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(Credit: Chris Casella)

Two Fish Bistro

Daeoh goes for duality

By James Westfall

Published June 1, 2011

Who says a restaurant should focus on just one motif?

Upon entering Two Fish Bistro, the newest Short North establishment from the Daeoh group of local eateries, one is given a choice between being seated in the Two Fish Bistro area or Red, the bar area. Menus for both concepts are available on each side of the divide, immediately suggesting a stylistic duality and simplicity that characterizes and guides the dining experience.

A pre-dinner cocktail provides an inspiring start to this culinary journey. The Shark Fin – a delicious blend of house-infused smoked tomato-jalapeño vodka, cucumber sake, muddled cilantro and Tabasco – headlines the cocktail menu as a $5 shooter designed to invigorate the taste buds. The Short Norther ($9) contains an intoxicating blend of locally crafted Watershed Gin, lemon juice and well-balanced lavender syrup. The Paloma Punch ($9) also exhibits a thoughtful alchemy, with tequila, ruby red grapefruit juice, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur and orange bitters. These floral, slightly sweet aperitifs create a delightful backdrop for the creative dishes.

The concise and approachable menu for Two Fish allows diners to choose a meal to suit either individual tastes or dining with a group. Salads are a flat $9, appetizers are all $10, and entrées are offered at the reasonable price of $16. The Spring Nut Salad arrives artistically composed with julienned cucumbers surrounding a mound of greens dressed with long slices of celery, carrots and onions in herb oil with balsamic, dusted with pistachios. Surprisingly, instead of competing for your tastebuds’ attention, these ingredients meet a cohesive, crunchy endpoint enhanced by finely chopped tomatoes.

The Two Fish Bouillabaisse entrée brings the seemingly incongruent ingredients of corn, red pepper, zucchini and seaweed to a nuanced accord in a shellfish-rich curried broth of mussels, scallops, calamari, crab and shrimp. The inclusion of a dirty rice garnish ties the dish together.

The streamlined Two Fish menu carries over to Red, the designated sushi bar with a decidedly modern decor. Images of Warhol, a wall of mirrors, a blank wall for projecting films, ostentatious chandeliers and fashion-inspired collage tabletops compete with ubiquitous television screens to create a bustling, though not frenetic, atmosphere in which one could potentially catch a lobster from an aquatic vending machine to be cooked on the premises.

At Red, choosing a specialty sushi roll becomes accessible instead of intimidating. Vivid descriptions on the opposite side of the sushi order sheet make selecting a morsel to suit your palate a breeze for sushi virgins and aficionados alike. All of Red’s specialty rolls are priced at $9, further democratizing the experience for the savvy diner.

The Thai Roll, featuring shrimp, cilantro, peanuts and mixed greens rolled in soy paper with a light miso dressing, could stand alone as a filling plate. The Honey Wasabi Roll combines the creamy and crispy textures of shrimp, avocado and tempura-fried asparagus with a honey-wasabi drizzle that adds just the right blend of sweetness and spice.

An ample amount of pickled ginger and wasabi perch on the corner of each sushi plate, inviting the guests to season to their own tastes.

Touting the Short North name on both the cocktail menu and as a sushi roll is a forward-thinking means of endearing this Asian fusion destination to a well-established and eclectic culinary community. With accommodating menus and conceptual flair, Two Fish Bistro and Red are poised to embrace a captive audience with casual and earnest aplomb.

Two Fish Bistro & Red Bar Sushi

717-721 N High St.

(614) 221-8600

www.daeoh.com