The One That Got Away
The One That Got Away World Famous Fish House at King and Portland is the newest addition to the King West block of tiny fast-food-but-fancier restos including the likes of Craft Burger and Reggie's Old Fashioned Sandwiches. Sure, a greasy grilled-cheese or a gourmet burger make for a good meal when you're craving comfort food, but for those looking for something a little lighter during their lunch break without taking the time to go to a full service restaurant, maybe fish is the answer.
Enter The One That Got Away, an order-at-the-counter style restaurant with possibly the longest name on the strip, but a menu that is short and simple. The One still offers its share of grease, with most fish on the menu available as fish and chips, breaded and deep-fried, but much of the fish can also be grilled, which is how it's prepared in the sandwiches and salads.
As a side note, I've always wondered how certain places come about adding world famous to their title. Can any restaurant dub themselves world famous? Are there certain parameters required to attain this title? Are they being egotistical? Facetious? Or just trying to trick us into believing their goods are really so good that they should or might be famous? Maybe someone knows the answer. Maybe it doesn't matter. But I digress. Back to the fish.
The One That Got Away manages to be a charming little space for its sparseness. Relatively unadorned, and vaguely nautical in theme, the long, narrow room consists of a counter at the back, one banquette along the wall lined with a row of small tables, and a bar with a few stools against the window.
When my friend and I arrive at lunch hour, most of the tables are full, and there is a line-up at the counter. It appears many customers are ordering food to go, and we manage to snag the window seat where we can enjoy some King West people watching while we eat.
When we approach the counter, the helpful owner inquires as to whether we've been here before, and when we say we haven't he happily explains the way the menu works. Listed on a large chalkboard on the wall, there are a number of different fish available, and the customer can select a type of fish and decide whether they'd like it battered and fried as fish and chips, or grilled in a sandwich, wrap or salad, and prices vary accordingly. A note on the bottom of the chalkboard explains to allow 5-10 minutes for orders to be ready as everything's prepared fresh, and also that they only use sustainable fish.
We decide to go for the classic Haddock for the fish and chips, and upon the owner's recommendation we select the Arctic Char for the salad and the Barramundi for the sandwich. We grab a couple bottles of water (Pop Shoppe sodas are also available) and the meal comes to around $33, not bad for what is realistically a meal for three. Or two total gluttons.
The menu also offers classic sides like coleslaw and a couple kinds of chowder, though we have far too much food as it is and have to pass on this option. A receipt prints up with a number on it, and we wait at our bar seats until someone in the kitchen yells out our number. We collect our meals, served on silver trays lined with white and red checked paper, and take them back to our seats.
I unwrap my plastic cutlery, take the lid off the the little plastic container of accompanying tartar sauce, and begin by sampling the Haddock fish and chips ($7.99 - top photo). The heaping portion of fries are thick-cut and skin-on, classic fish and chips style, and good enough that it's hard to drum up an appetite for the salads siding the other fish dishes. The fish itself is moist and tender, cooked properly for the most part, though as we get to the middle, some parts are a little on the raw side. The batter is light and doesn't overpower the fish, but it could definitely have been a little crispier.
The Arctic Char salad ($9.29) is a piece of the grilled fish sided with a mound of mixed greens and slices of fresh tomato and cucumber, topped with sunflower seeds and accompanied by some straight up oil and vinegar. The dish also comes with a small container of tangy mango salsa with red onion and cilantro, which turns out to be a lovely companion to the fish. The char is perfectly cooked, not in the least bit dry and full of flavour. This meal is probably the healthiest of the three, and like most I can be a sucker for the comfort food, but this turns out to be my favourite of them all.
Our final selection is the Barramundi, which we ordered as a sandwich ($9.99). The large, grilled filet comes on a warmed whole grain bun and is topped with the same greens, tomatoes and cucumbers that make up the salad, which is also a side for this sandwich. The white fish is thick and juicy, also well prepared and very moist. The toppings on the sandwich may not exactly be exciting, but they're crisp and fresh and allow the flavour of the Barramundi to come through.
While we're finishing up our meal, and as the lunch rush quickly dies down, the owner wanders over to ask us how everything was, and we're left feeling like there is a welcoming vibe in this place that takes it up a notch from your typical cafeteria-style lunch spot.
For the grab-and-go restaurant that it is, The One offers quality seafood in generous portions for pretty reasonable prices. By the time we finish eating and my friend has to head back to her office, the place is all but empty, aside from a few friends of the owner who pop in to offer enthusiastic congratulations for the restaurant opening.
The place is open until late (10 or 11pm depending on the day - sundays 7pm), though for some reason plastic cutlery and wet-naps are even less appealing after lunchtime if you ask me. Disposable cutlery aside, my expectations were exceeded both in terms of the food itself and the general atmosphere. Takeout or eat-in, world famous or not, The One That Got Away is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood's quick dining options.
Photos by Taralyn Marshall