After breaking up with a guy whose idea of fine dining was Denny's (not kidding), I've met someone I like rather a lot. Based on your recommendations, our first date was at Newport Seafood. (Spicy lobster on a plate the size of a patio table.) Second date was at Sun Ha Jang. (Duck on grill of similar size.) Things are going extremely well, and his willingness to let me call all dining venues, I'm taking as a very good sign. So, what next? We will of course reach the cook-at-home portion of the program, but this is pretty entertaining. Jitlada? Paella on another enormous pan? Please advise.
—Jean McCoy, Pasadena
Dear Ms. McCoy:
This is the point, or it at least seems like the point, where the protocol generally calls for something exotic. But if you actually started at Newport Seafood, and observed your beau wrestling with a crustacean the size of Kendrick Perkins, and if you have already seen his comportment around a quart of boiling Sun Ha Jang duck fat, you probably don't need to push things with the curried fish kidneys at Jitlada or a plate of writhing live-octopus tentacles at Masan. He's already passed.
Or, keeping to the theme of gigantic platters, you could try a communal vegetarian plate at one of the Ethiopian restaurants down on Fairfax — Messob? Why not — and let your fingers graze together accidentally-on-purpose as you maneuver your scraps of injera through the heaps of stewed cabbage and lentils.
But hell — go to the Pacific Fish Center on the Redondo Beach Pier, pick out a couple of steamed Dungeness crabs, and spend the evening wailing away at them with wooden mallets. That's pretty cool, especially when you swish the crabmeat through both melted butter and the Korean spice paste gochujang, which is a combination I wish I'd known about as a kid. Don't forget to get a bowl of the spicy Korean fish soup, maybe some of the live sweet shrimp, and some sea squirts if you're that kind of girl. You will leave slightly drunk, slightly sore and covered with stinking juice. It's what love is all about.
PACIFIC FISH CENTER | 131 Fisherman's Wharf, Redondo Beach | (310) 374-8420