Fish Not Foul
Shannon Wynne, reformed night crawler extraordinaire and founder of such long-gone nightclubs as Fast and Cool and the "o" haunts (Nostromo, Rocko, Tango and Mexico), once had an uncanny touch for detecting the faint pulse in Dallas' mediocre nightlife. But who would have thought Wynne also possessed an uncanny prescience for forecasting cloudbursts in Dallas' restaurant climate? Not us.
But there it is, in black and white. In a May 13 press release announcing the opening of his newest shindig called Flying Fish in Addison (the first opened in Little Rock), Wynne waxes thusly: "I'm excited about bringing this concept to Addison, but don't expect anything fancy. Phil Romano's opened his new hoity-toity Lobster Ranch and is serving all kinds of exotic fish from around the world with names no one can pronounce, so I like to think of myself as the ANTI-Phil." Wynne goes on to say he gleefully shovels plain old lake food--except for the shrimp and oysters, which hail from the Gulf, and the crab legs, which waddle in from Alaska--while Romano spends his time trying to entice the Kennebunkport crowd to a Park Cities strip mall.
ANTI-Phil may have a point here. After all, Romano's Lobster Ranch bit the briny deep after just five months (it didn't catch on, you see), while Flying Fish is hanging on by a screen-door hinge after the same span. But although this could expose Wynne's shrewder instincts for dressing up fish and dropping them in a basket, it might just be an example of Romano's short attention span. Still, water cuisine has had a turbulent run in this landlocked land of clay and asphalt, so it's no surprise Wynne would take the low road--even though it's near restaurant row, which has been declining as a dining-out hotbed as the steady build north along the Tollway and into Frisco siphons off the hungry hordes that once supped on the Belt Line strip. A more opulent fishmongering shack might have turned this ANTI-Phil into the real McCoy.
That's why Flying Fish is loaded with things such as poor boys, catfish planks, chicken strips and shrimp--some of it aqua dregs, but most of it tasty and enjoyable, especially for the price. Raw oysters are clean, with a brine-kissed finish on the tongue, but texturally a little frayed and spongy.
Seafood gumbo was thin and muddled, with shiny dots of fat tattooing the broth surface and a dearth of clean flavors clutched within its depths.
But then again a stripped-down lake-food shack boasting counter service isn't built on the raw and the steeped. It's built on the fried and the boiled. Thank God, because the grilled certainly didn't constitute a sturdy support pier. The salmon, done up "snappy" (South Louisiana spices), was a texturally firm and juicy slab of pink, but was infected with grill-grit crud.
Whole catfish, weighing in at a full pound including bones, was a perfect piece of fried finny tribe: flaky, moist, creamy flesh coated with a tasty, coarse, greaseless sheath.
Alaska does OK in Addison, too, but the snow crab legs look odd in the flying fish school. After ordering, we watched the cook pluck a pre-portioned plastic bag of limbs and drop them into roiling water. When they arrived for consumption, they were faded and yellow instead of snow white and slap-cheek red. Still, they maintained a strong sweet composure, though the textures sometimes slipped into knots of pithy strings. The whole presentation was ample and suitable for the price: $12.95.
Flying Fish bubbles with Shannon Wynne eccentricity, which makes it as fun as it is distasteful (the garb, not the grub). Walls are covered with tackle boxes and mounted fish equipped with fairy wings. Lure replicas dangle from the ceiling with aviation wings. Then there is the world's first Billy Bass Adoption Center, where customers can seine a free basket of catfish and an adoption certificate for bringing in one of those wall-mounted bass that twitches and sings ("Don't Worry, Be Happy," "Take Me to the River") with the touch of a button. A sign above says Flying Fish "promises to house, shelter, love and protect" each donated Billy Bass.
But we suggest patrons may want to try foster care for their fish crooners. Our attempt to fire up the whole wall of rubber fish to craft a kind of asynchronous Billy Bass chorale met with disappointment. Doesn't a promise to "house, shelter, love and protect" include fresh batteries?
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