12 Best Ways to Celebrate L.A.'s Seafood Renaissance

Hot smoked salmon at littlefork
Hot smoked salmon at littlefork
Anne Fishbein

As you may have noticed, this year's Best Of issue dropped on your doorstep, metaphorically if not actually, this morning. There are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of listings, of breweries and hiking trails and burger joints and taco trucks, so many that you might get lost -- so many that we thought we'd pull out a few highlights. Drop some breadcrumbs, so to speak. In this case, some of the best fish and seafood and fish-related eating in L.A. Because although the sushi here has long been excellent, itself a reason to come to this town, there's been a downright renaissance of fish food elsewhere, outside of the beautiful world of the sushi bars.

List of oysters at Connie and Ted's
List of oysters at Connie and Ted's
Anne Fishbein

Best Restaurant Trend: Seafood

For a coastal city, L.A.'s seafood options -- outside of the sushi, which has always been stellar -- have been oddly limited, falling mainly to high-end treatments (Water Grill, Providence) and a few cutesy tourist spots (Blue Plate Oysterette). But over the past year or so, Los Angeles has suddenly become serious about seafood. We now have a glut of new places to indulge in the bounty of the ocean -- thank God. From Hollywood's littlefork and Manhattan Beach's Fishing With Dynamite to Michael Cimarusti's Connie and Ted's, all of a sudden there's a whole new generation of restaurants where you can get your oyster or seafood tower fix. While we owe a great thanks to the few folks who were ahead of the game (thanks, Hungry Cat), we're thrilled to have so many new options. More oysters = more good. --Besha Rodell

The lobster roll at Hinoki & the Bird
The lobster roll at Hinoki & the Bird
Anne Fishbein

Best Lobster Roll: Hinoki & the Bird

Chef David Myers' new restaurant, Hinoki & the Bird -- which celebrates Japan, Los Angeles and the intermingling of their two cuisines -- has a lot of standout dishes. But vying for top spot is the lobster roll, a dish that is as nontraditional as it is delicious, an exciting ode to the original, with enough modern twists to take it to a whole other level. The lobster meat has a light citrus tang and a hint of green curry and Thai basil. The roll is made black as soot with Japanese charcoal. The lobster's freshness set against the bread's sweet grit is nothing short of revelatory. 10 Century Drive, Century City. (310) 552-1200, hinokiandthebird.com. --Besha Rodell

See also: Best of L.A., 2013

fish tacos at Tacos Punta Cabras
fish tacos at Tacos Punta Cabras
A. Scattergood

Best Fish Taco on the Westside: Tacos Punta Cabras

Up until now, if you lived on the Westside and craved a proper Baja-style taco, your choices were severely lacking. Which is why anyone looking for a solid fish taco anywhere west of the 405 has made a beeline to Tacos Punta Cabras, a small taco shop in Santa Monica, which was opened by Josh Gil and Daniel Snukal. Both are chefs who have cooked in some of the finest restaurants in the city yet -- logically -- wanted to open up a place where they cook food they actually wanted to eat. Thus: Baja-style tacos. The fish taco here, in particular, is fantastic, a lightly tempura-battered fish, fried to a delicate crisp, topped with just a bit of cabbage and enveloped by a freshly made corn tortilla. There are still lots of reasons to cross the 405, but getting your hands on a great fish taco is no longer one of them. 2311 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 917-2244, facebook.com/
TacosPuntaCabras. --Tien Nguyen

Three chowders at Connie and Ted's
Three chowders at Connie and Ted's
Anne Fishbein

Best New Seafood Shack: Connie & Ted's

"Shack" is a bit of a stretch when it comes to Michael Cimarusti's new West Hollywood restaurant, Connie & Ted's, but that's definitely where the inspiration comes from for this straightforward homage, which pays tribute to simple seafood. After years of dealing in the (way) higher end of seafood cookery at Providence, Cimarusti is getting back to the basics. This is the season for New England-style seafood joints, with at least three opening in recent months, but Connie & Ted's stands head and shoulders above the rest, with its devotional re-creations of classic dishes like lobster rolls, steamers, chowder, crabcakes, fried clams and simple grilled fish. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 848-2722, connieandteds.com. --Besha Rodell

