It's been a long time coming – as in my chance to try House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer, a new gastropub style seafood spot in Laguna Beach. Their fresh fish menu is a total catch, and the beer list is bold.
Brought to you by the same guys that run the rooftop restaurant, K'ya, at the La Casa del Camino hotel, this place is always booming. Your best bet? Forget trying to get a reservation and swoop up one of the bar tables instead.
- sweet 'n tender Clam Basket with Fries & Horseradish Cocktail Sauce ($9)
- spicy, thick soy glaze Hawaiian Style Ahi Poke with Seaweed Salad, Sesame Seeds & Wonton Chips ($5 for 1/2 scoop)
- gummy, too peppery, not enough salt but tender Clam Chowder ($6 cup)
- perfect pillowy bun, a little too much dressing East Coast Style Lobster Rolls on Brioche with Shrimp & Celery (2 for $14)
- buttery ball of tenderness, but a little too salty Sole Picatta-Style with Lemon Caper Sauce, Rice & Roasted Vegetables ($13)
- it doesn't get better than this light, crispy outside 'n juicy moist inside Fish 'n Chips ($10)
Don't be fooled by the hostess when she tells you plenty of tables will be available at 6pm on a Saturday night, no reservations necessary – phah! We of course chose to take matters into our own hands and snatched up a bar table wedged in between a plasma flat screen tv & the picturesque Laguna Beach ocean view – perfect!
We started with the Fried Clams. They're lightly breaded in a fluffy batter, are sweet 'n tender – not as much as those at Flo's Clamshack in Rhode Island – but some are big, others are small, and few are chewy.
Next up, one of three Hawaiian Style Pokes, Ahi (the other two are Octopus & Hamachi). The fish is served in big cubes, the Seaweed Salad is stringy, and the Soy Sauce is thick like a glaze. It's peppery, spicy, and crunchy from the Toasted Sesame Seeds & cooling Cabbage.
Now the Clam Chowder was a major disappointment. I like mine creamy, but this one was just too gummy and pasty. It has too much pepper, not enough salt, and the Bay Leaf 'n Celery flavors stand out the most. The only saving grace is the tender Clams.
While I had a ton of Lobster Rolls on my summer New England trip, Big Fish's bun beats 'em all. It's the perfect combination of the side-toasted hot dog roll + the added yumminess of buttery Brioche. As far as the insides, the Lobster & Shrimp meat are juicy tender, the Celery really pops, but the dressing is a little overkill.
The Sole Picatta is quite a sight and a helping too. The Tilapia Fish is so moist it literally melts in your mouth – no flakiness here. It's also served a top seasoned Rice and Roasted light Soy-marinated Vegetables. Definitely share or take home this plate, but beware of the sodium content.
I was most impressed by the Fish 'n Chips – as one would hope since it's part of the restaurant's name. I literally have never had a more perfect piece of Fried Fish. Unlike greasy, over-battered others, this one is super duper lightly breaded, yet still crisp on the outside and unbelievably plump 'n moist on the inside. Just get it. It'll be your new favorite too.
House of Big Fish also serves Oysters ($10), Abalone Scallop Croquettes ($9), Wedge Salads ($7), Rib Eye Steak Sandwiches ($10), even Pickled Herring with Lavosh ($4), and so much more. And their extensive 50+ beer list includes everything from Affligem Dubbel Abbey Ale ($15) to Organic Samuel Smith Raspberry Ale ($9) and a bucket of Land Shark Lager (5 for $20).
Happy hour is from 4:30-5:30pm Mon-Fri with Brunch on Sundays from 10am-2pm.
Follow them on twitter @houseofBIGFISH for special & sporting event updates.
540 South Coast Highway #200, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. 949-715-4500.