Food is both simple and magical at Hot and Hot Fish Club.

By Jan Walsh

Photograhy by Beau Gustafson

Catch a behind the scenes glimpse of the people who make Hot and Hot Fish Club a success. Find the best seat in the house, and most importantly get a bite of the best dishes—course by course. And find recipes from Chris and Idie Hasting’s cookbook—hot off the press.

The Place
Hot and Hot Fish Club is conveniently located at 2180 11th Court South. A valet stands on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, welcoming dinner guests—as they do every Tuesday through Saturday. Entering through the bar area, guests are enjoying seasonal, signature drinks paired with their house made pickled okra and boiled peanuts. The Harvest Room seats groups, of up to 35 guests. Both warming and welcoming, the dining room’s rust and brown tones accent and envelop the space—from the tile floors to the long, tall plush drapes and lanterns hanging in each window. Local artists’ paintings flank the walls surrounding the windows and limestone chef’s counter, which sweeps the room and frames the open kitchen. Black iron chairs and tables with cream colored, stone tops dot the space, finished with their rustic Signature Pottery, a local creation of Earthborn Studio’s Tena Payne.

Best Table
From a family gathering to a romantic dinner—outside or inside—the best table depends on you. Weather permitting dine al fresco on the patio. For family gatherings, the locally made, rough-hewn Harvest Table feels like home. And so does the option of family style platters. If you enjoy cooking—or just watching— sit front and center at the chef’s counter. My personal favorite is an intimate one for two by the second window. From here I view guests pulling up to the valet, others toasting on the patio, steam rising from the open kitchen and dinner by candlelight.

The People
Chefs and proprietors, Chris and Idie Hastings’ cuisine begins with products, which are close to the source. And it is prepared in an unassuming manner, allowing the natural freshness and flavors to shine through. This “culinary nirvana,” which came to them 20 years ago, is the philosophy behind Hot and Hot Fish Club. It has been one memorable year for the Hastings. Chris was a semifinalist for James Beard’s Best Chef in the South. The couple consulted the successful development of SpringHouse Restaurant at Lake Martin. And they published their long awaited cookbook.

The Book
Hot & Hot Fish Club Cookbook: A Celebration of Food, Family &Traditions is  seasonal and contains over 200 creative and delicious recipes. The book also profiles purveyors who supply the restaurant with the freshest products and ingredients. Click to view Idie Mae's Pickled Okra Recipe and Techniques in Chefs' Secrets.

Favorite Fare
Hot and Hot’s local network of food purveyors keeps the menu seasonal and fresh nightly. “For us, food is magic. We see its restorative power and the delight it brings people every day,” Chris says. What could be more magical than my very own Basket of Okra appetizer? A mound of small, golden morsels rise from the white, linen napkin-lined basket. Each warm—crisp on the outside and moist on the inside—bite is dipped into a divine house made chive aioli. 

Garganelli Pasta and Homemade Polpettine is the favorite entrée of the evening. Hearty aromas both satisfy the senses and entice the appetite. The texture of this handmade pasta is comforting yet light. Small balls of rich, savory pork sausage are seasoned with oregano and paprika. Just a touch of local tomato, Parmesan cheese and basil round out this comforting yet elegant entrée. “This dish carries me back to the days of going to the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio with my father,” Idie recalls.  “He spent hours talking to the different butchers discussing sausages and cuts of meat. Pasta and polpettine was a staple in our house every Sunday. I can smell it cooking right now.”

A delightful Trio of Hot and Hot Doughnuts: Pistachio Glazed, Blueberry Jam, and Chocolate Orange Glazed is the dessert favorite. Hot, moist, light—and each is a divine dessert in itself!

Published, November 2009, B-Metro magazine

Categories: Fine Dining, Reviews
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