Monday, January 29, 2018

Poke at Pier 76 Fish Grill - Tustin

When I first tried Pier 76 in Long Beach at its original location, I couldn’t get enough of the moule frites. Here, finally, was a reasonably-priced, fast-casual seafood restaurant of the same bent as California Fish Grill that does it with the variety and execution of the higher priced joints where lobster bibs are employed. You could get the usual grilled fish plates and fish-n-chips, but there was also a raw bar that offered lobster, and oysters, and shrimp cocktail--the very same kind Walt’s Wharf in Seal Beach would serve. Walt's Wharf was, by the way, where owner and founder Chris Krajacic cut his teeth as executive chef before he started this place.

Eager to repeat the moule frites experience, it was the first thing I ordered at the newly opened Pier 76 branch in Tustin. Unfortunately, it didn't measure up. It just wasn’t as good as the first time I had it. The mussels were chewy and the broth almost non-existent. But where there was disappointment, there was also discovery. Or rather, re-discovery when I tasted its poke. It was a version of the much maligned dish that reminded me again how good poke can be when it’s not served in a DIY assembly line.

The fish was albacore in nice big chunks; the sauce spot on perfect. A blend of shoyu, sesame oil, and possibly sugar, it was balanced between the salty, the savory, and the sweet. Most importantly, the sauce was allowed to marinate the fish so that every cold bite exploded with flavor. There were cucumbers for crunch and onions for spiciness, but that was it--it was all that it needed. Served with either tostada rounds as an appetizer or in a rice bowl for a buck more, it is the poke benchmark that all should strive towards. Now, if only they can just do something about those moule frites.

Pier 76 Fish Grill
15080 Kensington Park Dr Ste 330
Tustin, CA 92782
(657) 231-6612

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