DEEP BLUE FISH AND CHIPS (749 Broadview, at Danforth , 416-463-6789) Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pop. Average main $9. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 9 pm, Saturday noon to 9 pm, Sunday 4 to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Delivery. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNN
Tradition dies hard on toronto's east side. Since Friday means fish, Deep Blue, a month-old fish 'n' chippy on Broadview just south of Danforth in the old Easy Eats Diner, is packed to the gills.
Most are here for no-frills fry-ups like halibut and chips ($8.95) or creamy Boston chowder ($3.25 small/$4.75 large) ordered from a chalkboard menu posted above the cash. But a closer look reveals a second, more unconventional card that pushes this lowly comfort food to unheard culinary heights. Move over, Chippy's - Deep Blue is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Like its Queen West counterpart (see listing, this page), Deep Blue's fish is fresh and proudly on display over ice. But what sets this modest hole-in-the-wall apart from Chippy's - and every other chippy in town, for that matter - is its batters, seven all told, including one that's lactose- and gluten-free. Everything's deep-fried in trans-fat-free oil, too.
Swaddled in an eggy blanket spiked with allspice and thyme, Jamaican jerk-battered cod ($7.50) could be the best thing to happen to the beleaguered deep-sea denizen since the closing of the Grand Banks in 1992. On the side, sweet potato frites, Caribbean-style coleslaw and thick house-made tartar sauce complete the generous plate, er, paper-lined wicker basket.
Those same yam fries - in addition to fabulously garlicky green pea hummus - show up alongside a substantial slab of salmon ($8.95) fried in a batter laced with fresh tarragon, basil and dill. Cajun haddock ($7.50 with twice-cooked fries and slaw) gets battered with organic masa, sambal and paprika.
Five sizable butterflied shrimp luxuriate in an intoxicating Malaysian-inspired coating of quinoa and anise, while a half-dozen plump halved scallops (both $9.50 with fries and slaw) come frittered in a batter of blue cornmeal and beer.
Though it's eminently tasty, the house's crab cake sandwich ($7.85 with fries) disappoints, but only because of its unfortunate resemblance to a Filet o' Fish, not for its exceptional garnish of roasted red pepper aioli and celery root slaw. But to experience Deep Blue at its best, go for the Big Crunch Fish Roll ($7.95 with fries), a DIY burrito-style wrap that gives you a choice of fish, batter, sauce, fries and slaw.
Mine: salmon with aioli and celery root slaw in a whole wheat tortilla sided with new potato frites and an additional order of that truly terrific hummus ($1).
Even a simple salad exceeds expectations. The Garden ($4.50) is a more than competent mix of organic supermarket mesclun, ripe tomato, slivered red pepper, grated carrot and a generous crumble of creamy feta in a sweet mango vinaigrette or tart balsamic dressing. And kudos to whoever programmed the iPod plugged into the sound system, a particularly groovy playlist of West Coast jazz and 60s soul that fits these retro digs like a snug turtleneck.
Deep Blue owners Gary Conlin and Robert Joseph last worked together at Peter Oliver's eponymous bistro back in the 80s, where Conlin was the chef for five years. Since then, their gigs have been more behind-the-scenes corporate catering than high-profile fine dining.
Deep Blue may not cater to the Canoe crowd, but for those looking for something off the eaten track - Scottish/St. Lucian hybrid cuisine, anyone? - their Broadview beanery is an unequivocal success, hook, line and sinker.