Possibly because of the five-and-dime awning and storefront glass, the restaurant appears very different from the outside than it feels on the inside. That must be why it took me a couple of months after moving to town to notice it and another few to walk through the door. Turns out the dining room, flanked by walls painted to the ceiling with an underwater scene dotted with little metal fish, is very pleasant and even lively on busy nights with tables at the front that can be put together for larger groups and high-backed wooden booths along the sides for more intimate occasions. The service is as warm and amiable as the space.
Yet for all the restaurant's workmanlike consistency and good-natured attitude, the menu definitely has some flare. Offerings traverse the globe with many dishes focusing on distinctly Asian flavors, others with more of an Italian bent, and of course classic fish-and-chips from the motherland and an array of New American selections. The only theme that really comes through across the board is that your order will probably involve seafood, and it's likely going to be delicious and prepared with the freshest ingredients.
The starters and the soups account for my favorite items on the menu. Appetizers include traditional fish house fare such as fried oysters, steamed clams, and Dungeness Crab Cakes, which I haven't yet had the opportunity to try. But if they're anything compared to the Panko Calamari Strips ($8), thick pieces the size of mozzarella sticks deep fried with crispy Panko breading (often used in Japanese cooking) and served with a tangy marinara sauce, you can't go wrong. Another triumph was the Sesame Crusted Ahi ($9), almost an entrée quantity of perfectly cooked sliced fish crusted with sesame seeds and served with vegetable stir-fry and wasabi-ginger sauce.
Soups include a variety of chowders, bisques, and seafood stews. The Manhattan Shrimp soup was a tasty, subtle spin on Manhattan clam chowder ($4.50/$5.50). Among the specialty soups, the Thai Fish Soup ($5.50/$7.50) is the clear crowd favorite, and for good reason. Loaded with large chunks of halibut, coconut broth, lemongrass, and rice, you might not need much more than a bowl and an appetizer.
This is not to say that entrees (most, $17/$20) should be overlooked. A special one evening, Asiago crusted halibut with vegetables, polenta, and Alfredo sauce sung of Italy as did the herb-crusted wild salmon with angel-hair pasta in sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic sauce. Another night the special mahi with sautéed prawns, veggies, and pilaf was fresh and light. The long list of entrées includes shrimp dishes prepared with sauces from Cajun to Thai to pesto, a variety of fish and other seafood dishes, as well as a couple of steak options, a chicken dish, and a few items for vegetarians. Lunch is similar, though includes express lunch specials, sandwiches, and less expensive entrees, making for a more economical way to sample the menu.
Desserts ($4.50) include enticing options like Warm Chocolate Chunk Cookie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Peach Sorbet with Hazelnut Shortbreads, and the house specialty, a creamy key lime pie with a graham crust. For special occasions, you can preorder whole desserts for the table, which makes it a popular birthday spot. Luckily, with room for fewer than 50 diners at a time, High Tides is never at risk of losing its low-key atmosphere-even if a facelift managed to catch the attention of passersby that it already gets from those in the know.
High Tides Seafood Grill
1045 NW Bond St., 389-5244
Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner, Mon.-Sat., 5-9 p.m.