By Jim Ayres
If only self-driving cars were available now. From my home, I’d set a course for a scenic cruise down Kirby Drive through River Oaks, and on to the twists and turns of Allen Parkway. A right at Taft, a left on Dallas.
In truth, my own car already knows that route by heart. On this sunny Saturday, however, it wasn’t stopping at Tony’s Corner Pocket! No, my destination was the newly opened South Bank Seafood across the street. And what a great place it is!
But first, about that name. What does it refer to? The South Bank of the Thames? This isn’t a chippie though, and surprisingly, fish and chips isn’t on the menu.
South Bank’s website promises “a modern seafood bar” with a “contemporary menu.” It’s a
promise fulfilled. The strict industrial chic of former resident The Refinery gives way to industrial chic with ropes, lifeboats and aquatic murals. There’s a big dog-friendly patio with nice views of the skyline.
Ordering at the bar, you’ll find a simple menu of fried and grilled seafood favorites, along with a po’ boy or two. A few salads are listed, and I started with the Arugula Salad. It’s an artful creation, with dried cranberries, goat cheese crumbles, and candied pecans dotting the leaves. A tart balsamic vinaigrette balances the sweetness.
Eagerly I dug in. The peppery arugula was fresh, and the ingredients cleansed my palate as a nice lunch starter should. Order the salad with grilled shrimp or chicken, and it would make a nice lunch, period.
Usually, in the name of journalistic integrity, I want to order a few items from any menu. But at South Bank, all those things rolled together onto the Combo, and that’s what I got. Wow! Seafood in a bar setting has no right to be as good and fresh as this is.
Let’s start with the hush puppies. They’re fried to a golden crispness, bits of corn breaking through as if they were jewels on a brooch. The insides steam for a second, and the bite is tender and moist.
Fried shrimp and catfish are perfectly cooked. How do they make them so greaseless? The shrimp is of good quality, meaty with no mineral taste. Batter is crunchy, but doesn’t overwhelm. Dip it into a tangy house made cocktail sauce or a kicky tartar sauce, and it’s bliss on your fingertips.
Nicely sized, the catfish filet is the star of the Combo. I’ve never tasted a cornmeal crusting more perfect and simple; never a catfish so fresh and flaky and “clean.” I could have used a knife and fork to eat it, but I just broke off pieces with my hand, which shows how awesome this catfish really is.
Take South Bank’s advice and park in their well-paved free lot on Tony’s side of Dallas, and not in the pitted gravelly lot next to the building that costs $5. And take my advice: Get to South Bank soon!
South Bank Seafood
702 West Dallas
Houston, Texas 77019