Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Foodie Events Alert

Just realized two epicurean events (both of which I've attended in the past) are coming up, so giving y'all heads up:

Slow Food LA just brought to my attention that the Zenshuji Soto Temple in Little Tokyo will be doing its annual Japanese Tea Ceremony this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A light vegetarian lunch is included and it's a great experience to observe a longtime ritual while sipping on delicious matcha. $40/person and reservations are requried. Click here for more details, including RSVP information, or here to read my write-up of last year's experiences.

The East L.A. Tamale Festival is coming back for third time on Nov. 9-11! If you're as crazy about these masa goodies as I am, bring an empty stomach (as I did last year). Folks at L.A. Foodblogging are also planning a foodie meetup on Saturday, so leave a comment if you want to see how we note-jotting, camera-touting bloggers really look like in person. ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Foodventure #42: Seven Courses at Tagine (Beverly Center area)

Having had Moroccan-like dishes, but never a Moroccan-themed meal, before; my interest was piqued when Webquaintances at Biggestmenu want to do a get together at Tagine for their $42 seven-course tasting menu (listed by the LA Times as one of the local "delicious deals" this year). Oh yea, and for the possible celebrity sightings, given that Ryan Gosling is co-owner of this restaurant (and was the waiter when LA Times' S. Irene dined there.)

The dimly-lit environs had an authentic feel to it (at least to me and my pre-conceived notions), a small and intimate dining area (seats about thirty people max) with dark, heavy-looking Persian draperies and comfy, cushy, velvety furniture. The dining crowd that night were a mix of young professionals and trendy Hollywoody types, but no such luck of a celebrity sighting, let alone service from Mr. Gosling. I thought I saw
Tom "Everyone's Friend" Anderson there, but my dining entourage couldn't confirm, given the mostly candle-powered lighting and our more predominant distraction of soaking up the rest of the ambience and the menu.

While waiting for the last of our foursome to arrive, we were given the common upselling trick of "flat or sparkling" on our water, but didn't get any looks when we replied tap. Nor did the staff mind seating us 20 minutes before our last companion showed up, so far, so good on the service front . . .

The last of our group arrived and we all placed our orders for the tasting menu as well as a carafe of red sangria to share. The wine cocktail was tasty, a refreshing, balanced blend of wine and fruit with subtle nuance of tannins, tang and sweet spices.

The courses came out pretty quickly after we ordered. Our first dish was a mozzarella, basil & tomato stack with a beet and bermuda onion salad on the side, both dressed with vinaigrette. I was pleasantly surprised by the beet and onion combo (since I'm not a big beet fan) but was underwhelmed by their caprese, the tomatoes were unripe and there was only a smidgen of basil flavor.

Before we were finished, we got served the second course (the first of several rushed servings throughout dinner) - shrimps marinated in moroccan spices served with hummus and cucumber salad. It was a good dish but not memorable: I got the feeling that the flavors were toned down to make it "safe" for less adventurous palates. My companions and I did lament the lack of bread to dip into the hummus.
A little carb isn't too much to expect, right?

After that was bussed I also noticed another service-related mishap, lack of silverware changing or even some sort of dish/napkin to set them down on. Here's hoping the tables were clean enough to drive off pathogens, but not so clean so that I taste sanitizer. (And yes, we had the same fork and knife for all seven courses -- thankfully the dessert was finger-friendly.)
Third plate, striped bass and roasted potato with chamula sauce. Another solidly fine dish, but not outstanding (I actually liked the potato more than I did the fish). I am curious, though, as to what chamula actually is and how it worked its way into the menu (a rudimentary search turned up mostly Latin-American related results), but it tasted like a savory, mildly seasoned pan gravy.
Fourth course is the restaurant's namesake, shrimp tagine: shrimps, mushrooms and roasted cauliflowers in a
harissa cream sauce with a sprinkling of couscous for garnish. Now *this* was something special for my tastebuds, the plump shrimp melded nicely with the earthy mushroom, the slightly-spicy sauce and mildly charred cauliflowers. Again, a dish I wish there was more starches for scooping up the wonderful sauce (or maybe just an opportunity to hide in the darkness and lick the plate clean.) Also mild disappointment that this wasn't served in an actual tagine casserole dish.

