Fishnet, stocking sandwiches from the sea
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
Suffering from hamburger and pizza fatigue? You're not alone. The news that Ferhat Yalcin, a longtime dining room fixture at Corduroy in Washington, was flipping fish in a spot of his own sent me racing this month to College Park and a slip of a place called Fishnet.
The Istanbul native has shed his suit and tie for a T-shirt and knit cap. Instead of pounding carpet, the former restaurant manager is behind a counter, where customers can scan a chalkboard menu and place their requests. Each day brings a handful of fish varieties that can be grilled or fried, then set in a roll with lettuce and tomato and a smear of a house-made sauce. The choices run to fresh mahi-mahi, porgy, bluefish and salmon, which also makes its way into scroll-size tacos using flour tortillas. A sandwich of strong-flavored bluefish treated to a Turkish-inspired spread of pureed walnuts, garlic and sumac made me wish I had a Fishnet closer to home.
The last time I recall eating fish sticks was in high school. Fishnet creates happier memories by serving flaky hake in a golden crust formed by egg wash and airy Japanese bread crumbs. The lone letdown on my visit was a thin fish soup, reminiscent of what's left behind in a pot of steamed mussels: mere broth.
Any meal is better with a side or two. The french fries are made in-house, as are the chunky coleslaw and vivid yellow potato salad.
The shop's minimalist decor lets you focus on the food. Aside from a collection of photographs of Istanbul and some fishnets on the walls, there's not much to look at, although I like the music Yalcin pipes in from a Turkish radio station. The self-service restaurant offers WiFi access; the password is "mackerel."
Fishnet was not Yalcin's first idea. "I wanted to do a burger place," he says. "But Michael Landrum" - the impresario behind the meaty Ray's empire - "beat me to it."