29 March 2007

Two Mpls. Fish Restaurants: 3 Fish & Stella's

A few weeks ago, a friend at work, who’s not originally from Minnesota, asked me for a recommendation of a good fish and seafood restaurant. The first two that came to mind were Oceanaire and Blue Point. They are very different. Oceanaire has become a high-end, expense account restaurant. Blue Point is an exclusive locale in a western suburb.

Almost as an after thought, I suddenly remembered another – Three Fish in south Minneapolis. “I’ve only been there once,” I said. “But it was really good.”

Not too long later, my wife and I were making plans to go out with another couple. Where should we go? “Three Fish,” the other couple suggested. Wow. Was I glad they did.

Three Fish is a gem of a place. It’s located at the south end of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. It’s this unpretentious restaurant that serves consistently good fish and seafood. Somewhere, once, I heard an explanation for the name. Three fish = seafood, ocean fish, and freshwater fish. I don’t know if that’s accurate. But they do consistently well on all three.

Our group selected two orders of the scallops. Our friends, who have dined there more frequently than we, said it was a reliable favorite. The dish lived up to expectations again for us. One of the group ordered the weekly grill special. It was a straight-forward, grilled piece of fish. Top quality, not overdone, moist and flavorful. I had the mahi-mahi. It also was grilled and served with a plate of grilled vegetables and a sauce that complimented the fish.

Three Fish has a week night wine special. They have a selection of wines that are $20 per bottle, Monday through Thursday. On the weekend, they are $10 more. We ordered Tres Ojos garnacha. My wife and I like Spanish wines very much. But what can I say? This was outstanding!

Three Fish is not an undiscovered gem. A lot of people know about it, and you usually need a reservation. But the next time someone asks me for a recommendation it will be on top of my list.

So about a month later, our daughter came home for a weekend. (She lives in Chicago.) We were trying to decide where to go for dinner, and my wife suggested Stella’s in Uptown Minneapolis. None of us had been there for dinner before. My wife had been there for lunch.

The feel and style of Stella’s is way different from Three Fish. The Uptown area is a hip neighborhood with a lot of young people. The restaurant is a high energy, cool décor venue, quite different from the relaxed, quiet ambiance of Three Fish. Stella’s has an open air, rooftop bar that’s always hopping during the warm weeks of the year.

We started our meal with an order of the coconut crusted shrimp appetizer with pineapple coconut marmalade. I thought it was great. My wife had had it as a lunch entrée on her previous visit, and she thought the shrimp were overdone.

For dinner, my wife ordered the stuffed grouper. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may have noticed a pattern. Usually, my wife picks the best item on the menu. Not this time. I thought the stuffed grouper was very tasty. But it was breaded and over seasoned.

My daughter ordered crab-stuffed ravioli. The pasta was stuffed with crab and mascarpone cheese, nicely seasoned. Three of them were topped with a traditional marinara sauce and three with a white sauce. They were very good, if a little rich.

For once, I picked the best meal of the evening. Mine was the marlin special. It was a nice, fresh piece of marlin, which is similar to tuna – dense and very flavorful. It was grilled just right and served plain, with complimentary sides on the plate.

Stella’s and Three Fish are two very different fish restaurants. But they both are worth the visit. Stella’s is more casual with high quality fish combined with a fun location and cool rooftop bar. Three Fish is not formal, but it’s more reserved dining area with friendly service and a creative menu – and high quality fish.

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