I have a category called "Hidden Gems" in my travel app, Rehoboth In My Pocket. It gives me an excuse to recommend exceptional stores, services, activities and restaurants that are outside of the Rehoboth, Dewey and Lewes area. The spring 2014 update to Rehoboth In My Pocket will definitely include Flying Fish Cafe in Fenwick Island. It qualifies on all three counts: It's south of Rehoboth, it's definitely hidden, and our experiences so far have proven it to be exceptional.
My intrepid crew of sushiphiles includes Stingray's Andrea Herman, Mikimoto's/Stingray's executive sushi chef Al Chu, Bethany exercise fanatic, training guru and all-around cutiepie Lisa Velasco, and Rehoboth's own Renee Butler Wright (aka, "She who dwells amongst the smokers"). Thanks to their patient tutelage, I am now confident in my knowledge of what's good and what's not-so-good in the realm of vinegared rice, maki, sashimi and sundry marine creatures who have never experienced a fryer, skillet or oven.
In keeping with its hidden gem status, Flying Fish Cafe is tucked away in the red siding-clad Village of Fenwick and is not visible from the highway. Driving south, turn right at West Maryland Avenue (1 block before Rt. 54) and make an immediate right into the parking lot. You'll see the sign from there. Or, you can engage in aquatic takeout simply by kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or swimming (if you really like sushi that much) up to their patio by the canal.
Co-owner and chef Barry Kruemmel trained under Kiyomi Yamanaka ("Chef Yama"), the former owner and head sushi chef at Misaki in York Plaza in South Bethany. Kruemmel, along with co-owner Lisa Hart and Chef Yama (now whippin' up delights for Barry at Flying Fish) have reinvented the traditional concept of sushi and sashimi and taken it to new and tasty heights. I'll tell you right now that one of those heights is the Bangkok Dangerous. More about that later. Baby steps. First things first.
Frosty Sapporos firmly in hand, we started with the Sweet & Spicy Lettuce Wraps [pictured, right]. Delicately crunchy rice noodles are sequestered nearby so they don't get soggy during the trek from kitchen to table. DIY noodles properly sprinkled, the cool romaine leaf imparts a fresh crispness to the seasoned and simmered pork. A polite spoon of chili oil was the perfect exclamation point for those who dared (I dared and used it all up). I could eat two of these orders as a main course. The dish is a taste, temperature and textural roller coaster and well worth the $12 admission.
One of the specials in the small plate dept. was Blackened Scallops piled with chunks of lobster and an impossibly delicious Roasted Red Pepper Creme [pictured left. Don't drool on your screen]. The scallops were perfectly seared and spiced, and that sauce ... all I can say is that it's lighter than it looks in the photo, and there was a whole lot more in there than just roasted red peppers. You should hope that these are on the menu when you go.
Another special that we devoured as an appetizer was the Mushroom Caps (courtesy of co-owner Lisa, who Misaki fans will remember as one of the star waitrons) stuffed with tiger shrimp, spinach, artichokes, red peppers, blue cheese and who knows what the heck else. Casey (our super server) brought 6 "because they were small." From that point it was survival of the fittest (or is that the fattest?!).
A menu staple that is not to be missed is the Marinated Seafood Salad [pictured, right]. Think ceviche but with lots of fresh veggies. Sesame lime oil tops it off, with the citric acid denaturing the octopus, squid, scallop and shrimp mixture in true ceviche fashion. Always be sure of (and comfortable with!) any place where you order ceviche! Because of the method used to "cook" the fish without heat, only the very best quality product and preparation techniques can be used. You can trust Barry and Chef Yama. These guys bring a combined 40+ years of experience to the Japanese kitchen. 'Nuff said?
So just what the heck is a Bangkok Dangerous? [Hint: it's pictured, right -- the one with the bright green jalapeno rings on top.] It is quite possibly one of the tastiest rolls I have ever had. Tuna and salmon are lightly fried and then topped with a muddled blend of peppers. Lump crab is added, topped with a dollop of spicy mayo (did I taste Sriracha?) and drizzled with yet another sweet and spicy Thai-style sauce. Barry doubled the jalapeno toppings for me [closeup pictured right]. I would have normally chosen the habaneros, but it was early in the meal and I didn't want to drown out the taste buds quite that soon. But know that the habs are there for the asking. This is yet another carnival in your mouth with its own bracing combination of tastes, textures and temperatures.
