Fresco’s Fish & Chips
Fresco’s Fish & Chips [Website]
213 Augusta Ave (Kensington Market)
Hours: M-R 11:30AM-9PM / F 11:30AM-10PM / Sa 12Pm-10PM / Su 12PM-8PM
Date of Visit: 2013-09-27
I can’t say that Fresco’s Fish & Chips was ever on my radar, despite always passing by during my jaunts though Kensington. They’ve been in the neighbourhood for around 2 years now, but I rarely crave fish & chips, particularly when I’m on the hunt for great Mexican or Chinese food in this area. All that changed when I came across a tweet from @Merriam_H, divulging the not-so-secret-menu Extra Crispy option — coating the fish with crushed Miss Vicky’s Salt & Vinegar kettle chips. My own failed home experiments in chip-coated frying turned out rather disastrous — apparently, hand-crushed tortilla chips + deep frying = gum-piercing jagged shards.
Mike Fresco, owner and chef, was extremely personable when we came into the restaurant. The restaurant is decorated wall-to-wall with Beatles memorabilia, but I didn’t ask if Mike if this was a personal obsession, or a nod to fish’n’chips’ British heritage. While we glanced through the menu board, several bike couriers came and went, picking up take-out delivery orders. In fact, that’s the origin of the Extra Crispy fish. Mike often brings a few pieces of fish home for his son, but living out in the west end, the batter would sometimes end up soggy and limp, especially when kept steaming hot inside a box. With his newly discovered technique, the batter stayed fryer-fresh crispy, leaving his son asking for more.
Mike employs narcotic distribution tactics, offering your first hit of crunchy addiction for free. He offers to prepare the fish & chip orders two-ways, with one piece of fish classic, and the other extra crispy.
We ordered the Haddock & Chips for $10.95 (2 pcs + fries), with Extra Haddock ($3.95 for 2 pcs), all Extra Crispy ($1), and upgraded our fries to a Poutine (normally $3.98 a la carte).
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the kettle chip crust — I was expecting the shell to be a lot saltier and sour, as a result of the chip seasoning. Instead, the flavour is very subtle, with just a faint echo of vinegar. Unless you were aware of the batter, you would just as likely to overlook the vinegar.
The batter itself was reasonably thin — only as thick as necessary to establish the crunch – unlike the doughy batter found at your Firkin or Duke pubs. The haddock flesh itself was good, clean-tasting and firm – nothing concerning or troubling, though nothing superlative came to mind while eating it (nor was it expected).
I eschewed utensils and barbarically handled the fish with bare fingers – the fish and thin crispy shell held together well, never falling apart. I was rather stunned that the second piece, despite sitting at the bottom of the box, still hot from the fryer, was not the slightest bit softened. It makes sense that Fresco’s has a thriving delivery clientelle, as their product reaches their customers just as crispy as they were straight from the fryer.
Our order of fish comes with fries, which we upgraded to a poutine. The fries were hefty and nicely browned, crispy but not overly crunchy. The amount curds and gravy were generous – the curds were firm and stable, never quite melting in the rivers of gravy. It was a very satisfying classic poutine.
Fresco’s also participates in Kensington Pedestrian Sundays (next one is Oct 27th, 2013!), offering skewers of fried shrimp, haddock, and crabcakes ($2 ea, $5 for 3). Those items are mediocre, with the crabcakes being a bit salty and mushy for my liking. Unfortunately, they’re nowhere near the competence of the extra crispy fish fillets.