15 October 2013

Lucky Fins Grill in Greeley could be somethin'

A new restaurant has moved into the old Blockbuster in the Centerplace shopping center (lordy, I sound like I'm reviewing Olive Garden in North Dakota...which was good, by the way).  Will it last?  I have yet to crack the code on what people in Greeley like. (For example, why is Red Robin so popular? And who eats at 3 Margaritas?)  But this place just might be the right balance of hip decor, inventive food, and shortcuts to the keep the price down that it might last a while.

Lucky Fins is a Boise, ID based restaurant; the Greeley location is their second. The menu boasts an impressive selection of "fresh" (for Colorado) fish, fruity cocktails, and a good selection of local beers on tap. The vibe is techno-geek sports bar with spare, industrial decor and a laid back atmosphere.  I think this place could cater to people looking for a slightly hipper, more urban feel than they can usually find in Cowtown.  But there are some caveats.

First, let's talk about what was truly terrific.  The Ahi poki on the appetizer menu was wonderful.  Generous chunks of raw sushi-grade tuna were accompanied by a small seaweed salad and a flavorful, light sauce, as well as ginger and wasabi.  I could eat that treat every day. Then there was the Mediterranean Mahi-mahi on special the night we visited, and it was excellent in every way.  The fish was cooked perfectly--flaky yet moist. The sauce was creamy, but much lighter than an Alfredo, and flecked generously with fresh herbs. The lemony rice pilaf was actually flavorful, fluffy, and a great compliment to the fish.  And the grilled vegetables included a great assortment of squash, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and more, and were lightly seasoned and left crisp-tender.  This was an excellent meal.

However, those grilled vegetables did taste a little bit like propane, revealing a probable short cut in the grilling process on that chilly October night.  And the other dish we ordered, the lobster tacos with lavender butter, were slightly better in the hypothetical than in real life.  The lobster was very well prepared--tender, buttery, and mild.  The fresh pico served on top was a lovely compliment.  And the lavender butter was...well, it was so intriguing I had to try it.  But in the end, the tacos tasted like well-prepared fish tacos that had been rubbed with a bar of soap.  I think there might be a reason you don't normally sea lavender butter on lobster tacos.  Any amount probably would have overwhelmed the delicate flavors underneath, and this particular preparation certainly did.

The beers on tap were great.  The cocktails were mostly geared towards those who prefer a little booze with their sugar water.  This will probably go over just fine with their main clientele, middle-aged Weld County citizens who have just gotten done shopping at Target a few doors down and want to treat themselves to something different.  I tried the cucumber-lime saketini, and it was powerfully sweet and limey; I don't think that could possibly have been fresh lime juice in there.  Or if it was, there was also a simple syrup thrown in for good measure.  It went down easily, but it was awfully bright and slightly artificial tasting.

We were treated to a free dessert of Captain Crunch Fried Ice Cream.  Sounds interesting, right?  Like the lavender butter, it didn't work as well as it sounded.  There was so much oil in the crunchy coating that it mostly tasted like canola, and very little like Captain Crunch.  This could be fixed, though, and I would encourage them to do so.  Because without the weird canola oil flavor, this would have been pretty fun to eat.

In general, I think these guys really know how to cook fish, and they care about the quality of their ingredients.  The more creative-sounding menu items were the most disappointing for me, but when it comes to preparing seafood, the kitchen's skills are solid.

Every weekend, some special seafood is flown in and featured on the rotating menu board.  Happy hour is 4-6pm on weeknights and offers some drink discounts. The service is friendly and the wait staff are generally knowledgeable about what they're selling. If you're in town from New York or Japan or some other riparian location, you're probably going to roll your eyes at this place.  But if you have been limited to land-locked seafood restaurants in the Rocky Mountain West, I think this place can definitely keep up with your needs. I will happily give them more chances to wow me; I think I'll just avoid the lavender butter in the future.