Midway through the tasting, we were informed by the server to not take pictures to post up because they would have "presented it better" otherwise. But--shouldn't every dish be plated as nicely as possible? We may not be professional photographers, but what the camera captured isn't a gross misrepresenation of what we saw. Besides, I thought all the dishes were well-plated, so his comments were a double "wtf?" moment for me.
After that, we got each got half a
bastilla, a cinnamon and sugar phyllo pastry with a chicken-egg-almond filling. I think it was an interesting sweet-savory combo dish (a more exotic version of Aussie pies, really) and something I would try again, but one of my companions was a bit weirded out by the contrast.
Number six on the list is a grilled salmon with dried fruits and honey sauce. I was less fascinated with this; it could be due to me not being indifferent about figs and prunes, or maybe I had my sweet-savory cravings satiated with the bastilla, or perhaps the sauce is more syrupy than I expected. It was definitely not bad, but not great either.
Seventh dish is lamb two-ways: oven roasted with lentils and eggplant over couscous, and grilled lamb chop. The lamb was well prepared here: tender, nicely seasoned with only a tinge of gameyness, and couscous was fluffy and tender.
Rounding out the tasting was a mini dessert trio of grapes, baklava and lemon custard eclairs along with sweetened Moroccan mint tea--a nice, refreshing and not-too-heavy finish that left me satisfied but not bloatingly full, and we drank a few cups of tea while comparing notes and talking about our other food excursions. Probably would have stayed a bit longer if we weren't the last table, but we weren't overtly pressured to leave.

All in all, the Moroccan meal at Tagine was a fun, somewhat new experience for my tastebuds and fairly good benchmark to build upon. Can't wait to explore more cuisines of North Africa and see how they compare, and in a rare moment of agreement with S. Irene, I'm curiously wondering why this particular ethnic set is underrepresented in L.A., given all our raves for Meditterranean and small-plated foods.

The Bill
Seven-course tasting: $42
Carafe of Sangria: $25 (for 4) = $6.25
Pre-tax/tip total: $48.25

The Rating
Ambience: 4.5/5 (Nicely designed with authentic-looking furnishings and decorations, comfortable seats. Great for couples or small parties, or possibly celeb-crazy out-of-town friends ;) )
Value: 4/5 (A nice, varied menu for a fairly decent price. Portions are not as filling as I would've liked, but I was left satisfied enough.)
Service: 5.5/10 (Major point dippage for the silverware placed/left on tables, rushed pacing and the "no photos!")
Food: 15/20 (The food is overall pretty good, wasn't as exciting as I expected or as memorable as I wished, and I think they're erring on the safe side in the seasonings/spices of most dishes.)

Bonus/Demerit: +1 for a uniquely delicious spiced sangria & sweetened Moroccan mint tea (free refills on the latter)
TOTAL: 30/40 (Decent place to go for partly-edgy palates and if you can overlook lackluster service.)

Other Notes:
- Valet available, also street parking on Robertson & Wilshire
- It's a small restaurant, plan accordingly for large parties or peak times/dates.
- A good selection of vegetarian dishes available, the staff also seems accomodating of special restrictions & preferences (but our group will eat anything and then some ;) )

132 N. Robertson Blvd. (cross Wilshire)
Los Angeles

Finally, much thanks to Kevin for the photos (he was also my dining companion & photog for my Providence foodventure). I'm sure he spent considerable time doing some major photo shopping, given the abysmal lack of lighting there.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Quickies #4: Mindless Eating, Appetizer Affair, Halloweenie, A Diff. Kind of Taste Test

Mindless Eating: Finally got around to reading Prof. Brian Wansink's fascinating book on subconscious eating cues and how that affects how much we eat--it was a mosty fun read with interesting findings. Some we may already be familiar with (bigger plates, bigger utensils & bigger variety of food generally lead us to serve and consume more calories), others not-so-much (how even the "illusion" of variety encourages eating more, exemplified by his research participants grabbing munching extra M&Ms when colors are mixed together).

