The sign says Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food, which is both a name and a promise. A fish fry is an event, whether held on a riverbank down South on a Saturday afternoon or in a church basement after Sunday worship, or any day of the week at this small storefront with just two stools, next to a funeral home in Fordham Manor, in the Bronx.
There might be a short wait, because everything is fried to order: supple fillets of whiting, ready to flake, and firmer catfish, along with generous bulges of shrimp. All are buried in cornmeal and plunged in seething oil, to emerge with a shrug of gold.
The cooking sounds straightforward, and Millie Peartree, the Bronx-born chef and owner, insists that it is. “Make sure the fish is fresh,” she said — she gets hers delivered daily from a purveyor in Hunts Point — “so the batter will cling. Oil at the right temperature. It’s not rocket science.”
So of all the fish-fry joints in the city, why walk into this one? For the improbable lightness of those golden coats, with just enough salt and crunch before they give way to delicate flesh. Each variety of seafood (along with chicken wingettes, the lone representative of turf) is seasoned to fit its character, with more (and secret) spices going into the cornmeal, uniting them in verve.