Fish Type: Ocean Perch Price: $10.00
Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Good|
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: Apparently the guy who owns the new LJ's Tavern and Grill is the son of the guy who owns the legendary Esquire Club. The Fish Fry at the Esquire has been one of the best in Madison for years, so it stands to reason the Fish Fry at LJ's should be excellent as well...and it basically is.
The ocean perch at the sleek new bar on East Wash is essentially a carbon copy of its ancestor; from the AYCE dinner to the afternoon "perch special," Junior clearly took a cue from the old man. The AYCE ocean perch dinner special runs $14, and sits alongside baked and fried cod, lake perch, and shrimp on the Friday menu. The lunch special goes for ten bucks, and is only four pieces, although the other dinner options are available as well. The service is still seems to be a work in progress, but the quality of the food hasn't suffered on either of our visits so it's not like that has been a deal-breaker for us.
The AYCE dinner starts out with 5 pieces of perch, with each being fried to an identical consistency. It's home to the Esquire Club's classic lightly colored breading that has just enough flavor to let you know it's there. While a tiny bit of grease seeped on both occasions it was nothing problematic and served to keep the fish moist more so than making the breading soggy. These fish was wispy and made for easy munching which is exactly what you're after at and AYCE. On the AYCE endevour I had an additional fiver on the second round, and while the menu clearly state "No Doggy Bags," one was far from necessary as all of them found their way into my belly with no issues.
While the fish at LJ's shines like it does at the Esquire, they also followed the Esquire's lead in the French fry department which isn't quite as luminescent. These spuds are identical to what's on the dad's menu and about as plain as it gets. They are the standard crinkles, and well-fried, but far from transcendent. There are some additional options as well, like cottage fries, but even they failed to impress with their conservative portioning.
The supper club lineage is evident in LJ's tartar as the mix is thick like glue and clings to the perch like nobody's business. Likely sourced right from the Esquires supplier's, it's clearly the same sauce and does the job just as well. The rye follows suite, with it's plush, squishy texture, and superb rye stank.
The slaw was the same too - ultra-goopy, incredibly creamy, with a subtle hint of horseradish that, like the rye, sets it apart.
LJ did the smart thing by sticking to the Esquire's tried and true Friday formula, and I gotta imagine it's gonna work out well for them. While it's not cheap per se (at least for ocean perch) it is one of the few AYCE Fish Frys in town so the price seems justified to me. Overall, we recommend this Fish Fry, and while the lunch portion isn't quite as good of a deal as the dinner, even it gets the job done.
8 N Paterson Street
Madison, WI 53703