Restaurant Reviews

Hot Plate

Get the Halos
When you see a phrase like "angel fish" on a menu, you figure it for marketing mumbo-jumbo, right? Well, out at Denis' Seafood -- one of the most compelling reasons for journeying to Houston's wild western suburbs -- the angel fish appearing as a special now and intermittently through the summer is a creature of substance as well as style.

Proprietor Denis Wilson, a dyed-in-the-wool Cajun with particular tastes, has cultivated a network of suppliers that provides him and Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Ellen Stitzer Gonzalez with some of the freshest fish in town, including varieties rare on local menus. (This is one restaurant where "fish of the day" really means something: catfish is the only fish Wilson deigns to list on his menu; all others are variable, subject to his approval.)

It's a lucky day when the catch hauls up angel fish, a Gulf of Mexico denizen that's gray, the approximate size of one of Denis' menus, and known to sport fishermen by the rather less glamorous name of "triggerfish." Some of Wilson's regulars head over the minute angel fish becomes available, and I can see why: broiled with the lightest dusting of flour, it is snowy and flaky and slightly meaty, like a more prepossessing cousin of snapper.

Angel fish has sufficient presence to need nothing more than a squeeze of lemon, but you could gild the lily by asking for one of Denis' opulent toppings on the side. In honor of crawfish season, there's a winy, meuniere-style Pontchartrain sauce that substitutes crawfish for crab; and a guilt-free number called "Denis' Lite," in which crawfish, mushrooms and diced fresh tomato consort happily with wine and lemon.

While you're at it, avail yourself of some righteous french fries, house-made potato chips or another knockout special -- blackened softshells. And thank heaven for Louisiana boys.

-- Alison Cook

Denis' Seafood, 12109 Westheimer, 497-1110.

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Alison Cook