Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Were Winging It

I had done my on-line research and was armed with the names and addresses of two Oceanside, CA restaurants that overlooked the harbor. Just one problem. It became immediately apparent that neither had parking that would accommodate The Big White Truck.

But we had passed a restaurant that met one criterion. Ample and free parking. What did we know about this place? Absolutely nothing. But it did have parking. The Monterey Bay Canners Fresh Restaurant it would be.

The restaurant sits adjacent to the harbor. Not your rustic scenic harbor but your upscale sailboat berthing harbor. Both of the outside dining patios were nearly filled with diners and the remaining tables sat in the direct sun. No thanks.

After a morning walking around the Mission in the hot sun, I wanted air conditioning.

We, along with a few sun-shunning souls, were quickly seated in a small dining room that commanded a view of the harbor. The restaurant’s interior reminded me of an upscale New England fish house with seaside related prints on the walls

and large paddle fans hanging from the ceiling.

The menu was pretty much what you would expect from a casual waterfront restaurant with raw oysters, steamed clams, calamari, crab cakes, seared ahi tuna, and hot and cold seafood sampler plates. There was also a separate menu listing the day’s fresh fish offerings.

Chuck, ever the adventurous one, decided to order the beer battered cod (his other choice was halibut) fish and chips. His plate came with three pieces of thinly battered sweet fish that, under the crisp crust, were as steamy and as flakey as you could want. He was especially pleased that the coating was so light and thin, since his most recent orders of fish have come with a thick and very greasy coating.

The fish sat on a bed of very good skin-on fries that, to me at least, were just the right size. They were a little larger than a shoestring, but slightly smaller than your basic Ore-ida fry. And the slaw that accompanied the dish (and mine) contained large cabbage shreds, mixed with grated carrot, and tossed in a light cream dressing.

For my choice, I decided to look at the list of fresh fish, all of which came with two sides from a list that included fries, rice, steamed veggies, slaw, and new potatoes. The fish choices included a tuna steak with mango salsa, escolar with pesto, seared ahi tuna, teriyaki yellowtail, and Hong Kong tilapia with a spicy sauce. Many of the fish could be ordered pan sautéed, blackened, or mesquite grilled.

Since we were winging it, I decided to really wing it and ordered something I had never heard of, let along tried – the opakapaka, which is commonly known as Crimson Snapper or Hawaiian Pink Snapper. For my sides, I chose the slaw and the rice, which was your basic converted rice prepared pilaf style. I know that converted rice holds better in a restaurant kitchen, but I am just not fond of the rather slippery mouth feel of converted rice.

I ordered my opakapaka mesquite grilled, and I think that this was the perfect preparation for this very mild fish. The blackening would have totally masked the flavor, and the butter sautéed preparation would have been way too rich. While the taste was mild, the opakapaka had a meaty texture that is usually found in oilier and stronger fish.

When we got home, I looked up this restaurant on-line and my friends at were not impressed. But we still enjoyed our impromptu lunch selection and would award it 4.0 Addies.

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