Londondale Fish and Chips

Photo by Tenaya HillsIt's a mannerly Chinese family, not a crusty New England clan or surly brood of Brits, who runs this long-standing Anaheim fish 'n' chips joint. The father usually remains in the backroom, so the bulk of the workload falls to a preteen daughter who jots down orders between math assignments and orders from Mom—she's the one who fries everything to golden puffiness. The two ladies created Londondale's Sino-centric design scheme, where gilded calendars with Botero-esque illustrations of Chinese children hang on the walls and inflated fugu dangle above the heads of customers; the menacing spikes of the Japanese puffer fish dissuade the curious from batting them around. Pastel-hued porcelain lucky cats stretch out above the hot lamps.

It's America at its melting pot-fieriest. But postmodern diversity in a restaurant is pointless if the food is PC (pure crap). Thankfully, the fish 'n' chips stuffed into brown bags at Londondale hold their own against what they hawk across the pond; in some ways, it's better. Mom dunks triangular slabs of cod as large as a medium-sized pizza slice into a puddle of batter and fries it into crunchy, dun-colored skin that doesn't overwhelm the flaky cod. The chips, finger-thick as recently as three months ago, are now a bit too thin for my liking but remain as rubbery, brown and greasy as a true U.K. fry. The tartar sauce, though, achieves a bold creaminess foreign to English cuisine—unctuous, topped with chives and searing with garlic undertones that announce its presence from a football field away.

Fish isn't the only food fried at Londondale. Order some shrimp, and Mom conjoins two of them into a gnarled circle waiting for partition like a wishbone. Scallops and oysters become pungent, bite-sized marine falafels. The mushrooms and zucchini are okay, but the earthy eggplant slices approach the size of Olympic medals. Mom would probably deep-fry a menu if you asked nicely.

The only Asian reference on the menu is a complimentary side cup of Sriracha Hot Sauce—but you have to ask. Adding spice to a meal renowned for its bland taste seems almost heretical, but mix the Sriracha with the tartar sauce, then slather the resulting glop on everything. Suddenly, Bush's proposed open-borders program becomes more palatable, and the promise of the melting pot kindles up again.

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Londondale Fish & Chips, 1780 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 776-0211.

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