Yes, seafood. Who knew that this landlocked state produces a steady bounty of first-rate fish dishes — beyond fish fries? Cynics, mostly. There's plenty to love, should you keep an open mind and a semi-adventurous palate. I've already waxed lyrical about fish dishes you should try: Bar La Grassa's branzino, Crasqui's Chilean sea bass, and Sidewalk Kitchen's shatteringly crisp, deeply satisfying Golden Garlic Fried Sole. Here, in no particular order, are five more to add to your list.

The halibut, Meritage

Classic, deftly executed plates are a mainstay at this St. Paul institution, where pristinely shucked oysters and those towering, beautifully crisp fries consistently draw crowds. There's not much reason to waver from the staples.

But should you choose to do so, order the fish. I enjoyed Meritage's trout last summer, poached in olive oil, and marveled at how deftly cooked it was; a recent weeknight dinner yielded a similar — and equally successful — preparation with Alaskan halibut ($42). I marveled again how this meaty fish surrendered into pearlescent flakes; how the mildly flavored fish was the right foil for the bounty of spring vegetables (asparagus, peas), that slightly tangy-sweet buttermilk-dill sauce, the salty pops of trout roe and the soft wedges of pea pain perdu (akin to a savory French toast), which I dragged through the sauce to ensure I didn't miss a drop.

410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670,

The walleye, Shuang Cheng

Naysayers point to the expanse of Shuang Cheng's Chinese American staples and unfairly say that very little of the Dinkytown mainstay is authentic. Still, is there nothing more gratifying than a time-honored chow mein or kung pao chicken, served in a room so endearingly emblematic of its cultural diaspora?

There's a time and place for those staples; there's also a time and place for its whole walleye, which you should order steamed, true Cantonese-style. This means that the fish is festooned with slivers of ginger and scallion, which cook slightly under the hot oil that the kitchen pours over it all just before the dish is served. Steaming the walleye preserves the distinct taste of this iconic lake fish and the texture of its silky flesh, but the ginger, scallion and soy are all essential. Best to share — a medium ($40.95) is already magnificently sized for four.

1320 SE. 4th St., Mpls., 612-378-0208,

The redfish, Spoon and Stable

At least half of the entree menu at Gavin Kaysen's fabled North Loop institution is devoted to seafood — often fish. And over the years, I was the beneficiary of his kitchen's devotion to featuring different kinds of fish, all judiciously cooked and prepared. You will never go wrong with any of them.

Lately, the redfish ($32) was on my mind. Not to be confused with red snapper, this species has a milder flavor, with a meaty texture not unlike grouper (which intermittently appears on the restaurant's menu). On a recent evening, a thick, narrow fillet of it was seared and served over snappy English peas and a clean broth made from lobster. The kumquat kosho lends a little brightness and sweetness. Take a bite of the fish, then with the peas along with the tender but toothsome shavings of daikon radish, and the flavors dance.

211 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-224-9850,

The mahi-mahi, Chimborazo

Chimborazo is perhaps the worst-kept secret in Minneapolis, and diners have caught on to the dishes there that have driven the Ecuadorian restaurant's popularity. My favorite among them is the Encocado ($21), wherein either mahi-mahi or shrimp, another terrific option, is cooked in a deliriously rich coconut curry the color of a tangerine. The sauce, stewed with red peppers and onions, has an unmistakable depth: Twice I ran my fingers through it, applying it to everything from the rice to the darkly roasted plantains. But the fish is equally compelling. Firm but not rubbery, it holds up in the sauce without falling apart, as some fish "curries" do.

Note: While the Encocado is served throughout the day, past noon it's only served at the Minneapolis location. Here's hoping that the St. Paul location will get its due — soon.

2851 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-788-1328; 508 S. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul, 641-728-1483;

The salmon, Porzana

Chef/owner Daniel del Prado always finds ways to include a signature dish or two across the menus in each of his restaurants. Would it be the funky tuna crudo? Those mint, parsley and serrano flourishes? Perhaps the salmon? You can chuckle at the triteness of it all, but the Easter eggs of an auteur will never get old.

It has taken awhile, but grilled salmon ($32) has finally made its way to the menu at Porzana, less than a year after the North Loop restaurant opened. There's nothing new about the way it's composed, except that it's executed in a way that reflects all the toil and rejiggering that had befallen its predecessors. This one is an improved-upon, now faultless rendition of one I partly enjoyed at Macanda — an assertive, bright tomatillo purée; a swirl of spring onion oil; all the bitter notes from the sauces, foiled by pearl onions and a subtly sweet, tauntingly rare salmon, seared until the skin welts and (just barely) holds everything together.

200 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-489-6174,

Jon Cheng is the Star Tribune's restaurant critic. Reach him at or follow him on Instagram at @intrepid_glutton.