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Looking Back: CoolFish

One of the signs leading to CoolFish restaurant

One of the signs leading to CoolFish restaurant in Syosset. Credit: Ian J. Stark

An occasional series revisiting some popular Long Island restaurants.

It's hard to remember that CoolFish was ever an important restaurant. When it opened in 2000, the ambitious seafood house became the flagship in restaurateur Tom Schaudel's culinary armada, and spawned his now-closed AngelFish (Long Beach), RockFish (Huntington) and PassionFish (Woodbury, then Westhampton Beach). It earned three stars from Newsday's Peter M. Gianotti, and kept those stars when Gianotti revisited in 2012. Based on a recent dinner, even one star would be too high a rating.

In 2013, Schaudel sold the place to Harendra Singh of the Singh Hospitality Group; ownership has since passed to Gold Coast Hospitality, headed by Singh's wife, Ruby.

The restaurant always had a tough location to overcome. Appended to the back of an office complex, the space is roomy but windowless. On my visit, I noticed that the glassed-in wine vault, visible when you step from the bar to the dining room, was mostly empty. CoolFish's wines-by-the-glass list, once a point of Schaudel's pride, has been reduced to the mass-market likes of Beringer white zinfandel and Yellow Tail shiraz.

This desultory attitude pervaded the meal, starting with institutional-style dinner rolls. Starters were acceptable, if flawed: Lobster bisque was oversalted; with its minutely diced fish, flecks of red pepper and sweet-tart dressing, tuna tartare bore an odd resemblance to pickle relish; crabcakes were mostly breading, garnished with pretty good slaw and dated squiggles of sauce.

Ostensibly a seafood restaurant, CoolFish's attitude toward its fish entrees is, at best, indifferent. A pan-roasted halibut resembled nothing so much as the tired, baked fillet at the local diner -- except that someone in the kitchen had, incongruously, plunged a large sprig of parsley into it. We could not tell the difference between Chilean sea bass and striped bass; they were equally overcooked and tasteless.

But we had no trouble telling apart this cynical incarnation of CoolFish from what it once was.

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