So much for soft openings.
Seasalt Fish Grill, a casual seafood bistro, has been in business for less than a week and is already getting slammed with lines more familiar to Bay Cities Deli, a local institution with years of saturation. Located on a heavily traveled section of Santa Monica Boulevard, it’s easy to see why. While curiosity may have killed the cat, it’s working wonders for Seasalt.
Once in the restaurant you may notice huge orders rolling out for delivery to what I imagine are a hoards of hungry high-tech engineers who are the backbone of Silicon Beach. Either people are crazy for seafood or Seasalt’s spin doctors deserve a solid pat on the back for drumming up such interest. Whatever the case may be, if you want to see what the fuss is all about, off hours are recommended. Otherwise, get in line with what seems like half of Downtown’s population for the lunch rush.
The long lines do provide the opportunity to scope out potential tables to overtake and give plenty of time to ponder what to order too. Of course char-grilled seafood is Seasalt’s centerpiece. Choose from grilled salmon, jumbo shrimp, ahi and more. Your selection, seasoned in garlic butter, spicy Cajun or soy ginger glaze, is served with rice and sautéed vegetables. Make no bones about it (except maybe in the tilapia), it is a large portion, yet a healthy option and reasonably priced from $10 to $14.
Aside from the standard fish plate, Seasalt seems to cover all the fan favorites as well. Chowders, salads, sandwiches, fish tacos and many more offerings are on the menu.
Going with a group provided the opportunity to try a variety of items, which had their individual merits and pitfalls.
The citrus quinoa kale salad with grilled salmon had a nice blend of berries, crumbly Cotija cheese and home-baked croutons that reminded me of cornbread, all covered in honey dijon dressing. The salad could have done without the undercooked Brussels sprouts and their overpowering flavor.
The batter-fried Ensenada-style tacos and Cajun-style salmon burrito were both fine in terms of preparation and overall taste. Aside from some table-side Tapatío, the Mexican inspired offerings lacked any kind of real spice, which usually makes or breaks a taco and burrito.
The California po’boy turned out to be the best of the bunch. It’s served on a soft roll and is minimally dressed with lettuce, tomato, avocado and a house spread. There’s a firm crunch, compliments of the sandwich’s Panko-breaded shrimp. And the house coleslaw was a refreshing alternative to the mayonnaise glop that restaurants usually serve.
Putting my Yelp-like nitpicking aside, Seasalt does offer a wide selection of healthy grilled fish that should make it a very popular, quick and casual lunch spot in Downtown. But for such a small place it seems that their menu is a little too big. Soups, salads, tacos, burritos, fish and chips, salmon burgers, Southwest shrimp egg rolls, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs) — just to name a few. There may be something for everyone, but such a large menu must put a strain on an already overwhelmed staff.
Simplifying the menu and putting the focus on their grilled fish plates, salads and perhaps a sandwich or two seems sensible, but that’s just me channeling my inner Gordon Ramsay.
The lines are indeed long and the service is a bit sluggish, but you have to give them at least a couple of weeks to get their sea legs.
Seasalt has much to offer, maybe a bit too much, but for a healthy and quality fish dinner one would be hard pressed to find a better deal. And if anyone has a glowing testimonial over their hot dog, let me know and I’ll eat my words.
If you go
Seasalt Fish Grill
508 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.