Red Sea Fish and Chips
2 – 4105 4th Street NW
Calgary, Alberta T2K 1A3
Open noon-8:00pm Tue/Wed/Thu, 4:00pm-9:00pm Fri/Sat/Sun
September 2008 re-visit post here
Original post below:
There is this old saying about not eating seafood if you cannot see the ocean. While this was a good rule of thumb back in the day, modern transportation has made previous luxuries, like fresh fish and seafood, fairly commonplace on the prairies. And while there are a variety of ways of preparing seafood, deep frying is definitely one of my favorites.
Deep frying in general has an unfairly earned, negative reputation. While many people immediately dismiss deep frying as “greasy”, and “unhealthy”, this is actually the combination of miseducation, and years of eating poorly executed deep fried foods. In actual fact, deep frying is not inherently any worse than many other cooking techniques. The key is, food has to be deep fried at the right temperature, sealing all the moisture the food releases in, while not having the item in question absorbing a lot of oil. The amount of surface area, coating/batter, density, and moisture content all have a significant impact on the overall product as well. And when you’re talking fish and chips, this can result in some really great fish, or some terrible fish.
Red Sea Fish and Chips brands themselves as an authentic “British AND East Coast” fish and chips restaurant. I think the British part is because they serve mushy peas. In my visits to the UK, I have to say, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with their fish and chips. It was usually fried in oil far too low in temperature. The newspaper is a nice touch, but there was not anything particularly amazing about the fish and chips there. Especially the chips, which were soggy and gross.
From a service perspective – it is definitely a maritime kind of place. Friendly, outgoing, and chatty, they are proud of what they serve, and work hard to make you feel at home. The decor itself is a bit tacky. A strong maritime theme, there’s no mistaking what they serve. Primarily blue, maritime accouterments and flags hang on the wall. This is not a homey kind of feel, but more of a “crazy grandmother and her antiques” kind of feel. But personally, I don’t really care. I am all about the fish. And the chips.
You don’t go to a chippie to eat the decor. You go to eat the fish. On the menu is a wide variety of options. Pollock, Haddock, Halibut, and, ironically enough, Cod – ironic in the sense that they have pamphlets for the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise program for eating sustainable fish seafood next to the cash register, but they still serve cod. Other options include seafood chowder, and a variety of accompaniments including mushy peas. Normally, I am a big fan of halibut, but being in between meals, i opt for the one-piece cod.
There isn’t much to say about Red Sea. The fish is very good. Cod is flaky, tender, and with a great toothsome chew. The piece isn’t over battered, and the batter itself is fairly inert (I prefer a touch seasoned). The color of the piece is a bit light – meaning the oil is fairly clean, and has been changed (or strained at a minimum) regularly. I personally think the temperature of the oil could’ve been a few degrees higher, but this was definitely within my limits of “good”. Next time, I’m definitely trying the Halibut.
The fries were excellent. Fresh cut, they were fried past soggy, near crisp with a great bite, filled with a soft potato flavour. Skins left on, as a good friend of mine always says, “I (was) really digging the fries”. Especially since they had malt vinegar on the table – a necessary accompaniment to fresh fries. The coleslaw was homemade, and good, but please don’t take my word for it – i am not the biggest fan of coleslaw. Lastly, the tartar sauce. I definitely fall into the sacrilegious category of liking tartar for my fish. And it was homemade as well. Red Sea Fish and Chips is all about the homemade. Not quite enough tang for my liking, but it definitely did the job.
At $8.95 for a piece of cod, this wasn’t the best deal going. However, with rising oil prices, it is not out of line with other fish prices in town. The quality of the fish, the friendliness of the service, and most importantly, the attention to detail in the things that matter, make this my favorite fish and chips location in town. Many people like Boyds, Trawlers, Joey’s, or Captain Scott’s, but dollar for dollar, i would choose to eat at Red Sea Fish and Chips over any of the other options. Not because of the service, and definitely not because of the decor – but because they do a great product. And based on the hordes of East Coast patrons, I clearly am not the only one who feels that way.