase the kitchen’s talents.
For instance, it felt like a party to tuck into a decorative presentation of smoked Norwegian salmon ($10.99) curled in rosettes (like flowers on a birthday cake) festooning a savory corn pancake redolent of fresh basil and chives. The dish was enhanced with a cheese-stuffed endive, capers and red onion.
Maryland-style lump crab cakes ($13.99) were a good-sized portion; two pucks mercifully low on filler or mayonnaise, just showcasing solid crab flavor with a hint of onion. They went well with the frisee and corn-on-the-cob salsa riding sidekick.
Depending on what night you go, you can enjoy lower-priced specials. We were there on a Tuesday, the night when lobster dinners with one-pound steamed Maine lobster, corn on the cob, cole slaw and clam chowder or salad to start with, are $22.99. (It’s also available on Mondays.)
What a deal. First of all, the clam chowder here is one of the best I’ve had in the county.
Creamy but without any of the spackle-like texture so typical of commercial fish chowders, it was brimming with fresh clams, snips of bacon and loads of potato.
I liked the presentation, too. Brought to the table in a metal tureen, the server poured the steaming into a large white bowl. A portion of this would have been dinner enough. (Chowder is $5.99 a la carte.)
Then came the lobster. Sweet as candy and fork tender, it was plucked live from the tank and cooked to order.
Corn on the cob and cole slaw were just the right accompaniments. I appreciated the lobster bib as well. This is a messy, picnicky meal that happens to be served in a nice restaurant.
A main dish of macadamia nut-crusted local petrale sole ($21.99) yielded a generous slab of fish, liberally coated in crisp coppery crumbs that were big enough to deliver buttery nut flavor. The sole was tender and sweet, enhanced by a chardonnay/meyer lemon sauce. Sides, included in the price, were garlic-tinged mashed potatoes and plenty of perfectly sauteed, still-firm broccoli.
We also sampled a mixed grill ($25.99) of blackened swordfish with orange sauce, oven-roasted wild king salmon dusted with herbs and a brush of port-balsamic glaze, and a chunk of Boston scrod, simply grilled so its mild flavor shone. The clean cooking techniques of roasting and grilling were balanced by a chunk of creamy potatoes au gratin and sauteed spinach.
Other menu items include classic fish and chips, sesame crusted ahi tuna, swordfish and halibut steaks, a variety of shrimp dishes, meal-sized salads, steaks and chicken for non seafood-eaters, just to name a few. Lobsters are available roasted to enjoy with cole slaw and corn on the cob, up to 2 ½ pounds.
Another plus are the 13 desserts ($6.59 to $7.99).
All made in-house, the line-up features something for every appetite, from a tangy/creamy key lime pie dished up with raspberry sauce and coconut sorbet, to a towering, lavish concoction of chocolate cake, chocolate planks, toasted hazelnut ice cream and festive garnish, to classic, homey, hot pineapple upside down cake with caramel ice cream.