Category Archives: Seafood

Dining Outside at King’s Fish House

The albacore tuna roll at King's Fish House.
The albacore tuna roll at King’s Fish House.

King’s Fish House opened in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center during the height of the pandemic in October 2020.

But you’d never know it.

The place has been hopping since it debuted. So much so that the mall even turned over to the restaurant an additional outdoor dining area a few steps away that had been just extra public space before. The restaurant now opens up that seating area on weekends when it gets extra busy.

Even on weekdays, though, there’s still plenty of outdoor dining, as the 7,400-square-foot restaurant is lined with floor-to-ceiling garage doors that can be opened up entirely. The tables on the perimeter also have woven mechanized blinds that can go up entirely or be let down to shield from the sun.

That’s where I sat when I was invited in as a guest last week, enjoying a nice breeze on a balmy night. After more than a year of cooking at home or getting takeout, I’ve only dined outside at about eight places in the past two months. I will say that King’s is the only one I’ve encountered so far where not everyone on staff was masked. As of today, mask wearing indoors is only recommended, not mandated, but if you’re the very cautious type, that may be a consideration.

The restaurant opened on the mall's new dining terrace.
The restaurant opened on the mall’s new dining terrace.

This is the first Northern California outpost of the Southern California restaurant chain that’s owned by King’s Seafood Company. It operates a dozen restaurant concepts in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

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Dining News Around The Bay

"Fall Off the Bone'' wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)
“Fall Off the Bone” wings from alaMar Kitchen & Bar. (Photo by Dana Plucinski)

Nelson German of “Top Chef” Reopens Indoor Dining at alaMar Kitchen & Bar In Oakland

After months of doing only takeout and delivery, alaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland reopened last week for indoor dining. Come by to say “hello” to Chef Nelson German, whose time on this season’s “Top Chef’‘ was cut short by an injury from which he has thankfully recovered.

The lively restaurant, which blends Latin, Caribbean, and Mediterranean flavors, has undergone an interior refresh. The menu also has been updated with some new offerings, including shrimp tacos “quesa style” with Oaxaca cheese, chow chow and salsa criolla; roasted oysters with salsa verde, pork longaniza, and Parmesan butter; and stuffed masa, a recreation of his “Unidentified Dominican Object” created in an episode 6 challenge of “Top Chef.”

Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)
Chef-Owner Nelson German. (Photo by Melati Citrawireja)

Perennial favorites, “Fall Off the Bone Wings” and “Peel and Eat Shrimp,” that proved popular during takeout can still be enjoyed on the dining room menu, too.

For more fun, pick up a copy of my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1) at the restaurant, local bookstores or on Amazon. It features recipes and stories from a roster of top East Bay chefs, including German.

Scott’s Chowder House Opens in San Jose

Scott’s Chowder House, a more casual spin-off from veteran Scott’s Seafood, opened in downtown San Jose last week, with another planned to debut next month in San Francisco at 334 Grant Ave.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 32

The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.
The mixed grill plate of chicken and lamb from Athena Grill.

Athena Grill, Santa Clara

It would be understandable if you thought you’d gotten lost while trying to get to Athena Grill in Santa Clara. Surrounded by low-slung industrial buildings, it doesn’t look at all like a neighborhood where you’d find a restaurant of any sort.

But this casual, family-owned Greek restaurant has been drawing a loyal following to this spot for the past 19 years.

It’s the type of simple, oregano-fragrant food in ample portions that you picture yourself enjoying at an outdoor cafe overlooking the Aegean Sea. When you get the food to-go, just be prepared to work up an appetite, inhaling the heady garlic the whole way home.

It’s one of the few places you’ll find smelt ($11.95). These tiny fish, lightly breaded and fried, are about the size of the french fries they come with. In fact, you may have trouble distinguishing the two at first glance. Squeeze on some lemon juice and dunk into the container of skordalia, a creamy potato garlic dip. They’re mild tasting, and edible in their entirety.

Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).
Fried smelt and fries (back), and grilled sardines with garlic fries (front).

If larger fishes are more your speed, go for the grilled sardines mezes ($12.95). They are marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon before getting crisped on the grill. You have to debone them yourself. But that’s easy enough to do. They are tender, slightly stronger in taste with their rich oil, and just a joy to dig into.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 26

Three types of poke on a big bed of rice, chirashi-style, from Pacific Catch.
Three types of poke on a big bed of rice, chirashi-style, from Pacific Catch.

Pacific Catch; Santa Clara, Campbell, Corte Madera, Cupertino, Dublin, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Francisco, Walnut Creek

Pacific Catch makes it an even dozen now, having opened its newest location earlier this week, this one at Santa Clara Square Marketplace.

This restaurant group, which was founded in 2003 in San Francisco, takes its seafood seriously, adhering to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide for sustainability. It also partners with the Surfrider Foundation to protect the world’s oceans by reducing plastic use. And it recycles its fryer oil and composts food scraps.

I was invited as a guest by the restaurant last week for a sneak taste, albeit pandemic-style, with a chance to sample takeout dishes.

Pacific Catch offers seafood in every preparation imaginable — from ceviches and sushi to tacos and burgers. Your takeout bag comes complete with compostable utensils, chopsticks, packets of Kikkoman soy sauce, and even wet-ones, which is an especially thoughtful touch.

Lightly battered calamari with fried chili rings and fried thin slices of lemon.
Lightly battered calamari with fried chili rings and fried thin slices of lemon.

Fried calamari is always chancey to-go, no matter how short the drive home. The light tempura-like batter on the Cabo calamari ($13) didn’t hold up with full-on crunch by the time I got it to my dining-room table. But the tentacles and rings were very tender. I loved how there were thin slices of fried lemon in the mix, too, and fried rings of red Fresno chilies. The calamari were seasoned well, and a container of smoky-spicy chipotle aioli was irresistible for dunking into again and again.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 24

Mel Canares' fried chicken sandwich -- photographed on the hood of my car.
Mel Canares’ fried chicken sandwich — photographed on the hood of my car.

Cocina Canares, South San Francisco

Mel Canares doesn’t really have a name yet for his fried chicken sandwich joint — at least one that’s printable in a family blog (ahem), as evidenced by his Instagram handle. Cocina Canares, another moniker by which he sometimes refers to it, actually doesn’t even have a real bona fide structure, either.

Instead, Canares, a former corporate chef for Genentech, cooks and serves his fried chicken sandwich out of his backyard in South San Francisco.

He serves one thing, and only one thing — that sandwich.

And he does so only one day of the week — Sunday.

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