This Week in Cephalopods

Proof that even brilliant people are idiots sometimes? My Monday tennis partner: she won't eat squid or octopus. "Too mushy," she complains. Great gal, really, but she doesn't know anything about the deep blue's tastiest tentacle twirlers. Find out for yourself at the following places what is truly an underappreciated jewel of the sea.




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The creations of chef Yves Fournier at 6ix Park are fresh and memorable, a studied California approach to standards such as salmon, steak and pastas. Even more impressive, though, Fournier veers from the protocol of most county hoteliers and offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. The grilled octopus appetizer is marine bliss: tender, charred at the suction cups and painted with a wonderful lemon-pepper glaze.17900 JamboreeRd.,Irvine,(949)225-6666.$$$

If you like a spicy bite, pop into your mouth a tempura-like Firecracker calamari. You'll think you've bitten into a light, delicate cloud of tasty batter, but a second later, when the half-chewed concoction reaches your tongue, a spicy blast will render it useless. 1773NewportBlvd.,CostaMesa,(949)645-5550.$$

Get your chopsticks ready for the weekend dim sum, because in minutes, you'll have a tableful of sizzling pork and shrimp pot stickers, savory dumplings, won-ton soup, and wonderful salt-and-pepper squid. 9211BolsaAve.,Ste.106,Westminster,(714)893-3682.$$

Ana Maria-Ives cooks up the spicy food of her native northern Peru. Her extensive 42-entrée menu is derived entirely from family recipes, such as the arroz con mariscos, a dusky fire of a meal with fish, calamari and shrimp. 23600RockfieldSt.,Ste.2K,LakeForest,(949)587-9008;alsoat260BristolSt.,CostaMesa,(714)444-4652;and301MainSt.,HuntingtonBeach,(714)374-3399.$$

Here are just some of Kapit Bahay's game pieces: about four or five different fish deep-fried until the bones become jelly; pork and chicken adobo marinated long into the day in a murky broth of soy sauce, ginger, vinegar and garlic; sweet-sour viscous soups bumpy with rice, cucumbers or baby squids; beef minced with vegetables and covered in raw onion hoops or stabbed by a skewer; purple eggs called balut that contain a two-week-old duck embryo you're supposed to slurp whole. Even better desserts! 615N.Euclid,Anaheim,(714)635-4400.$

The choices for family dining are voluminous, and everything from the calamari to the lasagna to the shrimp—especially the shrimp—to the tiramisù is outstanding. The portions are huge, making us Americans the luckiest bunch of pigs this side of Charlotte'sWeb. 3333BristolSt.,CostaMesa,(714)546-9550.$$

Mariscos Licenciado #2—#1 is in the 909—sells Sinaloan seafood but lies landlocked in the same decaying commercial pocket JC Fandango calls paradise. Nevertheless, a coastal breeze flows through the simple eatery. It starts somewhere in Mazatlán, sweeps past the tiled counter where men in tejanas sit and curse at televised soccer matches, and cools giant vats of boiling octopus and shrimp with a salty Sinaloan soul. 1052N.StateCollege,Anaheim,(714)776-3415.$$

The best drink in Orange County is also the least advertised. Nuoc Mía Vien Tây in Garden Grove sells an ambrosial sugar cane juice renowned throughout the Vietnamese diaspora but little known outside. A deep sip reveals its greatness: frothy but smooth, the sugar cane's earthy sweetness is tempered by the citric candor of tangerine and kumquat. It is extraterrestrial. It is patient, it is kind—it's the I Corinthians 13 of the beverage world. And they also sell squid jerky! 14370BrookhurstSt.,GardenGrove,(714)531-9801.¢

There's a lot to work through in the menu, and of the pastas, you should be particularly partial to the gnocchi, while the linguine pescatora is a close cousin to Paolo's cioppino, brimming with mussels, shrimp, clams, salmon and calamari. OldWorldVillage,7561CenterAve.,Ste.37,HuntingtonBeach,(714)373-5399.$$

Feeling a cold coming? Phone Royal Thai and place an order for the po tak soup. It's a yummy clear chicken/seafood broth with New Zealand green mussels, scallops, calamari, shrimp and fresh green chiles. It'll make your eyes tear up and clear your head better than any over-the-counter sinus meds. And that's just smellingthe stuff. 1750S.PacificCoastHwy.,LagunaBeach,(949)494-8424.$

This place does violate the First Commandment of Dining Out—thou shalt not cook—but that's beside the point. The buffet gives license to stuff your face with everything from ribs to spicy squid, sushi and two kinds of combustible kimchi. 13828RedHillAve.,Tustin,(714)573-9292.$$

Super Corokke offers nine different versions of the corokke, a Japanese take on the resolutely down-home croquette. Try a shotput-sized cream corokke oozing with a puree of corn, squid and fish that tastes like marine-tinged mashed potatoes, or the evocatively named Popeye, filled with spinach strands and bacon bits simultaneously bitter and crispy. Better is the curry corokke, a mash-up that fuses the light, almost imperceptible burn of Japanese curry with some good-ol'-boy crunchiness. 675PaularinoAve.,#C,CostaMesa,(714)444-3418.$

This ain't no rock & roll sushi place with piercing music and pretty peeps. It doesn't have to be. With the freshest halibut drowning in ponzu sauce, the beefiest slabs of tuna and the most delicate piles of octopus sashimi, this is the best sushi place there is. 2075NewportBlvd.,#108,CostaMesa,(949)722-8736.$$

Irvinites all agree on one thing and one thing only: the No. 10 combo, a tender, chewy, delectable calamari steak with teriyaki sauce and sashimi. Taiko's calamari is a delicate homage to the squid, one that I have many times failed to re-create. 14775JeffreyRd.,Ste.K,Irvine,(949)559-7190.$$

When friends come to town, the first thing we do is take them here. King crab legs, calamari and steaks are specialties of the house, served in generous portions at reasonable prices. It always tastes great in an ambiance of SoCal beach hedonism. 34699GoldenLantern,DanaPoint,(949)496-6500.$$$

In his 1992 thriller Hideaway, Dean Koonz's main characters dine at Zov's on calamari and black-bean soup that was "such a perfect sensual experience that the monochromatic bistro seemed ablaze with color." 17440E.17thSt.,Tustin,(714)838-8855.$$

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