Ahi Tuna Tacos from Del Frisco’s Grille at Off the Hook (Marvin Vasquez/LOL-LA)
For a second year in a row, Off the Hook Seafood Festival took over a section of the famed Santa Monica Pier for an afternoon celebration of all the sea has to offer. Hundreds of seafood lovers came out for live music, ice-cold cocktails and bites from some of the city’s most well-known restaurants from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.
The first thing festival-goers encountered after passing through the ticket line was a pretty mermaid with a shimmering golden tail. Beyond her were two rows of food, drink and vendor booths ready to be explored.
First up was a cup of beer from Shock Top and some Boxed Water because even with the ocean breeze, it was still quite hot just after 3 p.m. If you weren’t lucky enough to score a seat under the few tented areas to munch in or simply take a break and soak in the sounds of Black Crystal Wolf Kids and Brightside, then you had to try and score some shade in the shadows of the roller coaster and rides at Pacific Park.
I decided to begin with some oysters from the Albright and BOA Steakhouse. BOA’s grilled oyster was a bit overpowered by the garnish that was sprinkled on top, but the raw oyster from the Albright was superb.
A cocktail from Owl’s Brew complimented Herringbone’s crudo of hiramasa with yuzu kosho and the ahi tuna in a crisp taco shell from Del Frisco’s Grille quite well. I needed a cold can of La Croix after tasting Spinfish Poké House’s shrimp – all I could really taste was their signature furikake sauce when biting into the shellfish.
I also wasn’t a fan of the dish from soon-to-open O + O Sicilian Kitchen & Bar. Their arancini looked great on the outside, perfectly golden and crisp, but the mixture of seafood and red sauce on the inside was unsuccessful. The lobster corn dog from the Lobster was much better, in terms of surrounding seafood in a fried casing.
Next I sampled the best plate of the day, two sushi rolls from Sushi Roku. They were simple (tuna poké with avocado and sushi rice in nori and baked crab and sushi rice in rice paper) but delicious.
Another successful dish was the Shrimp Mac & Cheese from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., who also handed out coupons for a free appetizer or kid’s meal on your next visit to their location on the pier. I also enjoyed the Risotto Maré from 1212 Santa Monica, which was creamy but not too heavy and full of scrumptious bites of salmon.
I ended the festival on the perfect note: Salt & Straw ice cream. The vegan Silencio Black Tea & Coconut Stracciatella married crunchy bits of coconut with the right hint of the fragrant tea. My favorite was the Roasted Strawberry & Toasted White Chocolate, though. It was just the right bite to cap off the day.