Be a good Catholic—eat at the following seafood restaurants on Friday during this Lenten season. And if you're not Catholic, then may God have mercy upon your Episcopalian soul.
DINNER FOR TWO:
¢ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Less than $10!
$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10-$20
$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $20-$40
$$$ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¡Eres muy rico!
Sometimes you've gotta choose: The kid's college education, or another round of margaritas? At Las Brisas—perched above Laguna Beach's Heisler Park, granting you a luxurious after-dinner view of the sun setting over Catalina—the seafood and booze are so good as to make temptation irresistible. 361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5434; www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com. $$CALIFORNIA FISH GRILL
California Fish Grill is one of those middle-class mini-chains common to Orange County—fancier than Knollwood's or Natraj but a step below Sage or the Daily Grill. The massive charbroiled fillets feature deep grill marks and shine thanks to a powerful garlic-butter coating. All should also order the grilled zucchini with its juicy, smoky innards. 10569 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 252-0001; 5675 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-5710; www.cafishgrill.com. $$CAPITAL SEAFOOD
The clam-and-ginger soup at Capital Seafood is amazing. Small, chewy clams in their shells combined with a delicious, spicy, clear ginger broth make one of the most interesting and flavorful seafood soups out there. 8851 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 892-4182; www.capitalseafoodrestaurant.com. $$THE FISHERMAN'S RESTAURANT
Locals tend to disparage the cuisine and long summertime waits for a table, but the mesquite-grilled seafood is usually quite good. Fresh catch of the day is always a good choice, and save room for the best desserts in South County: a slice of the peanut-butter pie or the mud pie, which is mammoth. 611 Ave. Victoria, San Clemente, (949) 498-6390; www.fishermansrestaurant.com. $ONAMI SUSHI & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Here, you can partake of as much sushi as you want. You can gobble down transparent globules of ikura (salmon roe) like popcorn or tiny particles of masago (smelt egg) as if they're, well, tiny particles of masago. 24155 Laguna Hills Mall, Ste. 1300, Laguna Hills, (949) 768-0500.$$
THE ORIGINAL FISH COMPANY
Both restaurant and market and far from the sea, the Original Fish Co. is where you can chomp through swordfish as a sandwich, on a skewer, as a fillet, mesquite-smoked or combined with a hunk of beef. Its other seafood platters are rightfully popular, but don't forget their accompanying sourdough rolls: slightly bitter, around the size of an enlarged orange and brilliant. 11061 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-4553; www.originalfishcompany.com. $$
In a kind of culinary clairvoyance, the Ostioneria Bahía's chefs build a ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice) that follows each puckering bite of lemon or lime with a chunk of chile serrano: suddenly the insuperable sourness is relieved as the chile triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. 4429 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 538-8271. $
There are scallops, and then there is what Royal Capital serves. If they're offered on the fresh-fish menu at this funky, authentic Chinese spot, by all means order them. Served on a half-shell, these large, meaty scallops—three to four times the size of regular scallops—are cooked in a wonderful Thai-style mint and chile sauce laced with minced garlic. Tasty sauce aside, the scallops are perfectly firm, with a rich, intense flavor. 10911 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-8331; www.royalcapitalseafood.com.$
SAM'S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Sam's is a surreal Hawaiian paradise, a throwback to the tiki-hut décor of Trader Vic's and other luau-themed dining establishments. The menu, while not especially Hawaiian (the word "pupu" doesn't appear once), is heavy on seafood (natch) and is filled with such throwback items as seafood Louie, oysters Rockefeller and a seafood combination platter dubbed "Deep Sea Net." 16278 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-1321. $$
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SANTA MONICA SEAFOOD
Tucked inconspicuously in the corner is a takeout counter with cheap chowders, fried seafood, sandwiches, stir-fry and grilled fish. The smoked-salmon chowder is simply amazing and so delicious you'll kick yourself after inhaling the cup because you could've had a pint for only a little more. 154 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 574-8862; www.santamonicaseafood.com. $$
Betcha don't see kung pao sea cucumber on too many menus around the U.S. Yes, it looks like a cucumber and tastes like a slug, but it's hot, spicy, squishy and crunchy. They also serve it 10 other ways in case this version doesn't appeal to you. 8547 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 895-7964. $
UNCLE AL'S SEAFOOD
Albert "Uncle Al" Fadonougbo has successfully drawn upon both sides of the Middle Passage in creating his restaurant's menu during the past 10 years. Though most of the entrées appear mundane on the menu, Fadonougbo's massive-but-delicate hands combine Cajun complexity with West African subtlety to inject some much-needed energy into Long Beach's soulless soul-food scene. Do chomp through Uncle Al's po'boy menu and marvel at his cross-continental fusion. 400 E. First St., Long Beach, (562) 436-2553. $