Monday, October 7, 2013

Fishy business

Mexican red snapper
Quality Seafood has been by the marina on the Redondo Beach Pier since 1953, according to their website. Tucked underneath the walkways of the International Boardwalk, looking out on the boat basin, it's a rambling series of counters, deli cases, live tanks and reefer display trays stocked with the most amazing variety of seafood.

When you walk out of the parking garage, it's just to the right of the Tilt-a-Whirl at the amusement arcade. Just follow the seagulls and you'll find it.

Depending on your inclination, it's a fishmarket or a restaurant - you can buy items wrapped to take home or you can order something cooked to eat there. You can order prepared items, like clam chowder, paella, or fried clams - but you can have those anywhere. The reason people come to Quality Seafood is to choose their own fresh seafood, and have it cooked fresh to order.

The cases in the main room behind the entry offer the usual fish filets, shrimp shelled and headless or in-shell with their head and antennae proudly flying; further down an array of whole fish ranging size from slim and silvery anchovies to magnificent five pound pink Mexican snapper.

Sea snails
The live tanks are stocked with mussels, several varieties of clams, plus things you don't find just everywhere, like periwinkles, sea snails, and sea urchins. One of these days I'm going to get up the courage to order a sea urchin!

The oyster counter offers an amazing variety of oysters, from both the Pacific and Eastern shores.

Crab and lobster tanks are full of feisty critters. In addition to the wonderful Dungeness crabs, you can also get local Santa Barbara rock crabs. When we went in September it was "lobster month" - north Atlantic lobsters were priced to sell. Baked potatoes and steamed ears of corn were offered as accompaniments.

Order and pay for your items, then return to pick them up later. They give you electronic buzzers to signal when they're done. While you're waiting, you can stand in line at the bar for drinks, sides, sauces and a chance to rent a wooden mallet to crack your crabs or lobsters.

Grab a place at a stone table. There's a stack of newspapers by the bar to use as table cloths as you whack away, dip a tasty morsel in melted butter or splash about in the salty broth. Because the U.S. headquarters of the Toyota Company is nearby, there's often a surplus of Japanese-language newspapers.

On a summer Saturday afternoon, the place is crowded, full of tourists and families. They pack the stone tables and crowd the order counters, and you spend a lot of time standing on line. When we visited one weekend, the tables were full and we ate standing up, balancing our lobster trays on the broad wooden railing.

The crowds tend toward large families, camping out at the tables and sending emissaries to each counter to place an order. We saw several groups - couples and small families - share tables together.

On a weekday, the pace is slower, and you can get a table easier. There's also more time to leisurely peruse the merchandise. After slurping down a dozen oysters for an appetizer, we enjoyed shrimp and broiled branzino on a grey Friday afternoon. The wine is cheap and not worth drinking, but they have Red Car and Blue Moon beer on tap.

The best thing about the place is the people, though. As you stake out a table, wait for a beer, or queue up for crabs, you rub shoulders with everybody else doing the same. We shared a narrow space along the railing with an older man from Texas, who said he came here every time he visited L.A. for business. When I went to snag some more napkins from the dispenser for our crabby hands, I brought him a bunch, too. Just down from us, a father and son slurped and compared several varieties of oyster. At one stone table, a couple of older African-American ladies, decked in heels and big earrings, dished gossip about an office mate over their lobsters and corn on the cob. At another table, a young Korean couple pried unctuous golden fat out of a crab carapace. Back in the stalls, three leggy teenagers peered cautiously into the live tanks and went "Ew!" at the creatures within.

 After your meal, you can stroll the piers and boardwalks, shopping at the tourist traps and enjoying the seaside amusements. Grab a churro for dessert. You'll be glad you did.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Multiple fishies!

P.S. One of these days I'm going to get up the courage to order a sea urchin!

Take my advice, and never order the sushi item "raw squid guts".

Glennis said...

Oh, I've had sea urchin before at sushi bars; I've just never scooped it out of its shell alive yet.

smalltownme said...

It looks so good.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Raw squid guts is no euphemism. And it tastes even worse than it sounds.