The most anticipated thing to hit Girard Ave since the new Pathmark on second street (is that not open yet??), Fathom Seafood opened it's doors just a few weeks ago across the street from Johnny Brenda's. This is the newest addition from the unofficial fish monger of Philadelphia, Mike Stollenwork, who also runs Fish and Little Fish, so expectations are high.
More bar than restaurant, Fathom squeezes just over a half dozen tables around the main bar, which itself takes up more than half the square footage in the place. The tables are sizable four-tops though, made of thick marble or granite of some kind, and have comfy captain's chairs that make you feel like you're in command. The tables need to be big, because the menu setup means you're going to be ordering lots of dishes that need the real estate. Not quite small plates, but also not entrées, the menu at Fathom is definitely geared towards socializing with a few friends, having some drinks and sharing dishes. Calling it seafood tapas would be selling it short though.
The bar features a well thought selection of draft beers, aluminum & glass, along with some good specialty cocktails - the Salty Dog, which was basically a margarita with gin in place of the tequila, was a nice special. The raw bar is stocked with clams, lobster, crab and tasty tasty oysters. We got a dozen for the table, 6 east coast and 6 west coast. That night the west coast were hamahama from Washington state with a great tangy briny flavor, perfectly shucked and ready to knock back.
On to the main dishes - we were celebrating a dear friend's birthday, so we decided to indulge a bit and order about half the menu. They bring out the dishes as their ready, so be prepared for the onslaught and be ready to eat. Cod pierogies with bacon and brown butter were first out of the chute, and although they sound a bit strange they were one of the best items on the menu. Huge chunks of perfectly rendered bacon gave the flaky cod inside the pierogies an excellent compliment. Fathom fries were a take on poutine, plus the addition of some flaky crab meat - the boys liked it, the girls not so much. The fried crab louie was another dish that was split down the gender lines. We liked the fried hunk of crab meat with the spicy chile mayo, but the ladies had other favorites.
The crab cake sandwich was definitely a hit. Big hunks of crab, broiled to perfection, on a nice soft potato roll hit all the right notes. Fried oysters were cooked pefectly, not a bit chewy and served with horseradish cream for a little bit of a slap in the mouth. The only item that didn't do it for anyone was the Jonah Crab Claws. The claws are served in a bowl, with butter sauce at the bottom, each at least an inch in diameter. From the outside they looked great, but the crab meat inside had a weird texture and didn't taste like something you see brought up on the Deadliest Catch.
By far the best thing on the menu was the lobster grilled cheese. Sandwiched between crunchy golden slices of sourdough and melty fontina cheese, this thing is worth the trip all on it's own. Also surprisingly good was the smoked marlin tacos with crispy onions and pickled jalapeño's. You could definitely taste the smokiness come through, and a dash of hot sauce brought it all together. To finish up and put us over the edge we went with our servers recommendation on dessert and got the home made whoopie pies. Wow. Chocolaty sponge cake with fresh whipped cream inside makes for the ideal ending to such an epic meal.
Fathom is not a fine dining establishment, or even restaurant for that matter. It is a good neighborhood bar with an outstanding menu of fresh and tasty seafood items. I could do without the flat screens showing CNN over the bar, but I'm willing to overlook that for what the kitchen is putting out. Being only a 10 min walk from NoLibs, we will definitely be putting in our time at the helm. Yaaaargh!
Fathom Seafood House
200 E. Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
FoodBaby Rating: Triplets!