By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Traxx. Why escolar? Because its tasty, tasty tissues are saturated with a kind of waxy fish-oil megamolecule that about one in three people find pretty hard to digest. If you happen to be sensitive, escolar — a delicious sea-bass-like creature — won’t kill you, but the velocity with which it races through your system might make you wish you had ordered the halibut instead. The grilled escolar with tamarind at Traxx, a comfortable New American restaurant parked right in Union Station, is both delightful and built for speed. 800 N. Alameda St., downtown, (213) 625-1999.
Best Giant Catfish
Phong Dinh. Is Pangasianodon gigas, the legendary giant catfish of the Mekong River, extinct or merely endangered? If a fisherman managed to snag one of these 10-foot-long, 700-pound fish while trawling the rivers of Vietnam or Laos, would he throw it back, or enjoy the succulence of its liver, its caviar and its firm flesh, which is enjoyed cut into steaks and grilled, pounded and steamed or pickled? Might the enormous animal instead capsize the boat and send its captain to some riverine doom? While the giant Mekong catfish is unlikely to appear on local menus anytime soon, the Vietnamese restaurant Phong Dinh serves imported catfish from the region that are really, really large — baked to a crisp, luscious moistness and served still smoking, mouth contorted into the sort of angry snarl you would never want to see advancing on your canoe. If giant catfish isn’t on your agenda, you can sup on snake salad, barbecued goat ribs and roasted fox instead. 2643 S. San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 307-8868.
Chichen Itza. The L.A. Weekly neither encourages nor condones the eating of shark’s fin, no matter how delicious the cartilage may be simmered in chicken broth, no matter how tempting the shark’s-fin dumpling may look on a high-end dim sum cart. The practice of “harvesting” shark’s fin is brutal, disgusting and supremely wasteful, and may lead to the extinction of several species of shark. No bowl of soup is worth that. The Weekly, on the other hand, has no particular opinion on the consumption of the shark proper, and the Yucatecan pan de cazon, a sort of black-bean-inflected shark casserole on the menu of Chichen Itza in the La Paloma complex, is awfully, awfully good. 3655 S. Grand Ave., downtown, (213) 741-1075.
Best Tiny Crabs
Sushi Roku. A tiny crab has never actually killed anybody, you may say. Because (1) it’s a crab, and (2) it’s tiny. Have you ever seen a horror movie starring a tiny crab? No. Would you be frightened if you were alone at the lake where a camper had drowned 10 years ago that very night, and you heard ominous screeching from the violins, and suddenly . . . out of nowhere . . . a tiny crab came scuttling toward your feet? No. You would either giggle or step on it, probably both. It is a terrible sound, a tiny crab being crushed beneath a flip-flop. But if you have ever bothered to take a close, close look into the goings-on in Davy Jones’ locker, you might have a different opinion of our tiny crabs, running as they do into the nostrils and out of the nostrils, playing Ring Around the Rosie in rib cages and One Ol’ Cat with errant tibia, generally abusing the brave maritime dead as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Were those pearls in his eyes? Hardly. Tiny crabs, more like it. But if you saw what they do to tiny crabs at Sushi Roku, you might excuse them anything, because the chefs scoop them up live out of a terrarium and toss them, still thrashing, into boiling oil. They’re just like potato chips, I say. The tiny crabs had it coming. Locations citywide.
Best Steve Irwin Tribute
Izayoi. It was a stingray that killed Steve Irwin, driving its long, barbed tail straight into the heart of the great pesterer of animals, depriving 7-year-olds all over the world of new movies where crocodiles were stuffed into canvas sacks, spiders milked of venom or vipers poked about with sticks. It would be easy enough to go into a French restaurant and order a skate-wing meunière — hell, they all serve it. But I’ve been thinking that it might be more appropriate to check out the skate at the Little Tokyo izakaya Izayoi, a restaurant with so little regard for the animal that it bypasses the stingray itself, preferring to cut the dried and grilled fins into little salty curls that are served with drinks. A glass of chilled Otokoyama sake might be the proper accompaniment for dried skate fin. Then again, Otokoyama is the proper accompaniment for just about everything — even skewered croc. 132 S. Central Ave., Little Tokyo, (213) 613-9554.
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