Take another look at the Bangkok Dangerous photo above. See the roll in the foreground on the right (the one without the green jalapenos)? That is the Mobster Lobster. Long before our first visit to Flying Fish Cafe, I had received emails about this thing. Do you like New England lobster rolls? Spicy tuna? Crispy tempura? Cool avocado? This one's got it all [see the closeup to the left]. It's hard to describe the taste because all the ingredients add up to much more than just what they are. It's a flavor all its own, with warm bits of tempura playing counterpoint to the cool, creamy lobster salad in harmony with the bright jalapeno bits and savory tuna. Another winner in the "premium rolls" column.
In addition to the 16 or so combination rolls with tantalizing names like "The Fireball," The Eel Deal," and "Rainbow," the standard rolls are all there, including cucumber, California, smoked salmon, crabstick, tobiko (love it when they pop in your mouth!), hamachi, asparagus, crab and all the rest. You can even substitute soy paper for the seaweed wrappers for just a buck per roll.
Two tasty non-roll plates include the Pan Crisp'd Gyoza Dumplings and the Filet of Beef Negimaki. Gyoza indicates the potsticker-style wrapper that makes the dumpling ... well, a dumpling ... and is the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese jiaozi. Each savory little pillow [pictured left] sports a mouthwatering crust, accompanied by a sweet/tart dipping sauce and a mound of brightly colored carrot and cabbage. I love the mouth-feel of the somewhat thicker gyoza wrapper.
Filet of Beef Negimaki plate [pictured, right] borders on artwork. Thinly sliced and seared beef encases scallions and ginger hoisin sauce and rests languidly on a palm leaf. Both dishes make for the perfect dinner, especially if a dining companion allows you to filch a bite of a roll or two without puncturing your paw with a fork.
Desserts are the brainchild of none other than Kings Creek Country Club fitness director (who wooda thought!?!?!) Casey Vosburg. This multi-talented proprietor of "Casey's Cakes" had two delightful dishes available on the night we ordered dessert. The first was a Pineapple Upside-down Cake [pictured, right] and the other was Key Lime Cheesecake [pictured left]. I have never liked pineapple upside-down cake because it's so cloyingly sweet. This one was not. Instead, it was redolent of vanilla with a soft, not-too-citrusy edge of pineapple. It was delicious. In the same spirit, the cheesecake was not overwhelmingly tart with lime, which allowed the taste of the eggs and vanilla to shine through.
After our visits, I called the restaurant to verify a few ingredients and had the pleasure of speaking to Barry. This guy is jazzed by what he is doing, and seems to love every minute of it. The last thing he wants to be known as is a "sushi place." And other than the little soy sauce pots on the table and a lone Japanese print mounted near the bar, this could be pretty much any upscale tapas joint. "I really don't want to be known as a sushi bar," says Kruemmel, "I want to be known as a good restaurant that happens to serve sushi."
The Village of Fenwick mini-mall has an official address of 300 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island. Flying Fish Cafe is in the middle walkway on the Maryland Ave. side where the big parking lot is located. The patio at the rear of the building overlooks the canal that connects to Lighthouse Cove.
Flying Fish is open nightly in the off-season from 5-9 (or so) and is open for lunch from noon to 3 only on Saturdays and Sundays. In-season hours will certainly be longer, so be sure to call 302-581-0217 to check. I will update this sentence with a menu link when they finally get their website up and running. Doesn't matter. Go anyway. The place is perpetually crowded, pretty noisy and very festive. You're gonna love it. (L. (S/S), D).
Yes, I gave Flying Fish Cafe a rare 9.5 for food. Remember -- the ratings are not comparisons of one place to another. That wouldn't make sense, given the different types of places reviewed here at RehobothFoodie.com. The ratings tell you if the restaurant is what it claims to be, and does what it is supposed to do in a professional manner. Think of it as the "bang for the buck" index. The overall rating suffered slightly because, like many small restaurants, there is no vestibule to temper the rush of cold (or hot) air when people enter, and when it's crowded the room becomes an echo chamber. That can be easily resolved with some acoustic treatment. In the meantime, order another Sapporo.