Photograph by David Allee
If the British favorite brings to mind spots that pride themselves on using age-old oil and equate chipped paint with atmosphere, prepare to be wowed. Complex fish-and-fry combinations are popping up at places that have a way with seafood (think miso-marinated cod) and inspired embellishments (taro chips). But don't worry: Those crispy bits of fried batter are still the best part. JJ Goode
WHAT TO DRINK WITH THE CLASSIC MEAL
Yun Ko, the beverage director at the seafood-centric British spot The John Dory, in Manhattan, offers some suggestions for the best ways to wash down that greasy goodness.
Wine: "You need some serious acidity to drive through that fat. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs—like the one from Martinborough Vineyard—epitomize the style." ($20, martinborough-vineyard.co.nz)
Beer: "Because the dish is typically made with delicate fish, I'd pair it with a wheat beer, like Ayinger's crisp Bräu-Weisse, which has plenty of flavor but won't overpower." ($3, en.ayinger-bier.de)
Cocktail: "Sparkling wines are great with light fish, especially when you mix a classic champagne cocktail by adding a little bitters and brown sugar."
THE BEST RESTAURANTS FOR CREATIVE TAKES
1. New Orleans, Stella!
At Scott Boswell's spot, the local favorite black drum fish stands in for cod, and taro chips for fries. To finish things off, the chef keeps the tartar out of sight, instead drizzling spicy caramel sauce over the fish. (1032 Chartres St., 504-587-0091; restaurantstella.com)
2. Chicago, C-House
Marcus Samuelsson lets his culinary flair loose, elevating tartar sauce with ginger and coconut, spiking the batter with Jamaican jerk spices, and whipping up ketchup that's a nod to classic Americana. (166 E. Superior St., 312-523-0923; c-houserestaurant.com)
3. Los Angeles, Baleen
Daniel Roberts' riff might start off Japanese-inspired, with miso-marinated black cod coated in tempura batter, but the accompaniments—like shoestring fries—stick closer to tradition. (260 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach, California, 877-225-3365; hotelportofino.com)
4. New York City, The Smith
Don't let the butcher-paper presentation fool you: Glenn Harris goes to great lengths—brining cod and making a pickled-scallion remoulade—to move his version way out of beer-by-the-pitcher territory. (55 Third Ave., 212-420-9800; ctrnyc.com)