Marion Nestle, he generally cuts more slack for the food industry, advocating more personal responsibility for "mindlessly" eating less. Most of his advice to go about that are pretty sensible but already well-known approaches (pre-portion your treats in smaller bags if buying in bulk, don't cut too many calories at once, fill up half the plate with veggies & salad) with a few novel psychological tricks worth trying (e.g. at a gathering, don't bus out the "evidence" of bones, toothpicks, plates and glasses, which makes people more aware of how much they ate and limit themselves.)

My Love/Hate Affair with Appetizers: Speaking of mindless eating and growing portions, as of late I've taken to just making a meal out of an appetizer or two when I go out. On top of generally smaller portions, I love how they usually come out quicker and a bit less pricey. Of course, what's not to like is that variety can be monotonous (seared ahi tuna slices? fried calamari? oh, I've never had that before) and there's a strong tendency for unhealthy cooking methods, since the deep-fry is so fast and easy. Also portions can be unpredictable, with some appetizers being entree-sized (Cheesecake Factory stands out in my mind, the tamale cake appetizer leaves me beyond full every time) and others being teensy-tiny. Asking the server is not foolproof either (don't say "football" if it's more like a tennis ball.)

Halloween plans: I usually get MAJOR sweet tooth cravings around Trick-or-Treating time, but that has been largely absent this year (I haven't stocked up on the fun-sized stuff yet, if I'm too lazy/forgetful by Wednesday, I hope kids like little baggies of polenta, couscous and grated parmigiano-reggiano.) Likewise, I don't have any solidifed plans for this weekend or Wednesday night asides from a
Walt Disney Concert on Sunday night. In fact, this year I'm feeling oddly un-Halloweeny (maybe 'cause it's on hump day).

Caroline, however, is breaking all out with her wrap-up on spooky cupcakes, summary of (mostly) costumed nightlife events and checking up on what other trendy people are up to.

Taste Test of a Different Sort: Doug from
Blogsoop sent me a kit to test if I'm a supertaster. Turns out that while I'm not a bonafide supertaster like Javier/Teenage Glutster, I am more taste-sensitive than the average joe. But it'll be interesting to see how the bell curve goes for foodies compared to the norm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Special Foodventure #41: Il Moro (West LA)

This past weekend I was invited by Il Moro's public relations rep to sample their new fall menu (for free, one of my very few). Having remembered their positive LA Times review from last year, and enticed by the press release's description of their seasonal pumpkin tortelloni, I accepted and brought along a friend to bounce ideas and thoughts. (Since we are getting special treatment, this post will not have ratings, but more general notes of the space and food.)

Tucked in an office building, I'm sure the first impression many have of Il Moro is that it's a "business restaurant" for quick working lunches, meetings over drinks and maybe the occasional happy hour and quick bites before the drive home. But, to our surprise, the restaurant was packed on a Saturday night -- the crowd mostly mature and upscale-casual, with a few families and younger couples/groups of friends. A good number of the patrons conversed in Italian too, which looked optimistic.

(Il Moro dining room image provided by the restaurant's PR agency)

The dining area itself is neutral-warm in tones (primarily beiges, blonds and browns) made a little more intimate with dimmed lighting. The space is fairly airy and open, and diners can catch glimpses of the kitchen staff over the partition and easily eavesdrop on conversations from adjacent tables.

Il Moro's cuisine is focused on the Emilia-Romagna region, whose cuisine is focused on rich, zesty flavors and rightfully so. Within the region is Modena (known for its production of balsamic vinegar), Parma (pork products and parmigiano-reggiano cheese) and Bologna (orignator of the bolognese sauce).

