Led by Michelin-starred Giuseppe Tentorri, the River North spot GT Fish & Oyster ( 531 N. Wells St.; GTOyster.com ) offers a diverse set of seafood at an emphasized mid-range price.
The restaurant's offerings were solidly consistent in quality, and there were standout selections, although a couple had flaws. Regarding the appetizers, the tuna poke offered plump and fresh meat, but the artfully placed pickled mango provided some needed flavor. Of the crudo trio, the tuna, paired with watermelon, lacked flavor, while the hamachi improved on the effort with the inclusion of a more flavorful cantaloupe and briny flavor. The best was the salmon, in both flavor and texture.
A fried oyster slider, however, proved to be the true standout. A smooth transition from the toasted brioche bun to the fried shellfish was accented by a spicy bite of kimchee and just the right hint of peanut.
Moving to entrees, roasted swordfish contributed unique flavor to the fish tacos, which offered mild but lasting heat with a satisfying late-stage crunch via pork chicharron.
Briny and flaky, the bass deserves note if only for the unusual set of gastronomic additions to the fishmost notably, smoked grape. It tasted like smoke, with a hint of fruit. The miso-cauliflower puree worked well with the fish.
The lobster macaroni and cheese had clearer reasoning behind it; the lobster added a salty touch and unique texture to a decent mac that was further bolstered by the inclusion of steamed peas.
Of the entrees, the salmon offered the most flavor, with tangy saffron sauce and almond tortellini. It was bold, original and excellent in every regard.
The duck confit, by contrast, seemed to be a safe dish, with flavorful and juicy meat accented by slices of spiced apple. It's an appreciable effort by the restaurant to accommodate those more accustomed to land-based dishes.
The last dish of the night came from the dessert menu. Regarding the creamy strawberry key-lime pie with sorbet, both components were excellent, but the restaurant could consider a smaller sorbet scoop or, preferably, a larger slice of pie.
Middling aside, GT Fish and Oyster offers a more than satisfactory dining experience for seafood enthusiasts and casual diners.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.