Margaret and I were looking for a place open late on a Thursday night, and Big Fish was there, swallowing up its corner of 14 Mile Road and Stephenson Highway. As we took our seats we spotted a couple of acquaintances, but we didn’t feel obligated to make small talk. Three 300-gallon fish tanks serve as a room divider, and through them you can see a bar and lounge area. A table near us was celebrating a birthday. It was a family affair — you could tell, because the three teens were unanimated, even the birthday boy. It could have been a much more raucous affair, and it wouldn’t have bothered anyone in the huge room, which seats 270.
One of the Muer family restaurants, which now number 15 in seven states, Big Fish has a twin in Dearborn at 700 Town Center Drive. There’s plenty of fish bric-a-brac about, some lovely, some kitschy. I liked the painting of fish chatting on the phone in the telephone booth. (I liked that they had a phone booth.)
We shared a broiled seafood platter ($19.95) that came with crab cakes, scallops, shrimp and tilapia. The last time I had tilapia, a flaky white fish from Costa Rica, I was in Costa Rica and the fish pretty much jumped out of the ocean into my plate. But this was good too. We were happy; it was plenty for two, although we did add on an item from the “Add On” column: Dungeness crab ($6), which is Margaret’s favorite. King crab legs, shrimp brochette and lobster tails are also available this way.
On another evening, the co-diner ordered “Parmesan shrimp of the angels,” but he was disappointed because the shrimp were so well-fried as to be petri-fried. But he praised the angel hair pasta, and delighted in finding all the ingredients listed on the menu — and then some. The menu promised artichoke hearts (present), olives (present), sun-dried tomatoes (present) and pesto (I guess). The surprises: dried apricots and pine nuts.
The Parmesan-encrusted sole ($15.95) also suffered from too much crust and too much cooking (maybe it’s unavoidable when using cheese in a crust). The delicate sole got lost in there, kind of like a sandwich without enough lunchmeat.
Calamari pippali, an appetizer, features rings of squid that were meltingly tender, sautéed with red bell peppers. The sweet barbecue-type sauce took us by surprise — it seemed incongruous with the dish.
Gazpacho was a special on both my visits, and I had it twice. It is rich and red, kicking with spice, and topped with a dab of sour cream.
One of the friends who joined us ordered cedar plank salmon, which is served with roasted vegetables and redskin potatoes. Our server was very solicitous in asking whether the friend wanted the salmon rare, medium-rare or well-done — if only he had asked about the shrimp. Our other guest was disappointed with the jambalaya, which came with shrimp, mussels, salmon, scallops and andouille sausage. The problem was the rice, which was mushy-soft.
There’s a small wine list, divided into four categories (such as “light and crisp”), making it easier to order. Most are available by the glass at prices that top out around $8. There’s a full bar.
Margaret and I shared a cream puff for dessert, which was filled with vanilla ice cream and smothered with Sanders hot fudge sauce. Our server waxed eloquent about it, but the puff was stale; maybe that’s the price we had to pay for getting there so late. A nice, tart key lime pie is also on the menu.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.