Just like the region, if there was one word to describe the entire meal at Il Moro, it'd be bold. Every course we had packed a pretty big wallop on the flavors, which was good most of the time -- though by the end of the seven courses our tastebuds were pretty exhausted from the constant punch and stimulation. Hopefully, for the average two or three course meal this won't be as big an issue. Here's a roundup of what we had (all the dishes were of the chef's choosing):

Salsiccia Casareccia in Umido con Polenta Fresca - housemade italian sausage with a braised tomato and onion stew over polenta. The sausage itself wasn't particularly spicy, but the the stew tasted very fresh with the wonderful sweet-acid balance of the tomatoes and onions, further contrasted with the textured creaminess of the polenta. It was a satisfying antipasti and I could actually see this being more of an entree dish with slightly larger portions.

Tartar di Tonno in Spuma Di Avocado - raw tuna tartare with shallots, lemon dressing, avocado mousse and bread slices. This was the only problematic dish in the meal, we were initially surprised to be served this course since it isn't particularly Italian (and has been argued as a universal appetizer). Furthermore, this dish went overboard with the lemon dressing, making the tartare and the mousse too tart to enjoy the creamy fattiness or the nuances of the seasoning.

The apps were followed by a duo of housemade pastas: Maccheroni al Pettine al Ragu di Coniglio (pettine pasta in a rabbit ragu) and Risotto Mantecato alla Marmellata di Cipolle e Bocconcini d’Agnello (risotto with lamb, thyme and onion marmalade). Both pastas were pretty intense in their own right and they complemented each other well. The ridged pettine was great for picking up the chunky, tangy ragu sauce and the rabbit meat was surprisingly tender and mild-tasting, more like pork than the usual gamey-ness I expect. The lamb in the risotto was similarly mild, and I love the onion-thyme combo, which was woodsy and almost mushroom-like, which worked well with the slightly-nutty rice.

On top of the pasta duet, we also shared a serving of their Fall seasonal Pumpkin Tortelloni, with pumpkin mixed with sweet spices and amaretti cookies in a chicken and veal bolognese sauce, served in a pumpkin bowl.

It tasted as interesting as it looked, with a unique combination in flavors and mouthfeel (savory, chunky sauce against sweet, smooth filling) held together by tender pasta pillows.

After the pasta courses came the Ossobuco d'Agnello al Vino Rosso e Polenta Taragna, lamb shank braised in a red wine-porcini mushroom stew with a baked maize-buckwheat polenta. The polenta was unremarkable (toasty & herby, but too pungent for our liking) but the lamb and the fragrant, earthy mushroom-wine stew was delish, with the properly braised meat meltingly tender enough to fall apart with a fork, but not so overcooked that it becomes a meaty mush.

For the finale, we shared the chocolate creme brulee with strawberry sauce; the dessert is more like heavy mousse cake than a custard, but creme brulee like in that it has a chocolatey sugar crust on top. Nonetheless, it was a decadent, not-too-sweet, not-too-dense treat that had very deep cocoa aroma and flavor. The sauce seemed overpowered by the cake, but was nice with the berries surrounding.

Overall, the experience was pretty positive, despite the tuna-related confuzzlement and our palates being blasted with intense (but mostly yummy) flavors at every turn (thankfully, we had no shortage of water for cleansing between courses). For obvious reasons, our table service was close as it can get to perfect, but we observed that surrounding tables also received immaculate attention from the front-of-house staff too.

I can see why the restaurant received the praise it did from LA Times & LA Weekly (not to mention the packed Saturday night dining room even after 13 years of operation). While dinner is more of a special occasion affair at Il Moro, they also cater to the business and casual crowds with lunch, the more relaxed gastrobar atmosphere, as well as more informal events such as their regular wine tastings and live music nights. As noted by others, it's a hidden gem worth checking out. I know I'll be back to enjoy more pastas & sweets (they have a surprising amount of chocolatey items on there, perfect for a cocoa-phile like me!)

