Top of the Market
After 26 years as a harbor-side dining icon, Top of the Market’s ascension to a higher tier of fine dining is a literal rise from the ashes. In 2015, a fire significantly damaged the second-story, USS Midway-adjacent perch as well as its ground-level sister eatery, The Fish Market. Rather than reconstruct Top of the Market in its former image, ownership made lemonade of charred Meyer lemons, converting an unexpected disaster into the opportunity to modernize the restaurant. Further aiding those rejuvenation efforts is new executive chef Stafford Mather (formerly of Brian Malarkey’s Green Acre and San Francisco’s Paragon Restaurant), whose cuisine is breathing as much new life into the renewed venue as its hardwood interiors and contemporary lighting.
Mather has added an air of refinement and freshness to a new bill of fare that includes a number of rather unique touches plucked from culinary cultures all over the world. In a town so full of Brussels sprouts it qualifies for the title of West Belgium, Mather’s starter featuring this ubiquitous ingredient is unique thanks to a yogurt sauce spiked with sumac. In addition to cooling, contrasting creaminess, the dried and powdered Middle-Eastern flower petals impart a dry finish, mirroring the palate resetting qualities of red wine tannins or — for beer fans — spicy, bitter hops. A garnish of sweet pomegranate seeds provides unexpected pop, as well. That ingredient finds its way onto an entrée centered around a meaty filet of salmon with well-charred, crispy skin. Brussels sprouts leaves (they’re baaack) and slow-roasted, balsamic-flavored onions combine with the pomegranate to create an enjoyable sweet-and-sour profile.
Another solid dish from Top of the Market’s mesquite grill is swordfish that’s boldly and straightforwardly seasoned, with beautiful crisscross branding. Rich, steak-like, and satisfying, the natural flavors of the fish segue perfectly to chickpea and olive accompaniments so good they could form the basis of a brilliant vegan dish on their own. Juicy tomatoes may take the dish too far to the tart side, but overall, this main (developed by one of Mather’s sous chefs) is one of the best things on the menu. Similarly standout are scallops seared to golden-brown perfection and served in an earthy, low-spice Vadouvan curry with pickled purple cauliflower strewn about for delightfully potent acidity.
On the appetizer side, prosciutto-wrapped dates served with nicely salted and textured burrata plus a plentiful sprinkling of Marcona almonds is downright yummy. Thinly-sliced ahi tuna is presented artfully with a smooth and lovely avocado purée and wonton chip. And a parfait of dried and reconstituted apricots with pistachios and a blend of Greek yogurt and whipped cream goes down easy despite being so substantial. That last one is an admitted copy of a dessert from celebrity chef José Andres, but with so much successful originality strewn throughout Mather’s menu, such an homage — especially one so tasty — is perfectly acceptable. The new Top of the Market toque has version 2.0 of this seaside fixture on point. 619.232.3474, thefishmarket.com BRANDON HERNÁNDEZ
Photography by Vincent Knakal