Superb seafood in landlocked St. Paul!
We don’t often splurge on extravagant date nights, but every once in a while, a special occasion or celebration marks the perfect time for some Twin Cities seafood! The Octo Fish Bar, located in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul, has literally been on our eating wish list since before we left Colorado, and it did not disappoint.
Located in a renovated warehouse built in 1902, Octo Fish Bar shares the building with a microbrewery, meat and fish market, bakery cafe, and even private condominiums. Aged brick, iron, and wood provide the backdrop for this impressively modern industrial interior while brightly colored wall murals, lighting, and a life sized aluminum shark add a sense of whimsy. The menu is family style, meaning the plates, though not huge, are meant to be a shared dining experience. Don’t like what’s on the menu? Purchase something from the adjacent fish or meat market and, for a minimal fee, the chef will prepare it for you. Be prepared that, other than a few basic questions regarding food allergies and preferred meat temperature, your dish will be at the mercy of the chef’s creativity… and by all accounts is sure to be amazing.
Our server, Robert, was knowledgeable and efficient, yet maintained a relaxed experience. He never made us feel like dummies for not knowing the intricacies of different species of oysters. Quite the contrary. He educated us on the subtle differences between East coast and West coast varietals (in a nutshell: salty vs. less salty), and made great suggestions.
We ultimately chose South Bay Blonde (East coast) and Kumamoto (West coast) and indeed the Kumamoto oysters were less salty and had a smooth taste and texture and were my clear favorite. Logan enjoyed the salty brine of the South Bay Blonde but has never met an oyster he didn’t like. Everything was fresh and prepared beautifully.
Next came mussels steamed with beer and guajillo peppers. The broth was dark, rich, and much heartier than we had experienced paired with mussels in the past. They were served with the most magnificent soft yet crusty bread, the kind of bread that is perfect for sponging up the golden goodness at the bottom of the bowl. Robert told us to let him know when – not if – we’d like extra bread for just that purpose. We took advantage of his suggestion and cleaned our plate of every drop (drawing the line at licking the dish). If you’re a fan of steamed mussels, which, let’s face it, you should be, we highly recommend you sample this amazing dish.
Our next course of octopus bolognese sparked the only diverging opinions of the evening. With firm, fresh bucatini pasta and a robust, chunky sauce of ground octopus and pancetta, the question had to be asked – is octopus even necessary in this dish? Logan advocated for the pungent presence of tentacles, while I argued for the dish’s potential perfection sans octopus. Either way, it was delicious and really came down to a matter of personal preference. The flavor profile had depth and intensity but was a tad heavy handed on the salt, and thus was our one and only criticism of the evening.
And finally, came the Lobster Roll. Can you believe I have never had a Lobster Roll before?! Huge chunks of fresh lobster in a lightly creamy sauce with unique Japanese additions like furikake and miso all come stuffed inside buttered, Texas Toast with a side of crispy, shoestring fries. Messy to eat, but totally worth it!
Octo Fish Bar was a delightful experience and we will definitely be back, perhaps before a St. Paul Saints baseball game! A few things we would like to try in future are the whole market fish of the day, splurge on a seafood tower, or try the Chef’s choice preparation of a market purchase. Fresh ingredients combined with inventive and fun preparation, not to mention awesome service and ambiance make Octo Fish Bar a must visit for the seafood lover in St. Paul. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Disclaimer: All opinions are entirely our own, and exactly that – opinions. We are not sponsored and have not been compensated in any way for a favorable review.