Harbor House Fish Fry
WHERE: 1742 Route 9, Clifton Park; 371-3813; www.harborhousefishfry.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day
OTHER INFO: www.harborhousefishfry.com Handicapped accessible; all major credit cards accepted except American Express
As has been pointed out here in the past, it’s probably not a good idea to order a hot dog at McDonald’s.
So why do I wish I’d ordered a cheeseburger at the Harbor House Fish Fry?
We pulled into the place on Route 9, just a quarter-mile north of the Route 146 junction, right around noon on a sweltering Sunday and hoped that the air conditioning was working inside. We wanted to escape the heat as much as we wanted to sample the fish.
The restaurant, blessedly cool, has a cheery interior with red faux-leather booths around the perimeter and similarly styled tables and chairs in the middle of the room. There’s a big seafaring painting on the wall, along with other nautical whatnots.
It’s the kind of place where you go up to the register to let them know what you want, pay up and then wait for your number to be called. On this particular day, we were the only patrons in line, so my guest waited at the counter for our order and carried it back to our table on a tray.
BIG FISH FILLET
He wisely chose the fish fry under “Our Specialty” on the menu. It’s a big fish fillet — perhaps 9 or 10 inches long — breaded and deep-fried and served in a hot dog bun, from which it protrudes on both ends. The price is a reasonable $3.95, and the fish — pollock or some similar kind of white fish — was perfectly fine, crispy and golden on the outside and flaky and tender on the inside.
He also ordered a small side of french fries ($1.85), and they also were done right and hot right out of the fryer. Ketchup and tartar, chili and hot sauces are available, along with napkins and plastic tableware.
I spent a few minutes scanning the menu before I made my choice, though there’s not a wide range of possibilities. I decided on the scallop roll ($5.45), which turned out to be seven deep-fried scallops or portions of scallops on a hot dog bun. I also ordered the small New England clam chowder ($3.85), which came with a packet of oyster crackers.
The chowder was tasty, thick and creamy as it should be with bits of clams, plenty of tender little potato chunks and bits of celery. There was a hint of cream flavor, which is always good, though not always guaranteed.
The scallop roll, on the other hand, was a big disappointment. The scallops were not fully cooked, which was something I’ve not encountered before. Usually, the problem with scallops is that they’re overcooked and rubbery. In this case, the scallops seemed to have been dropped frozen into the fryer and plucked out too soon. The outsides were golden and crispy, but the insides were still partly raw. Even if I were willing to eat partly raw scallops, these had a strong taste of iodine, which no amount of tartar sauce would mask, and it caused me to shove them aside after sampling two in the hopes that the first was an unfortunate exception.
Besides the seafood sandwiches served in rolls, the Harbor House offers seafood dinners like fish (a half-pound) for $9.85 with fresh fries and coleslaw.
Clam, shrimp, scallop and chicken tender dinners also are available for prices ranging up to $14.35 for the half-pound scallop dinner.
From the grill, you can order a double bacon cheeseburger for $2.95, along with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, steak and chicken sandwiches. Sides include fries, onion rings, coleslaw, macaroni salad, a garden salad and a garden chicken salad ($5.75). You can have Manhattan clam chowder as well as the New England variety, and you can order clams, shrimp, scallops (a half-pound) and chicken fingers without the french fries and cole slaw and save some money.
Our tab, for two sodas, one small chowder, one small order of fries, a fish fry and a scallop roll came to $19.47, including tax.
Someone recently muttered “Quel cornichon!” as we talked about a third party, and I thought she was calling him a pickle, which struck me as odd. Cornichon is the French word for gherkin and refers to one of my favorite things — a tiny, particularly tart and crisp dill pickle that you often find served at parties alongside the pâtè. But it’s also used idiomatically to mean a harmless kind of bumbler, a dope, like our own “silly goose.” She wasn’t saying “What a pickle,” but rather “What an idiot!”
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