Spending an evening at Fish and Company is a bit like walking into a David Lynch movie. Imagine “Finding Nemo” meets “Fawlty Towers”. Toss in the scene from “Poseidon Adventure” where a band plays in the corner of the dining room as the ship slowly starts to sink and you might get an idea of the jumbled assortment of messages conveyed by this newly-opened restaurant on the riverfront.
For starters, it’s hard to know what the restaurant is trying to be. At the back is a small, well-stocked bar while across the room, on the night we visited, was a flat-screen TV showing cartoons. There was a football match on the other screen alongside a small band on a stage crooning ballads and western covers – from “Besame Mucho” to Lady Gaga’s latest hits. The lighting was so bright that we felt we were in a cafeteria and the acoustics defeated any attempts for a romantic night out (on the night we visited, all we could hear were two screaming kids).
As one of our party commented, while gaping at dozens of star fish, seashells and painted life-size marlins stuck to the stark white walls: “It feels as though we’re in a swimming pool”.
Fish and Company is billed as “Singapore’s leading restaurant chain” and their mission reads “To provide Good Value seafood coupled with Excellent Service and Outstanding Quality in a relaxed and entertaining environment” (caps provided by Fish and Company, not by this writer).
If you’re a fish ‘n chip lover it would appear – at first glance – to be a good place for a meal, since there are no less than eight versions of the popular English specialty on the menu. Trouble is, they’re all prepared in a way that no self-respecting English fish shop would deign to serve. And at prices higher than most local chippies would usually charge.
But the most incongruous thing about the dishes is that they’re almost all stuffed with cheese. Yes, cheese.
The Swiss version is filled with gruyere, New York style has hunk of parmesan in the middle and Danish boasts a stuffing of “stringy mozzarella and spices”. I’m not sure how cheese managed to sneak its way into a filet of fish, but it surely doesn’t belong there in my book.
The Cambodian style is served with “world famous garlic and sesame sauce” (no prohok in sight) and an Italian version contains chili flakes along with the quintessential dairy ingredient (mozzarella this time). Prices range from $12.90 to $13.90 and, for an extra $5.50, you have the option of adding a bowl of soup and a soft drink.
Three people in our group ordered the New York style fish and all dishes arrived sizzling and golden, hot from the kitchen and served in a metal pan which was very appealing to the eye. The fish was coated in a delicious crispy-light batter and it was tender and perfectly cooked. But, alas, once everyone reached the slab of parmesan inside, they commented it overwhelmed the taste of the dish which would have been much better without it.
The winning dish at our table was the Cambodian-style since it had a smoky garlic flavour, coupled with the same light crispy batter and served with very tasty crunchy chips.
If you decide to sidestep the fish, you’ll find a number of non seafood items – grilled lamb chop ($15.90), chicken and mushroom spaghetti ($8.90), sirloin steak with black pepper sauce ($14.90) and pizza (from $8.90 to $12.90).
I ordered the grilled peri peri prawns ($13.90) and found the butterflied prawns to be juicy and flavoursome on their own but unlike other peri peri dishes I’d had before (and I’ve had many). Instead of being drizzled (or soaked) with the spicy Portuguese seasoning combined with oil, these shellfish were coated with clumps of a spiced garlicky mix. Tasty, but not peri peri.
Sadly, the evening ended on a sour note as one of our group had his credit card returned because his signature “did not match” the signature on the card. The staff, though well-meaning, failed to recognise that “loss of face” also applies in the western world and that signatures don’t always look the same. After a few back-and-fourths and multiple hesitations, they gave us the nod so we could wander past the still-crooning band and make our escape.
While a night at Fish and Company may provide an entertaining tale to your friends, I found it to be a chain with a missing link.
Fish and Company
Sisowath Quay (just south of the nightmarket) , Phnom Penh,