knoxnews.com-Z Fish House, in the heart of Loudon, has been open since late last year. But I had never even heard about it until just a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a write-up about it in the News Sentinel. That's right; I learn about things from the paper too.
My understanding is that while Z Fish House's fare isn't pulled-from-the-ocean-today fresh, it is relatively fresh for an inland eatery, with most products having been caught within just a few days prior to serving.
My curiosity (and taste buds) were also piqued by what I read about the owner's background as both a professional fisherman and a restaurateur, so The Grub Spouse and I made our way to Loudon County in the middle of a brutal thunderstorm to sit down to a seafood dinner.
Inside, the average-sized dining space was filling up nicely for a weeknight. It felt a little warmish, but the ceiling fans and corner oscillating fan did help make the climate a little more comfortable. We settled at our table and started checking out the menu.
There are a couple of appetizers available — fried calamari and peel-and-eat shrimp, but I wasn't going to leave without trying the house-made New England-style clam chowder ($4). And what a great start, too — thick and creamy with lots of prominent clam chunks.
The entrees are divided into Dry Land and From the Sea categories, so The Spouse and I divided and conquered — one by land and one by sea. I passed over several burger options as well as a corned beef and Swiss-focused sandwich to order the jumbo crab cake sandwich ($13), although I'm not sure how that got classified as a Dry Land selection. All entrees come with two sides, so I got potato salad and hush puppies.
On the seafood side, The Spouse weighed the merits of shrimp, mahi-mahi, grouper, rainbow trout, fried clams and jambalaya. All of these are available in sandwich, wrap and taco form, if preferred. By the way, the daily specials included additional items like conch fritters, fresh mussels, Maine lobster, fresh tuna steak and shrimp rolls.
The Spouse decided to stick to the menu and try the salmon steak ($12), grilled instead of blackened. The Spouse picked cole slaw and the vegetable of the day (grilled zucchini) as sides.
This meal had some real strong points. The hefty crab cake featured jumbo crabmeat mixed in with filler accented by sweet bell peppers, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. The flavor was distinctive without losing that always-desirable crab flavor. It was substantial enough that I only finished half of it.
As for the sides, the hush puppies came through with deep-fried cornmeal goodness (as hush puppies often do), but the potato salad didn't quite harmonize. It was an interesting recipe, but something flavor-wise just never sat right with my palate.
The salmon steak was outstanding, and the vinegar-based cole slaw and grilled zuke were both solid efforts. The fish in particular benefited from fresh flavor and expert seasoning.
For dessert, we had a slice of Key lime pie ($6), made from the owner's family recipe, and although the slice was smallish for two to share, it was still big on tart lime flavor and boasted a filling that tended toward the dense side.
This is the time of year that a lot of folks vacay at the ocean and enjoy fresh seafood while they're there, but if you're landlocked here in East Tennessee, Z Fish House might be one of your few local options for landing the next best thing. All I know is that next time, I'm trying the lobster.
Z Fish House
Food: 4 stars (out of five)
Address: 846 Mulberry St., Loudon
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Bottom Line: If you're craving fresh(ish) seafood in the mountains, try the varied flavors of this Loudoun County eatery.