A fish monger casts a
line for intimate dining.
Wellfleet, the “occasional restaurant” held Thursday nights in the Fishguy Market, is by design an intimate affair: The store-cum-dining-room holds 12 people at most, and dinner—a set five-course menu—doesn’t start until everyone has arrived. Technically, it’s a restaurant, but it feels more like a supper club. Last week, as I sat at a table by myself (that is, if you don’t count the two quarter bottles of champagne I had with me), I started wishing it were more like the former. The meal, which was supposed to start at 7pm, was being held up by a party of eight. I was ravenous, yet when the party finally arrived (at 7:40pm) I realized I was better off without them: They were a loud, obnoxious crew, throwing fits over the arrangement of the tables (which resulted in me moving to the back of the room) and taking over the place as if it weretheir home.
Food eventually arrived, however, and I soon found that “Fish Guy” Bill Dugan’s menu (designed by him but executed by a team of talented chefs) was so thoughtful and detail-oriented that the other people in the room became an afterthought. The first course—a rich and harmonious dish of salty sturgeon caviar under a layer of roasted cauliflower puree and a thin topping of crème fraîche—claimed Jöel Robuchon as its inspiration, but other dishes hinted at the Fish Guy team’s own talents. Impeccably fresh Maine oysters were juicy, plump, dressed in soy sauce and topped with slivers of spicy radish. Thin slices of house-smoked magret (duck breast) were pink from smoke and had a brooding, gamey flavor. Maine lobster was kissed with a sweet tangerine butter (and, in the only real misstep of the night, paired with lifeless croquettes). A dignified cheese plate (served with fresh pear, preserved pear and plum puree) and a cake (outsourced from La Patisserie P and served in Dugan’s art gallery a few doors down) capped off the evening.
Still, the $100 question is, well, is it worth $100? Even though that price includes tax and gratuity (but no alcohol, as it’s BYOB), it’s nevertheless considerably more expensive than other five-course meals in town. Based on the kind service, ambitious presentation and supreme quality of the food, the answer is yes. Then again, it all depends on who you’re with.
4423 N Elston Ave between Montrose and Keeler Aves (773-283-7400). Thursday at 7pm. Bus: 53 Pulaski, 78 Montrose. Five-course degustation: $100. Reservations required. BYOB.