Rhode Islanders know their seafood. It seems like everyone has a favorite place to get a lobster roll, fried clams, clam cakes or Rhode Island-style chowder. Clam shacks abound along the coastline, and with summer approaching, people will soon be lining up for their favorite delicacies. Yet, sometimes we yearn for a more refined seafood meal, a piece of fresh fish cooked to perfection with a wine pairing and white linen tablecloths. If you’re planning a celebration or just looking for a nice night out on the town, Jamestown Fish is the perfect place to elevate your seafood dining.
Jamestown Fish is located on Narragansett Avenue in the heart of Jamestown. The main dining room is located on the bottom floor and although it’s elegant, it’s not stuffy. The tile floor, white wood accents and ocean blue paint colors give the restaurant a soothing atmosphere – like you have stepped into your favorite uncle’s beach house. The large windows let in plenty of natural light and offer views to some guests of Narragansett Bay. The upstairs of the restaurant is home to the Bridge Bar, which offers a more casual menu, a view of the Bay and a great place to sip a cocktail. In the summer months, the restaurant opens its patio seating for al fresco dining.
Executive Chef Matthew MacCartney comes to Jamestown Fish from a series of prestigious restaurants, including stints at Gramercy Tavern, Restaurant Daniel, Craft and Michel Guerard (a Michelin three star restaurant in France). He met Jamestown Fish owners John and Cathy Recca while working in Norwalk, Connecticut at Pasta Nostra. Chef MacCartney was the winner of Food & Wine Magazine’s People’s Best New Chef of the New England Region in both 2014 and 2015.
The wine list at Jamestown Fish is extensive, which may be in part to Chef MacCartney’s training as a sommelier. On the spring night I visited, a glass of rosé sounded perfect, and it was a Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Rosé from France. It was offered in two different size pours, and the 11-ounce portion I chose was perfect for me and a great deal. For $17, I received a small carafe of fine wine. It was definitely not your grandmother’s rosé, rather a nice dry, light drinking rosé. My dining companion orderd a Paloma ($10) with Milagro tequila, San Pellegrino Pompelmo and fresh squeezed lime juice. It was light and refreshing and a perfect pairing with our appetizers.
While we sipped our drinks, we were served several warm slices of bread. The bread comes from the Provencal Bakery in Middletown where Chef MacCartney collaborated on this seven grain spelt bread.
Never turning down a chance to order a good crudo, I sampled the Hamachi and Tuna Crudo ($14). The fish was melt in your mouth fresh and accented with Sicilian blood oranges, habãnero peppers, olive oil and cumin. It was excellent. My friend ordered the Oysters and Clams ($15), which included three oysters and three little necks accompanied by a spicy homemade cocktail sauce and a lovely mignonette.
On the night we were there, the fish choices were cod, swordfish, scallops, John Dory, Dover sole, halibut, skate, clams and lobster. Other than the Dover sole, all of the fish came from local waters. For landlubbers, there were a few choices including a vegetable tasting, lamb and duck. One fish I love but am hesitant to cook on my own is skate, so I was excited to see it on the menu. The Skate ($26) was pan-fried and topped with a grenobloise sauce (French lemon, butter and caper sauce). The fish was cooked perfectly and complemented by the rich, buttery sauce.
Not a bite of it was left on my plate. On the side, there was a small helping of well-seasoned sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. My friend ordered the Swordfish ($29), and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a whiter or fresher piece of swordfish. The fish was rolled in herbs and seared on a plancha (cast iron flat top). The two pieces of swordfish were presented with truffled rutabaga puree and Swiss chard. Cooking fish is easy, but cooking fish impeccably is definitely an art form – an art form Chef MacCartney has mastered.
As with most fine dining establishments, though the food was bursting with flavor, the portions were not huge. In my book, that’s a plus because I have room left to order dessert. Although our waitress recommended the Homespun Ice Cream ($10), I wanted to try the Blood Orange Polenta Cake ($10). The portion was definitely large enough to share, and well worth the price. The cake had a cornmeal crumb, and when swirled in the blood orange reduction on the plate, it was delicious. The almond flavored whipped cream on the top was a treat in its own right.
With the rich ocean resources Rhode Island chefs have access to, it shouldn’t be so hard to find a well executed fish dinner. A piece of fish perfectly cooked is a thing of beauty. Jamestown Fish is doing exactly what it should be doing: taking Rhode Island’s best fish and making it into a high end dining experience. Life is short and everyone deserves a splurge now and then. After all, Rhode Islanders can’t live on clam cakes alone!
14 Narragansett Avenue, Jamestown