Stella's Fish Cafe and Prestige Oyster Bar opened last week. I took a friend there for his birthday, at his request. The three hostesses, two servers, and one wait assistant that we had were all very friendly to the point of being eager. Needless to say, there were not too many other people in the restaurant. My mixed greens salad was awesome; the ranch dressing made it so. It definitely tasted fresh and housemade. Two bites into it, however, our entrees arrived. Oops. I sent it back, but my friend dove into his fish and chips. He said it was the best fish and chips he's ever had, and that's saying something (he's a bit of a connoisseur). I will admit his fries were damn tasty. When my new plate of cheese ravioli came back, sadness filled the room. It's the only vegetarian option on the menu, and it's a colossal disappointment. The sauce was too sweet and salty, and those were the only two flavors I could detect. It tasted more like a condiment for a hot dog than the star of a plate of pasta. The cheese ravioli drowning under a sea of tomato sauce was underdone, and barely filled. In fact, I kept cutting the pasta open with my fork, then pressing down to try and squeeze out some of the ricotta-feta filling, but nothing ever came out.
Yeah, yeah, it's a seafood restaurant, they don't do pasta, they don't do vegetarian. However, it's supposed to be fine dining. Anyplace that offers a $14.00 vegetarian entree alongside fish and seafood plates just starting at the same price should be able to whip up something better that what I was served. And what's with all the parsley? I'll take a little garnish, but don't drop two handfuls of chopped parsley on top of my dish. Gross. Oh, and the beer list sucks. It's not only short, but has a limited range of flavors. No complaints about the scotch list. The food menu is too long and clumsy. I didn't think the red plastic tumblers and dollar-store ketchup bottles went too well with the cloth napkins and personalized plates. My friend had to turn over his paper placemat, as he didn't care to learn step-by-step how to gut a fish before he was about to eat one for dinner. A restaurant can't be a cross between Flameburger and The Oceanaire. Find a happy medium.
Stella's will likely survive in Uptown, but I doubt it would have a chance as a downtown dining destination. It's still got the nice patio and is very centrally located among all the new condos and condos-to-be. Speaking of which, here's the conversation that transpired in the car en route to Stella's, driving past the real estate office on Lake and Hennepin:
"There's the Financial Freedom office, in case you were wondering."
"Financial Freedom for condos in Uptown, huh. Financially free? No. Financially f*cked."