Holy Mackerel!

We came, we saw seafood, we ate it, we left

Ceviche is nothing more than fish chunks marinated in lime juice (hence the sourness), tomatoes, onions, cilantro and chiles serrano (those long green guys). Or is it more than that? In a kind of culinary clairvoyance, Ostioneria Bahía's chefs build a ceviche that follows each puckering bite of lemon or lime with a chunk of chile serrano: suddenly the insuperable sourness is relieved as the chile triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. It comes with the world's perfect tostada: brown and brittle without blowing up in your face like a spring-loaded, salad-shooting trap. Ostioneria Bahía's, 4429 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-8271. Ceviche: $2.95. (GA)

Las Brisas
Photo by Jack Gould
Most fish lovers slurp up New England white chowder, which I've found palatable only after adding a couple of bags of those little soup crackers. Far better is the Manhattan, made red with tomatoes and stocked with healthy potato chunks and plenty of inch-long clam strips. It's probably the clammier of the two versions, and the Crab Cooker serves up the best—and cheapest—version I've found. Rather than sitting inside with the yuppie scum, get a quart and a fisherman's loaf of bread at the front counter and eat outside with the rubes straining over the sounds of traffic to hear when they can finally go in and eat. The Crab Cooker, 2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 673-0100. Quart of Manhattan-style clam chowder: $3.95; fisherman's loaf: $1.40. (AP)

Instead of the usual viscous chowders thickened with everything from MSG to Wondra, Catalina Fish Kitchen serves up a mermanly bowl of New England-style clam chowder swimming with clams, potatoes, onions, celery and half-and-half laced with sherry and clam juice. To go with it, try a big hunk of the superlative smoked albacore (it makes other versions taste like chum) served up with lemon wedges and homemade tartar sauce spiked with fresh dill. Catalina Fish Kitchen, 670 W. 17th St., Ste. G8, Costa Mesa, (949) 645-8873. Quart of New England-style clam chowder: $5.50. (KvH)

Mulberry Street, Fullerton's best East Coast-style bar, has plenty of seafood augmenting its Italian menu, and you can't go wrong with what locals tout as Mulberry Street's specialty: the steamed clams. Served in a natural clam broth with white wine, garlic, crushed red pepper and butter, the clams are, in the words of one longtime patron and master of rhetoric, "to die for." Mulberry Street, 114 W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-1056. Steamed clams: $8.95. (SCL)

Some weekend afternoons, all I want to do is sit back at a bar, have a beer with Dad and watch some sports. When that happens, Dad and I head over to Heroes in downtown Fullerton, choose from one of the 102 beers on tap, and order a bucket of steamers. The Little Neck clams are steamed in a Chardonnay broth with tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots and lemon. A basket of crusty French bread is the perfect accompaniment. There is nothing better on a Saturday than a bucket of clams, a Samuel Adams and hockey on the TV. Heroes, 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Ste. 128, Fullerton, (714) 738-4356. Steamers: $10.95. (SM)

Set up more along the lines of a fast-food restaurant than a fine-dining experience, the humble look of the Seafood Grill in Fullerton belies the quite serviceable menu. Shrimp, lobster, crab and fish tacos are all on the menu, but what's really pushed here is the fish and chips: cod drawn from the cold water of the Icelandic Ocean (just curious: Where are the warm waters of the Icelandic Ocean?) and hand-dipped in beer batter. We'd like to applaud the management for not serving the traditional thick-cut chips with its fish. Instead, it opts for the far-yummier thinly cut chips, à la McDonald's (a popular Scottish restaurant chain that, global ruination aside, really knows its chips). Seafood Grill, 100 S. Harbor Blvd., Ste. D, Fullerton, (714) 446-0700. Fish and chips: $7.95. (SCL)

The tanks at Seafood Paradise might contain tilapia, black cod, rockfish or other live denizens of the deep. They pluck a fish from its temporary home, steam it whole in a delicious and rich black bean sauce with ginger and scallions, and serve it intact. You get to choose whether to eat the eyes and head (there's actually some very tasty meat in there, although the eyes can be oily and slimy) or to dive right into the fillet. Seafood Paradise, 8602 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, (714) 893-6066. Whole fish in black bean and ginger sauce: market value. (EK)

There are a lot of fancy restaurants in Laguna Beach; the Jolly Roger ain't one of 'em. Despite its prime real estate—right across from tourist central, Main Beach—the Jolly Roger still caters primarily to crotchety old locals who roam the town beneath the pretty peoples' radar. Unsurprisingly, this plain-folks restaurant's best dish is about as plain as you can get: fish and chips. The Jolly Roger serves a fish to satisfy an Ishmael's cravings, soaked in a thick batter that seals in the flavor just like the fish and chips you can get at stands around London, only without bathing yourself in grease, English-style. It's great as is but definitely better with a few dashes of malt vinegar. The Jolly Roger, 400 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3137. Fish and chips: $7.99. (VDI)

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