 

Lobster TrapEXPAND
Lobster Trap
Kathy A. McDonald

Best Restaurant With Its Own Boat: Lobster Trap

The term "daily catch" has real meaning at Catalina Island's Lobster Trap restaurant, owned by commercial lobster fisherman Caleb Lins since 2008. Lins plies the fertile waters off the Channel Islands in his 40-foot boat, Money Matters, bringing in local fish and California spiny lobster to his casual eatery in Avalon, the island's main town. When it's in season -- October through March -- you can order up the spiny lobster plate, a split, whole Pacific lobster served with all-American sides such as baked potato and coleslaw. (Unlike North Atlantic lobsters, spinys have no front claws, so most of the edible briny meat comes from the tail.) Or try the ceviche made from local white seabass, traditionally prepared and incredibly fresh. Look for other indigenous eats such as sand dabs and yellowtail -- and wash it all down with some Lost Coast Brewery pale ale, retro-priced at $2 per draft during daily (2-4 p.m.) happy hour. 128 Catalina St., Avalon; (310) 510-8585. catalinalobstertrap.com. 
--Kathy A. McDonald

empty ramen bowl at Tsujita Annex
empty ramen bowl at Tsujita Annex
A. Scattergood

Best Street for a Food Crawl: Sawtelle Boulevard

Just north of the intersection of Sawtelle and Olympic, there's a quadrant of Los Angeles with so much outstanding food crammed into a relatively small space that it makes you wonder why the neighborhood planners responsible for it can't have a crack at other parts of town. Little Osaka, as that area of Sawtelle Boulevard is called, has always been a terrific food neighborhood: It's home to Kiriko, one of the best sushi restaurants in town; Balconi, one of the only shops in L.A. serving siphon coffee; and Asahi Ramen, one of the city's first ramen shops. But recently the neighborhood has gone into hyperdrive, with Tsujita's twin ramen palaces, Gottsui's okonomyaki shop and a great new soba place, Soba Sojibo. Yes, this is an actual walking neighborhood, and you can get superior sushi, oden, okonomiyaki, tsukemen and ramen without having to repark -- or do more than cross the street. Sure, it would be more fun to food crawl in Tokyo's Roppongi or Shinagawa districts, but you don't have to shell out for a plane ticket to eat on Sawtelle. Now if only somebody would just install those noodle shop payment machines. Sawtelle Boulevard between Olympic and Santa Monica boulevards, Sawtelle. --Amy Scattergood

See also: Best of L.A., 2013

shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco
shrimp taco at Mariscos Jalisco
Anne Fishbein

Best Taco Truck: Mariscos Jalisco

Rather than offering up a bulging menu of pork, beef, chicken and tilapia, Raul Ortega does one thing with absolute integrity at his Mariscos Jalisco truck parked on Olympic Boulevard: tacos dorados de camarón. A secret blend of vegetables, fresh shrimp and assorted spices is packed inside a corn tortilla and fried together, resulting in a crunchy, warm, staggeringly tasty taco dorado, blackened at the edges and overloaded with red salsa and a few cooling slices of avocado. There are other tacos like those found at Mariscos Jalisco (as legend has it, the current taquero even used to belong to a rival truck but was kicked to the curb once his recipe was stolen), but there is no other truck in the city of Los Angeles that is as dedicated or as focused as Mariscos Jalisco. 3040 E. Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights. --Farley Elliott

Monday night oyster special at Chateau Marmont
Monday night oyster special at Chateau Marmont
Besha Rodell

Best Cheap Oysters: Chateau Marmont

In the midst of the absolute douchiest strip of Hollywood, Chateau Marmont remains a temple to Old Hollywood, a classier, more worn-in version of American excess. The hotel, restaurant and bar might still play host to starlets and showbiz drama, but early on a quiet Monday evening the bar is nothing but charming vintage glamour. Slide up to the bar, make yourself at home next to the antique parrot prints and brocade accents, and order a platter of oysters, which the kitchen sells at cost on Mondays. "Cost" means whatever the restaurant paid for them, which is usually $1.25 or $1.50 an oyster. There are generally three or four varieties to choose from, from both the East and West Coast. The bar also has wine specials to enjoy with the oysters -- a recent $9 Alsatian Sylvaner was a beautiful pairing for Malpeques, Naked Cowboys and more. 8221 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 656-1010, chateaumarmont.com. --Besha Rodell

