Monday, December 27, 2010


          It’s crab season!   A whole fish-market crab is too much for me to eat, so a tasty serving at one of Napa’s newest eateries is just the ticket. The latest restaurant from the Lark Creek group has opened with lots of hype. I call to find out if Fish Story has a counter.Yes indeed.
           I arrive during the noon hour and am lucky to get a seat at the midpoint of the horseshoe-shaped bar. There are ten stools around the "u",  shelves of booze are suspended above the counter, and a flat screen t.v. tuned to sports hangs on the wall at the open end.  On my left a gentleman in a three piece suit and fedora is just leaving--if he's not on his way to a fifties' costume party, he's taking himself much too seriously.  Another fellow in business dress is also finishing. Two men on my right have eaten sandwiches, leaving behind chips and salad on their plates.   I listen to their conversation about high finance and find one fellow is doing all of the talking. I've had dates like that--ouch!
I turn to the businessman. "Do you have any recommendations?” I ask. He praises both the lobster roll and bisque, then departs.  Another fellow, wearing a Department of Corrections shirt, also gets up to leave--probably going to the county courthouse across the street. Is there going to be anyone left to talk to? All of this happens before the bartender even says “hi.”
          It's hard to describe the dark-haired fellow working the counter, because I see so little of him. I feel sympathy as he moves in and out of the horseshoe with lots to do: make mixed drinks for the wait staff, take orders from the counter and two duet tables, as well as work an espresso machine and taps for beer and wine. Well, not a lot of sympathy. He gives another woman, who’s just arrived, a glass of wine before serving me. She waits for her friend and then goes into the dining room. Maybe I’m being snubbed, I think, when Mr. Bartender immediately greets a casually dressed man who seats himself near me and buries his face in his newspaper.  I feel better after several minutes, when the bartender returns and asks him, “What can I get you?” and the guy answers, “Maybe a menu?” So it’s an equal opportunity place--just slow.
          The menu is plastered with fish dishes, from ahi to oysters.   I finally order a Crab Louie, envisioning the kind of salad they used to serve at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco—that is, huge.  I snap a photo of my puny salad when it arrives, then wonder if I have blown my cover. Does the waiter now think I’m a food critic?  Apparently  not, because the service doesn’t improve. I have to ask for water and bread after my wine and food arrive.
          The crab tastes fresh and sweet.  The dressing is rich and tangy, a real Louie dressing, but I’m thinking for $22.50 I could have bought a few ounces of fresh crab at my corner market, thrown it on a salad at home, and had money for another lunch!  The bread, when I finally get it, is warm and crunchy, served with sea salt-adorned butter. And my Pinot Grigio is light and crisp (and $11 a glass.) 
          While I’m chowing down, the counter empties and refills, but nobody speaks to me. A local fellow gets into a discussion with a couple of elderly tourists about whether domestic or foreign wine is better. The older man says French wine is superior and California wine is too expensive. The local guy gives a diplomatic  response. I swallow my contribution, which would have been something about how many times Napa wine has beaten more expensive European wines in competition.
          I am getting bored. I remember that my primary purpose is to meet new people--it's not happening! Even the bartender has no time for me. I amuse myself reading the labels on the bottles above my head. I’m in the liqueur section: crème de peche, mandarine, crème de framboise. They all sound worth trying. I’m supposed to be meeting interesting men and instead I’m contemplating serious alcohol consumption!
          To finish my meal and linger a bit longer, I order the famed butterscotch pudding.  A server attempts to deliver it to my oyster-eating neighbor. The diner points to me and goes back to his paper. The pudding is smooth and creamy, not too sweet, served with a dollop of cream.  
           I note I’ve been at Fish Story for almost an hour and a half and the biggest crab of this story seems to be me. Before departing, I read the captions on the photos and stories posted on the wall between the bar and the dining room—decor made from local folks’ responses to the restaurant’s request for “fish stories." There’s a bit of Napa history here—photos of children now grown and very big fish claimed to be caught in the Napa River. I read in the paper this week that 75 salmon were counted spawning at Zinfandel Lane, a new record for recent years. Perhaps the real story of this restaurant is not the food, the staff, or the clientele, but the location—at Third and Main on the banks of the Napa River--historic pathway of commerce and really big fish.
          Postscript: I wish this visit had been more fun, but chalk it up to chance. If I'd encountered anything more than expensive food, I might feel different about the place.  I'll have to try it again sometime.  That's my plan until I receive my credit card bill. I've been charged $63 more than what my receipt says. I investigate and learn that my darling bartender, or whoever rang up my bill, mistakenly entered the seven dollar tip as seventy. I have never before experienced this type of error in a restaurant, so I'm now convinced there is indeed something "fishy"  at Fish Story. I wonder if the bartender actually collected $70 for serving me. The very nice management person on the phone assures me I'll receive a refund in the form of a check in a couple of weeks. We'll see.
              And once more--caught that check and threw it back into my bank.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Crabby Leonore: Enjoyed this humorous fish tale. Hope you get your refund so you can afford the next lunch encounter.