Like its older sibling of the same name in downtown L.A., the Water Grill in Santa Monica is a seafood lover's paradise. Huge towers of raw and chilled shellfish are par for the course, served up in a large convivial space dominated by wood and leather. And there are plenty of other delicious cooked choices on the menu, ranging from crab cakes and fish tacos to a wild Columbia River king salmon entree that will knock your socks off. Other wild choices include swordfish, sea bass, halibut, tuna, black cod; you name it and the Water Grill probably has it on the menu. They'll grill it to perfection, oven roast it or combine it into a tangy Cioppino, whatever your heart desires. Be sure to taste some of their spectacular sides, too: the mac & cheese is grandly gooey and the braised kale with Greek yogurt and hazelnuts is seriously good stuff.
SALT Restaurant & Bar at the Marina Del Rey Hotel combines excellent seafood with an actual view of the boats that go out and catch it, located as it is right on the channel in L.A.'s most famous marina. Chef Mark Murray Gold's seasonal menu features market-driven delights, including the delicately delicious Maine Lobster Pasta combined with handmade inaniwa-udon noodles or the lovely Spanish Seabass served over lemon rice. Or just go for the massive shellfish platter, chockablock with Maine lobster, Dungeness crab, briny oysters, clams, mussels and huge Mexican prawns. Save room for a decadent dessert, especially if you're at an outdoor table near one of the fireplaces, where you'll be tempted to toast the marshmallows that are part of the Make Your Own Smores offer (don't do that, however!).
Los Angeles is where it all began for Nobu Matsuhisa, the acknowledged king of Japanese cuisine, who now has high-end eateries all over the world. His first restaurant, Matsuhisa, is a tiny place on La Cienega Boulevard; Nobu Los Angeles is further north up that same street; and the prettiest of them all, Nobu Malibu, is perched right on the sand on Pacific Coast Highway in the heart of that posh beach community. Malibu gets our vote for the best of three solely on location, for the gorgeous ocean views and sleek restaurant design somehow make Nobu's signature dishes like Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail with Jalapeno seem even more delicious when eaten there (and they are seriously fantastic no matter where you taste them).
This renowned seafood market and restaurant, a local landmark since 1939, has earned a well-deserved reputation as "the cathedral of seafood." A family-owned business with a history dating back to nineteenth-century Italy, Santa Monica Seafood is the city's go-to for the freshest catch, boasting the largest selection of fresh seafood in the Pacific Southwest. At the charmingly casual cafe, diners swoon over smooth, sweet oysters and decadent clam chowder followed by roasted whitefish drizzled with lemon oil or a rich, satisfying bowl of cioppino stew. The café is a perfect place to grab a quick lunch: try the spicy salmon burger or mahi mahi sliders and get a zing in every bite.
You'll find some of Southern California's best seafood at Fishing with Dynamite, Chef David LeFevre's tiny jewelbox eatery in Manhattan Beach. With seating for only 35 guests, getting a table can be tough; but the food is definitely worth the wait. Order a tower of seafood from the Raw Bar section of the menu â" everything from oysters, Peruvian scallops, sea urchin, king crab legs, lobster and more â" and start dipping into the assorted sauces and that may be all you need to be sated. But don't miss the chef's seasonal offerings, especially if the whole New Zealand Tai snapper happens to be listed. It's "First Dibbs!" for a reason, and a crunchy delight. The finger-licking good, plump grilled prawns are soaked in garlic, and save room for the pretzel and chocolate bread pudding served with house made ice cream, a dessert the likes of which you've never tasted.
With its roots firmly entrenched in New England, Connie and Ted's is as close to a true blue East Coast crab shack as you can find in California. Their menu is simple, extensive and straightforward, offering all the dishes of the sea, starting with an impressive oyster and clam raw bar and moving on to offer three kinds of clam "chowda," crab cakes, grilled or fried calamari and more. And those are just the appetizers; entrees range from an old-school New England Boiled Dinner to Fish and Chips, Portuguese Fish Stew and the Catch of the Day. Chefs Michael Cimarusti (of Providence fame) and Sam Baxter continue to pacl in the crowds after five years in their WeHo location, as Connie and Ted's is one of the most popular seafood places in town, for very good reasons.
Chef Helene An escaped Vietnam as the Communists overran Saigon in 1975 and the rest really is history. She carried along the secret recipes that have made Crustacean one of the top Asian fusion restaurants in Beverly Hills for decades; and she's even got a secret kitchen-within-the-kitchen where only the few in the know are allowed. Her garlic noodles with prawns are legendary, as is her huge Dungeness crab roasted in secret spices. With a recent $10 million redesign, Crustacean has reopened and is better than ever, with Chef Tony Nguyen joining An in the kitchen. There are delicious dim sum offerings too, ranging from pho soup dumplings to a langoustine spring roll and a filet mignon beef satay. The new look is open and bright, and the fish tank walkway built into the floor remains the same, thank goodness, for it really wouldn't be Crustacean without that.
Osawa is Pasadena's exemplary Japanese eatery, helmed by famed Executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe, is a true delight. Tachibe helmed the illustrious Chaya group of restaurants in L.A. for over 30 years, finally moving on to open his family-centric Osawa in the heart of Pasadena. Working with his wife Sayuri Tachibe and their children, too, the chef has let his imagination fly in this casual neighborhood place. Standouts include the Yellowtail Carpaccio with Garlic Jalapeno Ponzu; the Ahi Tuna Tataki with avocado and popped rice; and any of the perfectly fried tempura dishes. We let Chef Tachibe and his family choose their favorites for us and every dish was truly spectacular. He even has sushi and rolls that will surprise and delight lifelong lovers of those Japanese specialties.
Bottlefish is the latest restaurant invention from Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, the founders of CPK. But Bottlefish is in a whole different league, a sophisticated place perched on the second floor of the Brentwood Gardens in the heart of Brentwood. And your desire for seafood is completely sated here, from the moment the first bite of the Raw Bar Seabass Ceviche passes your lips. A luscious melding of heat (Fresno chilies, tomatillo salsa), cool (smooth avocado) and plump fish, it's an exemplary ceviche served with crunchy house-made tortilla chips. Move on to the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake served with Creole mustard and you might just think you've been transported to the Maryland shore, it's such an admirable iteration of this hard-to-perfect dish. Try the Sauteed Branzino paired with a carafe of Rombauer Chardonnay and we're certain you'll agree that Bottlefish is one of the best seafood places in town.
CATCH LA is the newest outpost of the popular EMM Group seafood restaurant chain that began in New York and has now expanded to Los Angeles (actually West Hollywood), Dubai and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. CATCH LA combines a super-sexy scene think famous actors, top athletes, Hollywood executives with some of the most mouthwatering seafood concoctions you have ever tasted. Head upstairs to the indoor-outdoor space with a view of the Pacific Design Center next door, and choose the patio or the indoor section, which on a clear evening will have its roof retracted, revealing a moonlight view. Then try selections from the various menus sections: Raw Bar, Signature Cold, Cold, Skewers, Rolled, Hot and Signature Vegan and it is hard to go wrong. Pick Hamachi Spinach with its amazing ponzu sauce, go for the light Branzino in butter, and don't miss the Truffle Sashimi.