Commercial Street Fishery puts seafood on a linen tablecloth
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
When two entrepreneurial extroverts decided to open a restaurant, they hired two talented and creative brothers to run the kitchen.
Put two and two together and the sum (they hope) will be one of the best restaurants in the city.
“We are so focused on serving the best food in Manchester that I know we will be considered the best restaurant very soon,” said head chef Justin Lyonnais.
Commercial Street Fishery is a new Manchester restaurant catering to fish lovers who want linen tablecloths, soft lighting and bold, sophisticated flavors.
There is a real beach feel at Commercial Street Fishery, but it resembles a beach in East Hampton N.Y., not Hampton Beach, N.H.
Open for just a month, it is located in the former Starfish Grill space and is the brainchild of Quentin Keefe and Pam Kelley.
While this is Keefe’s first venture into the restaurant business, Kelley is a seasoned pro. She owned a part of Starfish Grill with Jeff Paige and in the past has done everything from bartending to workings as a hostess.
“Quentin and I had been talking about opening a place, but could not find the right location. So we approached Jeff and told him that we were interested in buying the place if he was ever interested,” Kelley said.
Paige, who also owns Cotton, thought about it and a few days later the three of them struck a deal
“Everyone walked away very happy,” Kelley said.
Kelley and Keefe turned the kitchen and menu over to Justin Lyonnais, a graduate from the Culinary Institute of Art. He had just spent eight years as head chef at Loafers in Salem and was ready for something different.
Lyonnais’s brother Devin was working as a sous chef at Starfish Grill and introduced his brother to the new owners.
“It was one of those nice cosmic things, the way it all came together,” Kelley said.
Natives of Manchester’s West Side, the Lyonnais brothers grew up eating big family meals of meatloaf and salmon pie around a horseshoe-shaped island in his mother’s kitchen.
“My mom is a great cook. But we are French Canadian, so every meal was a big deal. But the way I grew up eating is completely different than the way I cook now,” he said.
Lyonnais is fond of Asian cuisine, sweet, sour, spicy and salty all at once. The menu at Commercial Street Fishery is a balance of classic, regional American fare and Asian-inspired food.
“I like to layer bold flavors with soft, subtle undertones,” he said.
While traditional dishes such as fried clams ($18), shrimp cocktail ($13), crab cakes ($11) and fried haddock ($15) have real estate on the menu, there are lots of surprises.
Lyonnais has taken standard seafood restaurant fare like scallops, tuna and calamari and turned them on end.
Scallops ($20) are coriander-seared and served with a coconut ginger sticky rice, baby bok choy and wasabi aioli.
Tuna is served three ways: carpaccio ($13) with a crab/mango salsa and ginger wontons, as a spicy maki ($8) or as a yellow fin pink peppercorn-crusted steak ($26) served with a gold potato shiitake mushroom hash and garlic-fried spinach.
And calamari, often poorly represented swimming in marinara or fried to death, but Lyonnais lightly fries his calamari ($10) in a cornmeal batter and tosses it with a jalapeño pesto and cherry tomatoes.
“Justin has come up with some real daring flavor combinations. Whether the dish is simple or not, there is a huge wow factor here,” Kelley said.
If you are along for the ride, but not that interested fish, try the braised short ribs ($10), a Statler chicken breast ($18) roasted with lemongrass or a grilled hanger steak ($22) served with a Bourbon cream tomato and garlic mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, if you are a vegetarian, you are out of luck.
Lyonnais hopes that his menu, and the half dozen daily specials he dreams up, will get people talking.
“I want people to be excited about the food, to have it be part of the conversation.” he said.
Not only has the menu changed, but the interior has too. Starfish Grill was bright and cheery with lots of primary colors, huge hanging fish and free meals for kids.
Commercial Street Fishery is done in shades of sand, sky, driftwood, sea glass and the shimmer you find on the inside of a shell. And there is no kids’ menu.
“We wanted to create a really, really nice place for people to come and chill,” Kelley said.
Kelley says that Starfish Grill’s bar was never a destination, and that they worked hard to make the new bar a place people want to stop and have a cocktail.
Designer Jane Almeida, who worked on Richard’s Bistro, Victory in Portsmouth and Baldwin’s on Elm, stepped in to help create the look.
The floor plan changed and a cozy seating area with couches, comfortable chairs and copper-topped tables were added to the back of the room. It is a great place to sip cocktails and nibble on appetizers.
“We are just so excited about the restaurant,” said Quentin Keefe. “We really hope everyone enjoys it as much as we do.”.
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