Though the salsa still tastes like tomato water, the homegrown California Fish Grill chain (winner of Best Seafood Restaurant in 2008) has always had impeccable fish, especially when slathered in the wonder-lube of its garlic butter. The substance could make just about anything tasty.
Now the eatery (at least the one in Irvine) is featuring a dish that makes no use of any grills. The Hawaiian ahi poke contains dice-sized cubes of raw tuna suffused with just a touch of soy, textured with onion in micro-granules, plus some scallions and a not-so-secret ingredient: a hit of chili paste.
Before I ordered, I wondered what the guy in the back was doing with
an industrial-sized container of Huy Fong Foods' popular Sambal Oelek.
But upon tasting the poke, I immediately knew it was for what I was
eating. There were traces of the chili seeds in the dish, the quiet
murmur of its spiciness adding a distinctly Asian accent and a briskness.
Looking like a seaborne pico de gallo, the concoction turns out to be spicier than California Fish Grill's actual salsa and the perfect thing to scoop
up chilled with fryer-hot tortilla chips. Order it now for $5.99
before it swims away.
Edwin Goei was born on the island of Java, grew up in La Habra, studied in Irvine, and eats everywhere. Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, he went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.