The building located at 527 York Street in Newport has not been kind to its recent restaurant tenants. Since Mokka moved a few years ago, this address has been home to NuVo and Pinky Sue’s Smoke House, both of which disappeared quickly after arrival. There is now another new restaurant hoping to break this string of bad luck.
Bayou Fish House has the feel of a traditional Southern-style fish bar. The menu is straightforward and simple. There are only four fish offerings daily: perch, cod, whiting and the catch of the day. All meals are nicely priced at $6.95 and include French fries and bread. Gumbo and cole slaw are the only other dishes offered, and both are priced at $2.25. The decor has been updated with a nautical theme, and like most fish bars, service is primarily carry out. If you wish to dine in, there’s a long bar along the wall, but be aware there are very few stools and you probably will have to stand up as you enjoy your meal.
Less can certainly be more as long as the final product is done perfectly. There is nothing wrong with having a limited menu as it allows the kitchen to concentrate on just a few items and perfect them. However, after a couple of visits to this still newly opened restaurant, I’m sorry to say that there are food quality inconsistencies that need to be addressed in order for Bayou Fish House to compete with and live up to the high quality standards that are found at our established fish bars, including Alabama Fish Bar in Over-the-Rhine and Louisiana Fish Bar in Fairmount.
My first visit was a really good experience. A friend met me there for lunch and we placed our orders quickly. My lunch companion tried the perch, and I ordered the catch of the day, which was flounder. Our food was ready in mere minutes and I was impressed from the first bite. The four pieces of flounder were crisp and flaky, perfectly fried and not at all oily. The fries were piping hot and the accompanying onions and peppers were fresh and spicy, which complemented the fish instead of overshadowing it as some can.
I was particularly impressed with the flour-based batter. It was flavorful, with enough heat that it didn’t need hot sauce or other condiments. This batter is top notch and truly enhanced the fish, as did the lightly seasoned tartar sauce. Everything was great about this visit, except for one thing: I really was excited about trying the gumbo but unfortunately they were out, so I had to make a second visit to taste the gumbo.
My second visit was pretty much the opposite of the first. Granted, I did get carryout so I didn’t eat it immediately, but the food was certainly still hot when I got home, so that wasn’t an issue. The catch of day that time was a sampler platter which included one piece of cod, one piece of perch and one piece of whiting. The large piece of cod was tasty, but the batter kept falling off the fillet, indicating that the fish was dry and probably not completely thawed prior to frying. The whiting tasted very “fishy,” enough so that I wouldn’t finish it. The perch was OK, but it was a very small piece.
Apparently you have to ask for the peppers and onions, as this time I didn’t receive any with my meal, and the fries were completely different. Instead of the crispy fries of the prior visit, these were seasoned fries that screamed Ore Ida, and they were overcooked. The gumbo that I was so looking forward to tasting was a huge disappointment. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a gumbo, as it was more of a tasteless version of chicken and rice. It didn’t have any heat, didn’t have any okra or sausage and was merely boiled chicken in a flavorless sauce over sticky overcooked rice. The meal was so different from my prior visit that it was almost like I was eating food that came from a completely different kitchen, and not one that I would care to eat from again.
Bayou Fish House showed me on my first visit that they know what they are doing and are capable of producing some damned good fish, but they have to be more consistent. They have a batter recipe that is superior to most, and I hope that they will make the effort to correct the problems that plagued my carryout order. If not, it might not be long before another restaurant opens up in this location.
Bayou Fish Bar
Go: 827 York St., Newport
Surf: No website, but they are on Facebook.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday
Entrée Prices: $6.95
Red Meat Alternatives: Entire meal is seafood
Accessibility: Fully accessible