Strip seafood

Excellent Seafood & Grill is an exercise in suburban utility. It's Spartan, efficient, and loaded with functionality, the primary example being the $5.49 lunch specials. For a fin and four bits you can get blackened snapper with baked potato, teriyaki chicken on rice, or fried clam strips with French fries.

Portions are generous, drink refills are free, the food is fine with a pleasing price-to-benefit ratio, and the TV is always tuned to Wheel of Fortune, which was good to catch because I thought Pat Sajak and Vanna White had long since morphed into infomercial jockeys. Spicy Cajun popcorn shrimp ($4.95), little puffs of seasoned sweetness, were crisp, moist, and virtually greaseless. Boiled shrimp ($4.95 for six, $8.95 for 12) maintained that same tenor: firm, succulent, and sweetly delicious. Caesar salad ($4.75) was flawlessly flat--no brown leaves or stale-tasting croutons, but no flavor either.

A flatness carried over to other things. The teriyaki chicken plate ($6.95), a mound of fluffy, separate rice grains topped with a generous huddle of slightly dry chicken breast planks, was varnished in a lackluster teriyaki sauce. And though the menu claims otherwise, the blackened snapper with spicy Cajun shrimp ($10.50) covered in mushrooms and strips of bell pepper most certainly wasn't blackened. The fish, flaky and firm and dusted with spices, had no skillet-cauterized crust over its soggy fish core. It arrived with a baked potato the size of a dinosaur egg and a plate of prepackaged butter pads and sour cream wads, and little plastic ramekins with yellow cheese shreds and fake bacon fragments.

The only striking drawback to this menu was the shrimp scampi on linguini, a dismal affair despite the carpet of perfectly cooked pasta. The crowd of soapy shrimp and mushrooms was soaked in a rancid butter sauce, which made it hard to appreciate the pasta.

Still, this strip-mall cafe offers ample portions at reasonable prices (even steak), a menu combination that looks as though it could work wonders on Vanna White. That is Vanna White, isn't it?


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