First Look: Off the Hook, an east end fish n’ poutine shop
By Jennifer Romano
Where fish and poutine are bffs (All images by Jennifer Romano)
Though a product of trial and error, the menu at Off the Hook, the Danforth’s newest fish fry joint, aims to impress the most diehard a-fish-ionados. Prior to its grand opening earlier this month, 22-year-old — and first time restaurant owner — Steven Karataglidis spent days in a test kitchen mixing together what he calls his “all-time favourite flavours.”
Without any real chef training or knowledge of the fish and chip business, he came up with a unique menu consisting of battered and grilled fish, a selection of original homemade sauces, sandwiches and multiple variations of poutine.
What he lacks in culinary training, though, he makes up for in restaurant experience. Karataglidis’ father, Gus Karataglidis, owned a Greek family restaurant for 17 years while his son was growing up. It was there, in part, that the younger Karataglidis learned the ins and outs of the industry. Eventually, he opened a restaurant of his own, but not without help: his dad works the fryer, while his friends serve. As for Karataglidis, he manages the front of house while his father is in charge of the kitchen. “It takes over my whole life now, but it’s definitely worth it,” he says.
The concept: Karataglidis recognized a demand for a fish fry in the neighbourhood and decided to open a 28-seat, gourmet fish and chip shop when the space that once housed Peter’s Place came on the market earlier this year. Customers can choose from a variety of fish, batters and sauces at the late-night spot (it’s open until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays). When it comes to the chips, Off the Hook offers standard French fries or customized poutines. For those looking for something different, there’s a selection of homemade sandwiches and “nibblers” (fried, panko-encrusted calamari, scallops or shrimp, $10).
All the fish is sourced from Daily Seafood with sustainability in mind. In an attempt to appeal to what he calls “new age customers,” Off the Hook also offers organic and gluten-free batters. “We’ve have people come in who haven’t eaten fish and chips in seven years,” Karataglidis says, “because they couldn’t find gluten-free.”
The hood: Just south of Danforth on Broadview.
The eats: Halibut ($12), sea bass ($12), mahi mahi ($10) and red snapper ($10) are fried or grilled. When fried, the fish is dunked in organic house batter, organic Cajun batter or gluten-free batter before hitting the oil. Once plated, a choice of sauces awaits. It ranges from homemade tartar, Walking Wasabi and Go Go Green Pesto. A customer favourite is Lost in the Sauce, made with fresh garlic, scallions, cream and lemon. Coleslaw comes on the side, made with mustard and apple cider.
When it comes to poutine, The Great Canadian ($6-$8) is a fan favourite. Fries are smothered in cheddar cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and cheese curds before being doused in duck gravy. Also try the Off The Hook ($6-$8): fries topped with brie and spicy duck gravy made with a homemade chili sauce. Wash it down with a pint of Mill Street Tank House or Mill Street Organic (also used in the organic fish batter). Still hungry? Try the deep fried Mars bar with vanilla ice cream ($4.95).
The owner’s favourite: When it comes to grilled fish, Karataglidis recommends the sea bass with mixed greens. Try it with Sizzler Sauce if you like it spicy or Lost in the Sauce if you like mild. As for fried fish, he recommends the red snapper with organic Cajun batter and a side of homemade tartar sauce. Repeat customers love dipping fish into the spicy Chipotle Mayo for a little kick, he says.
Coming soon: Karataglidis is always thinking of new menu ideas. Look out for more variety on the already extensive list of sauces. “As soon as I can get down to the test kitchen,” he says, “I’m going to start experimenting again.”
Off the Hook, 749 Broadview Ave., 416-465-4356