Hit or Miss
An uneven start at Morgans Fish House in Rye
Reviews are most fun to read, you tell us, when they either rave about a place or skewer it. (They are also, incidentally, more fun to write).
This review was well on its way to being tons of fun; there were moments in our first visit to Morgans Fish House that it seemed likely this review would be a lambaste. We spent an eternity at the bar, unable to converse in the din. The fact that no one even apologized for keeping us waiting 45 minutes made it even more unpleasant.
The noise level did not decrease at all once we were finally seated. We’d been looking forward to catching up with the couple we were dining with, but the strain of shouting—and of trying to hear—made us all edgy. Apparently, we weren’t the only one. Around us, there were little flare-ups throughout the evening: a woman raising her voice to a staff member over here, an unhappy man gesturing and pointing to the kitchen about another incident over there. Meanwhile, we made do with bread and an accompaniment of whole roasted plum tomato with about a teaspoon of green-olive pesto. There wasn’t enough pesto for four tastes, but we divvied up the tomato (not easy to do) and waited for our appetizers.
When they arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. A nice big crab cake was elegant in its simplicity: sweet crab encased in a golden crust. Two dishes with a more rustic provenance, roast octopus and grilled calamari, featured robust Mediterranean flavors and exceptionally tender seafood. And then there were three sweet, fresh scallops that were artfully seared to tender perfection. Oddly, the dish was listed on the menu under “salads.” But if it’s salad you’re yearning for, by all means order the ordinary-sounding but extra ordinarily good mesclun salad with white balsamic.
Not all appetizers were outstanding, unfortunately. A chef as experienced as Mark Fillipo (most recently of Cafe Mezé) should know better than to send out a shrimp-and- avocado spring roll made with under-ripe, bland avocado.
When this location housed the restaurant RK, we had one of the most memorably awful carpaccios of all time. We won’t go into the details here (check it out at westchestermagazine.com), but one of its defining features was its baffling thickness. Carpaccio is, by definition, so thin it is often referred to as “shaved.” All these months later at this same address, we were served another thick “carpaccio.” Morgan’s was nearly a quarter-inch thick, and a single piece took up nearly the whole plate, though it still doesn’t come close to qualifying for RK’s Carpaccio Hall of Fame status. Besides, Morgan’s had the added advantage of being topped with a small but wonderfully creamy and lemony lobster salad.
Nothing could have saved the porcini-dusted halibut the first time we tried it—not even sending it back. When it first arrived, scorched bits gave it an astoundingly bitter flavor. A replacement was rushed back to us, but it was completely raw on the inside. Similarly, “slow-roasted Chatham cod” was undercooked, though oddly dry on top. These are not the dishes you’d expect a restaurant that bills itself as a “fish house” to mess up on.
Fortunately, there were also dishes like the grilled sea bass: flaky moist fish nicely marked from the grill and not a second over- or under-done. We also loved the mussels served in a luscious garlic-lemon broth that arrived at the table just-cooked and still tender. And some non-seafood dishes were just as good: heady, rich short ribs paired with sweet glazed shrimp in a riff on surf-and-turf, and a top-notch rib eye steak, served tender and juicy and perfectly charred.
Desserts were as uneven as the rest of the food, though none were as good as the best of the savory dishes. Our first choice is the warm chocolate cake with pistachio gelato.
While we’d love to give you a definitive “Go” or “Don’t Go” for Morgans, the bottom line is that the restaurant is uneven enough in its execution that you may end up having a disappointing experience—or a really good meal.
Morgans Fish House
(914) 921-8190; morgansfishhouse.net
Hours: dinner Sun to Wed 5-10 pm,
Thurs to Sat 5-11 pm (lunch starting in September)
Appetizers: $9-$18; entrees: $20-$30; desserts: $9
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good