Drunk After Work: Wildfish Seafood Grille
The Hours: Tues.-Sat., 4-7 p.m.; Sun.-Mon., 4-11 p.m.
The Deal: $5-$8 appetizers. $6 wines by the glass. $6 Svedka Vodka martinis, mojitos, or margaritas.
The Scene: Lit blue like an aquarium, the main bar is usually stocked full of the usual Newport Beach indigenous wildlife of blondes and businessmen. Above them curved beams simulate the skeletal remains of a really big fish. The bar itself is fish-shaped in profile. Surrounding this, on at least one side, there are two-person booths--the place you'd want to sit if you'd rather not turn your head every time you want to talk to the person you brought with you.
Better still, go through the restaurant and walk to the patio, where there's a cozier bar, a fire place and some seating around it.
The Sauce: Beer, it seems, is not discounted during happy hour. The discounts are geared towards the cocktail and wine crowd. For the oenophile, there are seven marked down wines to swill and sip: a prosecco from La Marca; chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, or merlot from Five Rivers; riesling from S.A. Prim Essence; pinot grigio from Estancia; and pinot noir from Mark West.
Svedka Vodka fuels the martinis. Four, including the Lemon Drop, Cosmopolitan, Green Apple, or Classic, are done well and strong. You'll detect microscopic shards of ice slowly melting atop the surface of the liquid.
$6 also buys "The Original Bacardi Mojito" or the $6 El Jimado Traditional Margarita.
The Food: Wildfish is again a Happy Hour that tries harder than most to put out better than average food.
Some of the apps are actually gargantuan, unlikely to be finished even if you have the help of a hungry friend. The "Crispy Cashew Calamari" is one of those dishes--a deep fried mountain of battered squid, shelacked by a vaguely Chinese sugary/spicy/sour sauce, tossed around in a wok with strips of stir-fried veggies. You wish you had a bowl of steamed rice, or something like it.
The "Salt & Pepper Gulf Shrimp" has a more reasonable magnitude for an appetizer, but the fatter-than-usual shrimp is treated in a similar way as the calamari--soaked and coated in that sauce and never overcooked.
Order a soup to share with a friend and they'll split the bowl between the two of you, free of charge and without asking. The lobster bisque is better than the shrimp and crab wonton soup. The former is richer than you'll ever hope to be; the latter you'll find more latently spicy than soothing.
What everyone orders, though, is the "hot rock" ishiyaki, where you are given raw slices of Wagyu beef to be seared on that sizzling stone. It's expensive for the amount (though almost half price from the regular menu) and won't fill you up nearly as well as the calamari, but it's worth the Happy Hour rates.
The Verdict: Eat your dinner of appetizers at Wildfish's Happy Hour and you'll never want to pay for a real meal there.
The Grade: A.