Biz Beat

What’s going into the old Fisherman’s Galley? A combination you might not expect

Vic Bajwa is preparing to open at Fisherman’s Masala & Bar in Modesto on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.
Vic Bajwa is preparing to open at Fisherman’s Masala & Bar in Modesto on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.

At first glance mixing a seafood place with an Indian restaurant might seem like a stretch.

But that doesn’t take into account the more than 4,600 miles of coastline that stretch around the southeast Asian country. So when he bought the Fisherman’s Galley on McHenry Avenue late last year, its new owner and chef Vic Bajwa said the combination of Indian food and seafood just made a lot of sense. The result is Fisherman’s Masala & Bar, a new restaurant that combines seafood, Indian food and pizza.

“When people think about an Indian place they are thinking about north Indian food. But the coastline goes from Bombay to Bengal. These foods heavily use fish and have good taste and flavor. We wanted to bring that out,” Bajwa said.

Bajwa has owned restaurants in the Bay Area in the past. But this will be his first in Modesto since moving here in 2005. He has an eclectic culinary background that spans Indian and Italian cuisine. What attracted him to the Fisherman’s Galley was its longevity and location.

First opened along Yosemite Avenue in 1976, Fisherman’s Galley moved to its McHenry Avenue location in 1982. Jue Chang and his wife, Frances, bought the restaurant from the original owners in 1987 and have run it ever since as one of the city’s longest-running seafood restaurants. Now 81, Chang decided to retired after 30 years there last December. But restaurant regulars can take heart — Chang plans to keep cooking at the restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays. So you can still stop by and say hi.

Inside Bajwa has refreshed the dining room with some new flooring and new paint. He has also added flatscreen TVs. A lot of the vintage furnishings and nautical decor remains, now interspersed with some Indian decorations. The four signature stained glass windows facing the McHenry side of the restaurant are also staying. Bajwa said he likes the history they bring, as does the Fisherman’s name.

The menu will include Fisherman’s Galley favorites, like its signature lemon-butter meunière sauce served on salmon and halibut. It will also have Indian-spiced fish and popular dishes like butter chicken, curry lamb, shahi paneer and others. Plus, for that fussy family member, there’s also pizza. Most of the Indian dishes will run around $12 to $14 while the traditional seafood will cost around $28 to $29.

The restaurant seats about 130 with an attached bar that can fit another 50. It’s that bar crowd, in part, that helped keep the restaurant afloat all these years. And Bajwa said he plans to keep it the same and has already invited longtime clientele to give them a try.

After being without an Indian restaurant for several years, this will be the third such eatery in Modesto that has opened or is planning to open in the last few months. The others are Biryani Express, which opened late last year on Pelandale Avenue in north Modesto, and the upcoming Monsoon Restaurant, which will open soon on 10th Street in downtown Modesto. Bajwa said there’s plenty of room in the region for all of them.

“We wanted to bring a multi-cultural restaurant with something for everyone in the family — seafood, Indian, pizza,” he said. “It’s a new flavor for Modesto.”

Fisherman’s Masala & Bar, at 3008 McHenry Ave., is slated to open March 1. It will be open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. For more information call 209-236-1618.