Best of 2001: Best Substitution For An Endangered Species

Anthony's Star of the Sea
1360 North Harbor Drive, Downtown

"Chilean seabass," as fishmongers like to call it (its real name is Patagonian toothfish), has been fished nearly to extinction, thanks to the unbridled enthusiasm of chefs and shoppers thousands of miles from its home waters. But at Star of the Sea, they don't need no stinkin' toothfish when chef Brian Johnston can work such wonders with the local, nonendangered Sea of Cortez seabass called baquetta. It's a "meaty" fish that's firm in texture, sweet and vibrant in flavor. Johnston prepares it with a topping of wild mushrooms and a rich port-wine reduction sauce (who says you can't pair fish and red wine?). And the things he does to ahi and swordfish -- just as outrageous! Another endangered species that's benefited from a change is the Star of the Sea itself. Not just renovated but actually remade, it's not your father's Star of the Sea any more -- gone are the Storyville-bordello red-flocked walls and the heavy dark woods in favor of the understated, restful chic of ivory. Everybody looks glamorous there. And under Johnston, the food has turned around completely, too -- it's now fresh, modern, alluring, changing with the seasons to reflect the best catch and to catch our best appetites.

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