My question is where to get a variety of fresh fish in restaurants. I don't mean a fish fry. I'm aware of Hayes [8900 Main St., Clarence] and Protocol [6766 Transit Road, Amherst], but are there any others? -- Greg, Clarence
Dear Greg: Restaurant aquatics have changed a lot in the last few years. For the better, too. The days of frozen fish entrees are past (at least in many places), although that variety you speak of is not that common. Usually, there are only one or two species on the menu, a tip-off, by the way, that the fish served there is fresh.
Sea bass, haddock, tuna, salmon, tilapia, and sometimes, if the season is right and you're lucky, halibut usually comprise the list. Cod is beginning to reappear. Any fine dining restaurant will feature one or two of these species, often on the evening specials list. The informal Hayes Fish Market you mention above usually has more variety to offer, but then the place operates as a fish market, too.
Fresh fish is so good in itself that the chef doesn't have to fuss with it too much and, frankly, shouldn't.
If you are game to travel from Clarence, one fine place for you to go is Seabar, 475 Ellicott St. We've mentioned it before in conjunction with Theater District restaurants and there is meat available, but its real claim here is seafood, cooked as well as raw. Chef Mike Andrzejewski adds an original touch or two, but he knows when to stop adding ruffles and flourishes. Many, but not all, the dishes have an Asian slant. If butterfish is on the menu, order it.
I hesitate to call a place "cool" -- that word is so overused that it has become the very opposite -- but I'll bite the bullet and use it here. Seabar is profoundly cool. Minimal, sleek, ambience, a good bar, and a young with-it crowd.
OK. Here's another tip. As a general rule, a restaurant that's known for its sushi is into ultra-fresh seafood. Case in point: Kuni, 226 Lexington Ave. Kuni is considered one of the best sushi chefs in town.
A small place with an even smaller patio, it's always crowded, as it should be. There are many fabulous varieties of sushi, of course, but should you prefer, there is cooked, grilled or teriyaki fish as well.
We now move on to the funky. The Viking Lobster Company, 366 Tonawanda St. This place does a commercial lobster business; the restaurant is open odd hours and is full of stairs and tiers and friendly serving people.
Big surprise: The place specializes in -- lobster (Sicilian stuffed, Vera Cruz stuffed, Alfredo stuffed or just good ol' New England style if you wish, and I wish). They do have grilled haddock, which is served with fried shrimp over grilled greens, an interesting twist. Now, if only Viking would offer us some Lobster Roll, life would be complete. (Speaking of lobster roll, Dug's Dive in the Small Boat Harbor will serve you one right at the bar. It has bacon in it, a deviation from the classic, but it's pretty good nonetheless.)
And now I'm going to suggest a drive for you, Greg. Bring your passport. Sugar's Too Fish & Grill House is located at 10416 Lakeshore Road in North Port Colborne, Ont.
Order yellow pike or pickerel here -- other places closer have them, too, but at Sugar's, both are exceptional. Eat and you will weep for the good old Great Lakes fishery that once was. The fish is neither overbreaded nor oversauteed.
Also you must order -- don't laugh -- the baked potato. For some reason it tastes better than any other baked spud I've ever consumed. Must be all that butter. The beer is good, too.
Next week: Dinner for one.
Send your questions and comments to longtime Buffalo News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.