Two of us were parked at one of the window seats in Wild Fish when a couple opened the door, but hesitated to come inside. The woman poked her head our way and cautiously asked “is it any good?” She went on to say that food service at the highly-regarded Pacific Grove restaurant had plummeted after the chef “up and returned to New York.”
It turns out that chef Margaret LaVetty—the restaurant’s third chef in not quite two years—abandoned the post just a few months after she replaced Joshua Plesh in the fall of 2019. I can’t attest to the throes Wild Fish’s kitchen went through in the interim, but on this particular night it was under the direction of a new chef.
The count’s now up to four chefs in almost two years.
It’s best not to judge a chef four days into his term after a month with a rudderless kitchen. Chef Nico Long rolled out the first dish of his own that particular Friday—a delicate petrale sole under a wafer-crisp skin on risotto scented with lemon and rosemary. There were ups and downs across the rest of the menu, but that’s to be expected under the circumstances.
A couple of things were evident. First, he knows how to prepare fish. The ahi tuna nuzzled like cashmere and smoked fish in a chowder held their texture nicely (the soup itself, another story). Second, he can bring skin to an intricate crispness—and not just fish skin. The outer layer of a smashed sweet potato crackled like candied earth.
Long was born and raised in P.G., but has spent years cooking around the world—largely due to time as a private chef in luxury yachts that apparently ply the waters from Singapore to Monaco (it’s not like we would know). Not a bad life.
Maybe Wild Fish can keep four on the floor.