The first time I tried to order takeout from SoPo Seafood in Knightville, the website wasn’t accepting orders. The second time, I was able to order, but the market/restaurant texted me a full day early to inform me my order was ready for pickup.

“Disregard that message,” said the cheerful man with a British accent who answered the phone when I called, puzzled. I got the identical message the next day, at the appointed time. But when I arrived at the casual blue-gray-blonde-toned spot (suggestive of sea and beach?) on a Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., my order wasn’t, in fact, ready. I had to wait 10-15 minutes.

No matter. I haven’t been anywhere in months – have you? – that isn’t badly shorthanded and requiring patience. I took advantage by wandering the market, its shelves and cases stocked with seaweed seasoning, seaweed tea, tinned fish, fresh fish, shellfish, smoked fish and the lately ubiquitous “merch,” in this case branded hats and T-shirts. It’s a roomy, light-filled space with a small counter, and a few tables, inside and – at this time of year – out, too. While I was there, several lunching customers occupied each of these sections.

Then I settled down for several minutes with “The River Cottage Fish Book,” one of several appealing cookbooks peering out from odd nooks and crannies – my selection was propped up on a chair by the front window. The combination of good cookbook, plump, pristine fish and agreeable scent got to me; you always know a good fish store by the smell: suggestive of the ocean without being fishy. Before my lunch was ready, I’d bought a fillet of salmon to bring home to cook.

While the dine-in menu includes more items from its raw bar, the takeout menu at SoPo Seafood is pared-down and appealing – largely simple preparations that let the very fresh fish and seafood shine. There are two types of chowder, lobster rolls, smoked trout rolls, salad with dulse vinaigrette, shucked oysters, rice bowl. Oh, and potato chips, because who doesn’t need potato chips to round out lunch?

The to-go rice bowl with tofu from SoPo Seafood. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

The rice bowl ($16.50, plus $4 for my addition of marinated tofu; you can also add eel, salmon, lobster, tuna or roe) is the ideal takeout meal. Neat, pretty and nothing that will get cold or soggy during transport. It lived up to its looks, as I discovered when I got home. In my experience, rice is the downfall of many a rice dish. Not here. The grains were fresh and plump. Sitting atop the rice were dainty piles of pickled ginger, quick pickled onions and cucumbers, finely shredded carrots, petite braised turnips, edamame, mashed avocado, tangled seaweed salad and tidy cubes of tofu. The flavors and colors were fresh and balanced. The textures played against each other nicely, too – forkfuls, or rather chopstickfuls of smooshy avocado, snappy seaweed and gently crunchy pickled vegetables. The rice bowl came with a small plastic ramekin of spicy mayonnaise, which I didn’t find necessary, though it did make a nice addition to my egg salad sandwich the next day.

SoPo Seafood’s Pub-Style Chowder.  Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

For dinner (you didn’t think I’d stop at lunch?), I brought home a Pub-Style Chowder with Swordfish, Scallop and Bacon ($8.50), which was likewise excellent: creamy and peppery plus the taste of sea. The serving is more like a cup than a bowl. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to put scallops or swordfish in chowder, but in the future it will. Nitpick: a few more chunks of fish might have been nice.

If the test of a good restaurant meal is whether you will go back, and on your own dime, SoPo Seafood passed with high marks. It offers yet another reason for food lovers to visit Knightville.

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