L.A.’s best seafood restaurants
Chef Michael Cimarusti may have inherited Patina’s original home, but he quickly forged his own culinary identity, establishing one of L.A.’s premiere dining spots. The seafood-focused restaurant sports an elegant dining room with wave-like glass panels and top-notch white-tablecloth service for à la carte or tasting-menu experiences. Amuses consist of unexpected, delicate bites such as nasturtium taco with sushi rice, luscious scallop tartare or a highbrow version of chips and dip: crispy baked salmon skin with sea trout spread. Cimarusti combs the world’s waters to showcase pristine seafood in imaginative ways: Meaty Maine scallops are accompanied by seasonal vegetables, La Quercia bacon, hazelnuts and brown butter powder, while wild black bass is dressed with tangerine juice-braised fennel, black olives, sweet Anaheim peppers and Pernod.
The vast expanse east of LAX doesn’t exactly scream “seafood destination,” but Coni’Seafood managed to turn Inglewood into an oceanic dining hotspot—and improve the bayside Del Rey with a second location there earlier this year. Such is the power of this Nayarit-style fish spot, with a lean menu that includes smoked marlin tacos, more than a dozen shrimp dishes from raw to deep-fried, and more elaborate house specialties like Pescado Zarandeado—butterflied snook fish that’s marinated in soy sauce and grilled to savory perfection over charcoal. Chicharrónes de Pescado involves crispy, pan-fried tilapia chunks with tangy soy and lemon sauce, while another standout dish stars sweet langoustines—bathed in garlic, chiles and lemon juice—and, if you’re lucky, prized roe.
David LeFevre’s fervor for fresh bivalves blows coastal dining doldrums out of the water, showcased here in sterling specimens of jumbo shrimp, live Peruvian scallops, Littleneck clams, PEI mussels, and oysters pulled from all directions to grace the restaurant’s showpiece shellfish towers. The MB Post chef also offers tailored renditions of tried-and-true cooked seafood classics, frequently revealing recipes that surpass their archetypes: as in a cozy coconut-tinged Thai broth brimming with shrimp and mussels, and an Asian pear-and-kimchi–spiked albacore tartare that obliterates the ubiquitous (and often bland) menu item. You can’t miss with the mollusks and crustaceans—unquestionably the reason this diminutive restaurant is so hard to get a seat at.
One of the long-standing heroes of the old-school taco trucks, Mariscos Jalisco has earned a deservedly loyal and devoted following. Their signature tacos dorado de camaron live up to the hype with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into corn tortilla that are then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. You’ll also want to save room for their legendary tostadas like the Poseidon topped with shrimp ceviche, octopus and a fiery red aguachile of shrimp.
This L.A. seafood institution started at the Santa Monica Pier and, nearly 80 years later, the retail market and café—now operating blocks from the Pacific—is still family-run and the city’s go-to, one-stop shop for all things seafood. The 60-foot, horseshoe-shaped seafood case boasts every imaginable bivalve, crustacean and finned creature, with a chalkboard that lists fresh catches of the day such as sturgeon fillets and spiny lobsters. Grab a seat at the raw bar and dive into oysters and crudo—choose silky salmon or buttery hamachi—simply dressed with lemon oil, basil and sea salt. Crab Louie and cioppino satisfy with textbook versions of the classics, but the best deal might be hearty fish chowder, chock-full of daily-rotating fish in a corn- and potato-studded tomato broth.
Walking into Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s sophomoric restaurant—the first being the meat-intensive Animal—feels like walking into a sea captain’s quarters (Captain Ahab’s, maybe, if he was more self-aware). Various nautical-themed knick-knacks frame the walls—what sea quarters wouldn’t be complete without a giant mounted fish?—but a dive, Son of a Gun is not. Their take on the lobster roll, for instance, takes beautiful chunks of lobster draped in lemon aioli and plops them on a plump, albeit tiny, brioche bun. Other hits: the shrimp toast sandwich with hoisin, herbs and Srircha mayo, and, oddly enough for a seafood restaurant, the fried chicken sandwich, piled with spicy pickles and crunchy slaw. Like most crew quarters, this space is small. Get there early to nab a seat, otherwise, limited reservations are available.
L.A.’s seafood guru, chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, pays homage to his New England roots with a modern take on the clam shack. The lofty eatery in the heart of West Hollywood features alfresco dining with seating outdoor and indoor—grab a seat at the raw bar for a close-up view of the kitchen. To eat, order from the raw bar (think: oysters, clams, uni, lobsters, crabs, shrimp and spot prawns) or get hands-on with oysters Rockefeller or deviled oysters. Two-fisters include the lobster and clam rolls, served on a griddled top-split bun. Classic seaside plates include grilled or steamed lobster served with drawn butter, fried clams served with tartar sauce and fries, and there’s always a daily special or two worth considering. Don’t even think about skipping the blondie for dessert.
