Roszak's Fish House and Prime Rib is old school. And that's exactly what its regular patrons want.
Although prices have actually dropped a notch since I last reviewed this northeast Bend restaurant more than four years ago, not much else has changed.
It still doesn't have a website or a true Facebook presence. But it has been a fixture in Red Oaks Square on Third Street ever since owner Mike Roszak opened the establishment in 1981.
Decor that might be best described as “faux California garden-style" dominates the dining room, whose large windows look west across a cement square that is surrounded by two-story, concrete-block buildings. Light wood tables are neatly arranged atop Kelly-green carpeting, with matching upholstery on the chairs. Stained-glass art, Tiffany-style lamps, silk plants and easy-listening music add to the soothing ambience.
Service on both of my recent visits was attentive under the circumstances. Both at dinner and at lunchtime, a single server was doing double duty — taking orders and delivering food in the dining room, even as she filled drink requests in the adjoining lounge.
When I arrived for dinner with my regular dining companion, there was no one to greet us at the host stand. I took a few steps into the cozy lounge to alert the staff that we had arrived for an evening meal. As only one other table was occupied, we were told to “sit anywhere."
There were pros and cons to our dinner.
A basket of warm but tasteless bread was followed by a Caesar salad, which we ordered jointly to share. The chopped romaine was heavily dressed — no subtle touch here. We appreciated the flavor of anchovy and garlic in the dressing but would have preferred house-made croutons to those of the packaged variety.
My companion had a value-priced “surf-and-turf" special, $19.95 for steak, shrimp, a lobster tail and a baked potato.
She enjoyed the five skewered, medium-size shrimp, but without an uninspired cocktail sauce that accompanied. The sirloin was cooked rare, per her request, but was not a high-quality cut and thus was chewy. The lobster tail lacked its usual rich flavor.
Pros and cons
My salmon was not as firm as a wild-caught fish, so I suspect it was a farmed Atlantic fish that had been frozen and thawed. But it was not overcooked; Roszak's kitchen did a nice job of cooking it to the mid-point between sushi-rare and overly dry. Brushed with honey and crusted with crushed pecans, then baked in the oven, it was finished with a drizzle of red-pepper coulis.
I was less impressed with the accompanying wild-rice pilaf, which appeared to have been prepared from a package. It was clear to me, from its consistency, that it was cooked with too much water.
Both of our dinners included a medley of fresh vegetables — broccoli, zucchini and carrots, fresh and cooked perfectly, with just a bit of crunch.
A shared dessert — a slice of chilled New York-style cheesecake — was appropriately creamy, and it came with a delicious marionberry topping.
But our bartender-server clearly had not been trained in the nuances of serving wine. The benefit of that went to the diner. An 8-ounce pour of a Maryhill red blend (a normal pour is 5 ounces) came in a small glass filled to the brim.
I returned several days later for a solo lunch.
I began with a cup of the soup of the day — house-made chicken enchilada. Roszak's mildly spicy stew was a heartier version of a traditional tortilla soup, a rich broth with substantial pieces of chicken along with onions, celery, tomatoes, corn and carrots. It was topped with a handful of multicolored tortilla strips.
The soup was better than my midday entree of crab fettucine. Although slightly overcooked, the pasta was topped with four spears of perfectly prepared asparagus, then sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese, parsley, black olives and chopped tomato. Although a generous serving of Dungeness crab meat — apparently straight from the shell — topped the fettucine, the crab was refrigerator cold. I like a chilled crab cocktail, but cold upon hot didn't work.
I don't think that was even the norm in the 1980s.