Holy Mackerel!

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

I'd order the dayboat scallop sauté at Scott's Seafood again, even after looking up "scallop" in the encyclopedia after I got home. Turns out I like eating the puffy, powerful adductor muscles of free-swimming marine mollusks! Especially when they are flown in fresh from Maine and served over caramelized leeks with seared tomatoes, herb corn polenta and sauce Chardonnay. Yep, turns out I love 'em like that! Scott's presents four scallops, each about the size and color of a Brown 'N Serve bun, on a long oval plate. They sit atop green strings of shredded leeks and small wedges of red and gold tomatoes that are drizzled with yellow sauce right next to a rhombus-shaped chunk of fibrous polenta. I washed down the whole sweet, chewy, gooey—and only faintly fishy—ensemble with a bottomless glass of iced tea between bites from a half-loaf of buttered sourdough bread. Scott's seems kind of pricey, but maybe not so much when you factor in the laundry bill for all those white tablecloths and napkins. And I saved a few bucks by parking my own car. Scott's Seafood, 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 979-2400. Dayboat scallop sauté: $25. (DW)

An imposing replica of a tiger towers over you as you enter Sumo Sushi Seafood Buffet, and you are greeted by a friendly teenage host whose eyes sparkle and who flashes a beguiling smile. Gobble up all the sushi you can, and try the baked salmon as well as the various mussel dishes. Also try the distinctively Vietnamese dishes here, such as the cold soup concoction of dried and fresh lotus seeds with long strips of seaweed, a perfect finale. Sumo Sushi Seafood Buffet, 1500 W. MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 438-2455. Lunch, $11.99; dinner, $19.99. (DCT)

Although it shares the same name as the Santa Ana restaurant, the Irvine version of Sumo Sushi Seafood Buffet is separately managed. Befitting its location, this restaurant looks more upscale than its counterpart. You are struck by how new everything looks in this brightly lit establishment. The dinners are pricier than the lunches, but you get raw oysters and lobster tails. My lunch there was fascinating as I watched Irvine teenagers of various ethnicities chucking gobs of sushi down their throats. This restaurant features Chinese dishes (rather than the Vietnamese ones at the other location), but many dishes are common to both places, such as baked salmon. The crayfish at this location seemed especially delicious. Sumo Sushi Seafood Buffet, 14110 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-1688. Lunch: $11.99-$14.99; dinner: $19.99-$20.99. (DCT)

Located next to a Sears, O-Nami is an efficient, clean and bright oasis in a mall filled with ubiquitous chain stores. As another indicator of cultural diversity, "Big Wave" (how "O-Nami" translates in English) is a tsunami transforming South County. Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want, gobbling down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn. The color and freshness of it all was captivating as I delved into the tiny particles of masago (smelt egg). The calamari Oriental was a tantalizing cornucopia of bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and ginger in a squid ring. Add in edamame (soybeans) still in their pods for a healthy supplement. Finish it off with the cool and delicious green tea ice cream, served in a cone. The restaurant promises it uses no MSG or artificial flavoring. O-Nami Sushi & Seafood Restaurant, 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1300, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500. Seafood buffet: lunch, $11.95; dinner, $20.95 (add a dollar to each on weekends or holidays). (DCT)

Few foods have the distinction of tasting better when prepared badly. But one such dish is the cóctel de camarones (shrimp cocktail) sold at Carlin & Liza Catering in the Orange Swap Meet. A specialty of street vendors everywhere, the cocktail is prepared horribly here, making it much tastier for reasons not yet explained by modern culinary science. It's not even ocean-fresh; indeed, it's always chilled to keep intact its slightly bitter taste and mushy mouth feel. Served in a cheap, clear Dixie cup that makes it look like a lab specimen, the cocktail tastes like an extra-tart V-8 with a lot of cucumbers, onions and cilantro. Do not expect many shrimp; Mexican shrimp cocktails are notorious for their penurious deployment of the shellfish. Add lemon, salt and Tapatio sauce, kick back, and pay no attention to the unsanitary conditions that surround you. Orange Swap Meet, 291 N. State College Blvd., Orange, (714) 634-4259. Cóctel de camarones: $5. (GA)

When friends come to town from back East, one of the first things I do is take them to the Wind & Sea Restaurant in Dana Point. How better to impress a snow-souled compadre with the whole California-lifestyle deal than lounging on the water at Dana Point Harbor, sucking back cold draft beers a

SHRIMP COCKTAIL

SEAFOOD BUFFET

SCALLOPS

SALMON

RED SNAPPER

OYSTERS

LOBSTER

LANGOUSTINES

JELLYFISH

HALIBUT

FISH TACOS

CUTTLEFISH

CRAB

COD

CLAMS

CHOWDER

CEVICHE

CATFISH

CALAMARI

BOUILLABAISSE/SOUPS

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