Final note: the Fall specialty dishes, according to the manager, are served until end of December.

Il Moro
11400 Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Quickies #3: Getting Chain-y . . .

. . . no, I will not shotgun-blast someone in the face. But you might consider doing that to me since this week my musings will be on chains food/beverage stores.

BevMo! 5-cent sale almost over: If you like wines, go before the sale ends this Monday -- buy one bottle and get another for a nickel. A great opportunity to be adventurous with unfamiliar regions and varietals, stock up on well-acquainted favorites or have a few in reserve as a backup gift or for dinner parties. My personal favorites of the nearly BOGO set? The peachy, bright and vibrant
2005 Screaming Jack Viognier and the smooth, chocolate-cherry-ish 2005 Vichon Pinot Noir.

Extra Tip to Save a Little More: Place the order online for pickup at your local store (it can be as little as an hour away), Web search BevMo coupon codes (oh hell, just click the link) and save yourself that 5-10%. Can be quite a bit if you're getting the pricey stuff or buying a few cases' worth.

Upcoming Whole Foods Flagship Store in Pasadena: As disappointed as I am about Wild Oats impending demise and the consolidation of the two -
the press release about the features of the 75,000+ sq. ft., two-story whole foods already got me salivating, and the store is still weeks away from officially opening. Offerings include a tapas/wine lounge, sandwich/Italian/seafood bars, customizable cook-to-order fish, freshly made tortillas and a "chocolate island". Of course, now I can wave bye bye to a larger portion of my salary . . . the place is not (dis-)affectionately dubbed "Whole Paycheck" without reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Recipe Time #8: Adolescent, Half-Baked Mac 'n Cheese

No longer a child, but not yet an adult

Definitely a theme of self-expression for many tweens and teens, rather it be in the form of ballady pop songs, emo poems or expository blog entries. In my case, it also defines my cooking style.

Nevermind that I am no longer a teen. (Thank heavens.)

In the case of mac 'n cheese, the child in me would have jumped for making the stuff out of the cardboard box. Mix the orange-yellow-ish powder with hot milk, boil the macaroni in water and voila! -- something that looks and tastes like mac 'n cheese. Kind of. But hey, at least it doesn't involve getting my hands smelly with herbs and I don't have to grate my own cheese, let alone having to deal with a

My adult side wants something more sophisticated: a little more complexity in flavors (i.e. something other than "
American Cheese") and hell of a lot less artificial chemicals. I am also ever-so-slightly wiser; cheese sauce components should not have a shelf life measured in years. And I would like to make a more versatile, multidimensional entreé too, adding fresh, signature touches to the dish--perk it up with some spices, throw in some meats, or--if I become an evil parent--sneak a few vegetables in. All that customization options reminds me of Color Me Mine, but with art I can eat (pretty or not) and without getting all those semi-pitiful "aren't you precious for spending your time and money to paint a glazed pottery?" looks.

