All that said, Dynamite Scallops were an impressive starter, a spicy, Asian-tinged retake on coquilles St. Jacques. A lunchtime seafood trio delivered a small, perfectly grilled and sauced piece of salmon, a competent crab cake (though I could have done without the corn salsa topping), and unremarkable macadamia-crusted fried shrimp. For purists there's Charley's Bucket, sporting a whole Maine lobster, Dungeness crab, mussels, redskin potatoes, and corn, all properly steamed. The day's featured fresh fish (the list barely changes) can also be prepared simply--grilled, broiled, or sauteed. My heart belongs to those, and also to traditional items like fisherman's stews, which enhance the fundamental brininess of seafood. So, when that classic French seafood stew, bouillabaisse, appeared as a special some time back, I couldn't resist.
Now, the Mediterranean has as many fish stews as it has fishing villages, and the Mediterranean fisher folk who emigrated here brought all their stew-making skills with them. The West Coast has Italian-influenced cioppino, usually heavy on tomatoes and often a bit brassy and acidic. Bouillabaisse, in balanced, French style, should be light on the tomatoes, with a rich, saffron-perfumed fish broth. Except in Ann Arbor. Gandy Dancer's bouillabaisse had a thick tomato sauce chunky with fennel stalks and no discernible saffron. Tasty? You bet, but I'd peg it as cioppino in a blind tasting. Meanwhile, I'd swear that Real Seafood Company's cioppino is a bouillabaisse. Go figure!
Real Seafood Company
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