Malibu Seafood’s been an oceanside staple on PCH since 1972, becoming a fresh-fish and sunny-views destination for decades. Owned by commercial fisherman, the tiny spot with the giant lobster billboard has both a fish market and a café. You can pick up whole fish to go here (as well as fillets, shellfish and homemade clam chowder or cole slaw) along with a slew of spices, rubs, cookbooks and other kitchen accoutrements to help you cook an incredible seafood dinner. Or if you’re interested in dining on the restaurant’s three-tiered outdoor patio, hop in the line and peruse the menu while you wait. The fish and chips are fantastic here, as are the fish tacos, ceviche and fried oysters. If you’re not too stuffed after lunch, treat yourself to a locally made ice cream sandwich for dessert.
L.A. collides with the Northeast at Blue Plate Oysterette, where oysters on the half shell and seafood towers find their place at this Santa Monica raw bar and restaurant. Choose from fresh plates of fish tacos and lobster mac and cheese, crab cakes, lobster rolls and fish and chips, and even non-seafood items like New York strip steak and grilled chicken. Oh, and don’t forget the key lime pie—it rivals Fishing with Dynamite’s stellar version.
Michael Cimarusti more than proves his seafood prowess with the continued success of Providence and Connie and Ted’s, but Cape Seafood & Provisions skews toward a more casual crowd. The Fairfax market and takeout deli offers sustainable, fresh catches of the day—halibut, cod, uni, mackerel and more—all packed in ice alongside tubs of both chunky New England and Manhattan chowder. Confer with the helpful staff behind the counter for tips on how to cook your filet of salmon or selection of shrimp. On the shelves, bags of grains, fish fry batter and plenty of cocktail sauce are the perfect supplements to take home. And if you’re planning on a seafood spread at the beach or the Hollywood Bowl, Cape has picnic lunches as well.
Downtown L.A. might not be a stone’s throw from the ocean, but there’s plenty of seafood to be found inside this upscale restaurant on Grand Avenue (another location, much closer to th water, sits on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica). Executive chef Jesse Riofrir is turning the catch of the day into dishes like wild Tahitioan ono with grilled hearts of palm and a soy brown butter sauce; Ecuadorian swordfish with marinated zucchini and capers; and shrimp and grits with a merguez sausage ragout. For the after work crowd, a raw bar and an outstanding bar program will satiate your appetite until dinner, which, let’s face it, you’ll probably want to stay and eat there anyway.
L&E Oyster Bar channels the spirit of the sort of old-school oyster shack you might expect on a remote oceanfront highway. Visitors will find an illuminated sign on the wall announcing the day’s haul of fresh oysters, which should always be how your meal starts. The best way to eat an oyster is, of course, raw, but if you like yours cooked, the kitchen here offers several options, the best of which is simply fried. Try the daily specials, like Tomahawk oysters with harissa. Beyond the namesake bivalves, the rest of the menu runs the gamut: salmon-belly ceviche, shrimp cocktail, crab spaghetti, grilled whole branzino, steamed mussels, clam chowder (very good), French fries (excellent), plus a few standard salads and a slew of sides, like grits, roasted beets, or lobster mac and cheese.
Koreatown’s seafood BBQ joint, Jae Bu Do, pays homage to the East China Sea by serving its edible bounty in waves at the table. Go with one of the bang-for-your-buck combo sets—even the basic A set is enough to feed a family—which begin with airy, scallion-flecked steamed egg, crisp-edged scallion pancakes, sizzling creamed corn and a heaping bowl of chili-soaked shrimp and snapper ceviche. From there, DIY grill options include sea scallops and mussels on the half shell, large shell-on shrimp, spicy chili–slathered octopus tentacles and more. Upgrade to a B or C set to score creatures like abalone, which writhe alive in their shells before yielding tender meat when cooked. Wind down the seafood feast with a comforting cauldron of chicken soup with vegetables and hand-cut noodles.
Campanile’s Mark Peel has been delighting Angelenos for decades, working in some of the city’s most hallowed kitchens (hey, Spago) and co-founding La Brea Bakery. But he’s pivoted to a concept much more ocean-forward with Prawn, his “coastal casual” gem tucked away in the One Colorado courtyard. Sure, you can find the requisite clam chowder and fish and chips, but Peel also serves internationally-inspired fish stews, grain bowls and sandwiches, like the flavor-packed Thai lobster roll and the spicy scallops with peanuts, chili paste and kabocha squash. It’s quick and casual, but don’t let that fool you—the food is top-notch.
David Lentz’s Hollywood seafood spot hosts lively crowds of date-nighters and brunch-goers piled into cushioned banquettes around stainless steel tables. Start with goodies on the half shell and in the shell from the raw bar—splurge for the eponymous seafood tower—then progress to lobster and clam rolls and composed plates of land and sea. Depending on the season, you’ll find kabocha squash soup paired with Nantucket bay scallops with sage brown butter, or whole, grilled striped bass dressed in carrot purée. Of course, another way to enjoy the fruits of the sea is the Maryland Mary, an oyster with an Old Bay-rimmed vodka chaser—a tasty (and eye-opening) cocktail.