Often, in food and in life, my adult and child strikes a compromise - and so I present the my Adolescent, Half-Baked Mac 'n Cheese.
Ingredients (approx. 8-12 servings):
1 pound of dried pasta, preferably a shape that easily picks up heavy sauce (I chose rotini)
1 1/2 pound of cheese, shredded (I bought mine pre-shredded - a mixture of sharp & mild cheddar, mozzarella and colby jack)
8 strips bacon
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, quartered or sliced
3 tablespoons butter (almost half a stick)
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk (reduced fat or whole)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can also finely mince 3 fresh cloves)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tsp. white truffle oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta as instructed on package (to al dente), let it drain and cool.
2. Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces, set aside about a quarter of them and sauté the rest with mushrooms over medium-high heat. After cooking, mix with 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, toss with the pasta and set them in baking dishes (I used two 9-inch silicone pie/cake pans, if you want a more substantial crust on bottom or side, use metal or glass bakeware).
3. Heat the milk in saucepan over medium-low heat, making sure it doesn't go above simmering. Meanwhile, start preparing the roux on a double boiler (or an improvised one like me, with a pyrex glass bowl over a large pot of boiling water)--throw the butter in and let it melt, then slowly whisk in the flour until it is smooth. Afterwards, gradually mix in the heated milk.
4. Set aside 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese, gradually add the rest to the milk mixture and keep stirring/whisking until smooth. Add the remaining garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Taste-test and season as needed. Preheat oven to 400 F.
5. Ladle generous amounts of cheese sauce over the pasta/bacon/mushroom and toss until they are well covered with sauce. Top with remaining shredded cheese & uncooked bacon.
6. Pop it in the oven and bake for approx. 30 minutes.
7. Top the baked mac 'n cheese with white truffle oil (or any infused oil of your choice) and serve it up!

Any leftover cheese sauce is also great for dunking with bread . . .

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Quickies #2: Potluck contributions and comped reviews

Potluck BBQ: A friend hosted a housewarming potluck in her upscale apartment in the O.C. this past weekend, so I whipped up some quick dishes to go along with their grilling of chicken, salmon & beef - a not-quite-tzatziki dip inspired by the delicious life (my not-quite take was from my substitution of cherry tomatoes for raw cucumbers; and also added some pan-fried garlic & scallions... and yes, a little fresh dill action in there too). I also whipped up some curried deviled eggs (essential party dish for me) and my raisinless bread pudding, this time with asian pears since they're in season. I caramelized them to bring out their subtle flavors a little more, and it turned out great with vanilla ice cream.

I also brought some fragrant whites - a '05 Screaming Jack Viognier (nice lychee-peachy bouquet, a pleasant lingering finish) and a '06 Elena Gewurz (big mineral flavors, also a bit drier than expected). Overall, all the food & drinks there were yummy and practically no leftovers remained.

Comped Reviews: The foodblogging story of the week came from a most unexpected source: the Wall Street Journal and their "exposé" of food bloggers being comped for their meals, in turn leading to inflated ratings on sites like Yelp and Citysearch. Other blogs and boards have already pounced on the debate, my take on it is a little less black-and-white. While I'm certainly skeptical of reviews based purely on perks and freebies, I don't consider the occasional comped food a cardinal sin, especially if 1) that's the only way you can get a preview of the place e.g. restaurants' pre-opening parties for the media, 2) if the writer disclosed that they were comped.

As others noted, food bloggers aren't the only ones getting tempted by free meals, food journalists/critics may rely on them too when their companies don't have a dining expense account. But as long as they're upfront about it from the get-go, I wouldn't take issue with them since they had a "buyers beware" sign out.

Might as well go into my own policy for comped/free/discounted stuff: unless I specified that something came to me free or discounted, I paid for it myself. Thus far, that's about 95% of the case. Additionally, I generally dine as anonymously as possible, jotting notes on my Crackberry and using my camera with discretion (and without flash).

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Quickies #1: Chabuya, <3ing Alberta Straub (Miss Flighty), Restaurant Service and Froyo

Too short to be a substantial blog entry (asides from an excuse to dish out food photos), yet too long for my Twitter -- that's what my Friday Quickies will be for: brief moments of tastings, observances and other food-related thoughts I've made over this past week.

Chabuya Tokyo Noodle Bar: Finally had a chance to check out Chabuya on the little tokyo strip of Sawtelle. The shrimp shumai ($4.50 for four) were definitely a rip -- it was soggy, pretty bland and I honestly think it came from a frozen package where $4.50 can buy two dozen of those. The ramen was good but not great, I agree with
rameniac that the soup is too flat (and too MSG'd) & the noodles too limp. The accompanying chashu was pretty good though. Nonetheless, I probably won't stop by here again anytime soon, given the other great & yet-to-try Japanese restaurants in that area.