 

Miari Noodle House seafood noodle soup
Miari Noodle House seafood noodle soup
Barbara Hansen

Best Seafood Noodle Soup: Miari Noodle House

Read no farther than the first dish on the menu card at Miari Noodle House in Koreatown -- the hand-rolled noodle and clam soup is the restaurant's No. 1 attraction. Other Korean noodle shops have this same soup, but Miari's version tops them all. It's simple, a bowl of handmade noodles in delicate broth, but on top sit a dozen fresh clams in the shell. Clam heaven, in other words, and nothing to distract from the clams other than a slice or two of potato, green onions and thin strands of green squash. Don't think you're tucking into safe, bland comfort food, though, because you'll get a hit of serrano chile, just enough to make the soup interesting. At Miari, the soup is the star. If you order only that, you won't be tempted to fill up on banchan, because there won't be any. The only accompaniment is a plate of kimchi and spicy radish. You'll also get a glass of cool barley water, which is a much better match for Korean food than ordinary water. 3224 W. Olympic Blvd., #102, Koreatown. (323) 735-0647. 
--Barbara Hansen

onigiri at Sunny Blue
onigiri at Sunny Blue
A. Scattergood

Best Onigiri: Sunny Blue

Onigiri (also called omusubi) are one of the best snacks you can eat on a Tokyo bullet train -- or on a Santa Monica beach. The little triangular rice cakes are deceptively simple: rice pressed around a filling, then wrapped with a sheet of nori (seaweed) like a study in edible geometry. Despite their simplicity, good iterations of the dish are oddly hard to find. Not so at Sunny Blue, a closet-sized shop on the beachy stretch of Main Street in Santa Monica. The folks behind the counter form the triangles as you watch, from rice that's still a bit warm from a giant rice cooker. The fillings -- cured salmon with chile, enoki mushrooms and miso, spicy cod roe, to name a few -- are fresh and flavorful, and the seaweed is crisp instead of the soggy stuff you get in lesser iterations. If you get the onigiri to go, it will be folded properly, with tear-away plastic wrap between the nori and the rice. If you get it to eat there, the seaweed will be folded up around the rice, the edges left standing high in lovely, dark green, filigreed sheets. 2728 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 399-9030, sunnyblueinc.com. --Amy Scattergood

See also: Best of L.A., 2013: Food & Drink

octopus at RivaBella
octopus at RivaBella
Jessica Koslow

Best Octopus Dish: RivaBella

RivaBella in West Hollywood offers an octopus salad so delicious that even someone wary of eating these eight-legged creatures might reconsider. Drawing inspiration from chef Gino Angelini's Northern Italian roots, the polipo con olive e patate is a roasted octopus salad with potatoes, Taggiasche olives, cherry tomatoes, celery slivers and salsa verde. Although manager Paul Chang might point out that his fellow native Koreans prefer live baby octopus, the magic of this dish is the warm and tender meat mixed with soft potatoes, resting on just the right amount of marinara sauce. 9201 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd. (310) 278-2060, rivabellarestaurant.com. --Jessica A. Koslow

L&E Oyster Bar
L&E Oyster Bar
Anne Fishbein

Best Restaurant in Silver Lake: L&E Oyster Bar

When L&E Oyster Bar opened last year, it gave the cutest retail strip of Silver Lake a focal point -- and it gave the east side of town a place for oysters and crisp wine. A year later, L&E just keeps getting better. The cooking is better: The menu features a seafood boudin noir made with spiny lobster, shrimp and cuttlefish ink that will knock your socks off, and the salads and nibbles continue to impress. The space is better, too: The new upstairs bar gives the restaurant its much-needed hangout spot. The original restaurant is lovely in its tininess, but it could be a bit of a mob scene. And the oysters are just as good as ever, so much so that last year we named it the best oyster bar in town, and we stick by that assertion as well. 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 660-2255, leoysterbar.com. --Besha Rodell

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