Alberta Straub a.k.a. "Miss Flighty": The flighty hostess of an absolutey wonderful video podcast "
Cocktails on the Fly", she's knowledgable, funny, unpretentious and full of good advice and tips for mixologists of all levels from the basics of muddling & shaking to differentiating alcoholic bitters to making specialized, fresh-tasting mixers. Definitely a girl I want to have a drink with, or just mix drinks for me ;). Alas, she is in San Francisco ---

Restaurant Service: Came across a fun read from about
rating restaurant service. Of course, this is highly subjective depending upon the establishment and the diner, but a lot of good basic tips and funky formulas here hold true across the board (including my service pet peeve: approaching me to check up when my mouth is full . . .)

Froyo: Ever since losing my
FroYo virginity a while back, I've learned to embrace the addictive habit (though I still stand by my original stance that I'll eat it for the taste, not as a healthy alternative to ice cream. If I crave ice cream, I'm going for it!) However, I have no brand preferences as far as this slightly tangy treat is concerned... unlike a certain someone. ;)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Mini Foodventure #40: Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Café

Sometimes, simple is best -- especially so for L.A., where food is often gussied up with sauces, foams, gelees and mousses (which is at least one restaurant's downfall.) Oh yea, plus that fact that basic meals are easy on the budget too.

And that's exactly what I sought after when I had to do some weekend business near Pepperdine U., which I doubled into a half-day trip to explore Malibu.

I had recalled Rachael Ray recommending Neptune's Net on an episode of $40 a Day (yes, back when I obsessively watched the Food Channel), but I wasn't really craving a basket of deep-sea friedness--especially after pigging out the LA County Fair a few weeks back--so I did some cursory research on the foodie's board and decided to check out Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Café instead.
The restaurant is right on the Pacific Coast Highway and easy to find, thanks to a mini-billboard they posted up. It's a order & pick-up place, with a trio of terraced outdoor patios to dine in. The crowd that afternoon was a mix of Malibu locals and surfers, with small groups of fanny pack and camera-wielding tourist and leather-clad motorcyclists revving up their hogs.

For a seaside fish joint, I will say that this place is remarkably well-kept--the fish counter/market side of the operation is clean and well-stocked with bright, colorful catches/imports of the day, but they also had selections that disagreed with my inner environmentalist (Chilean Sea Bass), health-nut (Atlantic Salmon) and foodie (*Imitation* crab salad.)

After surveying the options available (yes, they too had a lot of fried seafood + chips available, but also a wide menu of grilled fresh catches)--I opted for one of their specialties, the Ahi Tuna Burger, despite my prejudice against seaburgers (having had a salmon burger a year back that was dry, overseasoned and still tasted a bit fishy.)

After placing my order, I waited around 10 minutes for the food arrived--which was kind of a relief, knowing that even their non-fried foods are made to order and not just sweating over a steamtray or drying out under a heat lamp.

Here's the burger & the generous helping of colossal steak fries that were crispy and tasty and simply delicious even before I addesd salt & dipped them in ketchup & tartar sauce.

I noticed how my camera angle made the rather large ahi burger seemed small, so here's a better picture to show off its size.
But how did it taste?
In a word - DA-YUM! The burger was moist 'n juicy, nicely seasoned with onions & chives and assorted spices, with a a subtle briny flavor, and no offputting fishy taste. The tartar sauce was just enough to complement the delicious patty, and the veggies tasted fresh.

It was a wonderful, inexpensive lunch ($8.95) that was very generous (I came starving, and even then had to throw out almost half the boat of the yummy fries). Icing on the cake, I get to also enjoy a killer view of the Pacific from my patio spot...
This place would definitely be wicked as an early dinner joint with the sunset view (and maybe after a Mai Tai or two at nearby Duke's, if I am not driving). Can't wait to make a re-appearance here.

Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Café
25653 Pacific Coast Highway


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