GENERAL COMMENT: I usually won’t drive east of the 405 freeway or north of Malibu Colony for lunch, but sometimes I find a place worth the trip. Usually it’s for a particular dish, and so it is with the Fisherman’s House in Oxnard. It takes an hour to get there, but the spot shrimp are worth the drive, and I don’t know anywhere else where I can find these live delicacies swimming in a tank waiting for me.
WHERE: The Fisherman’s House is located in a food court in the Harbor Landing Shopping Center in the Oxnard Marina. It’s at the end of Channel Islands Boulevard, which is off Highway 1. The telephone number is (805) 984-3443.
WHEN: Seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. or later on Friday and Sat nights.
BEST DISHES: There is plenty of good Korean food here, and a lot of local Korean people are always found eating there, usually in the patio behind the food court. Often I see them eating special seafood dishes not on the menu. Whole fish are swimming in the tanks, and can be ordered in a number of different preparations. But for me, the star is the spot shrimp. These active pink shrimp have a black spot, which is why they are called spot shrimp. The best way to order them is steamed, with the heads taken off and fried. That makes for two distinctive dishes: the fried heads are crispy, with a soft shrimp filling, so delicious. The bodies, once you get the shell off, taste very much like lobster.
BEST FEATURE: The fresh, live seafood is the star here, but Harbor Landing, on a nice day is a very beautiful spot. It’s located on the main channel of the Oxnard Marina, next to the Channel Islands Yacht Club, and a block from the beach. A lot of people take their lunch out of the food court and sit outside on the waterfront.
WORST FEATURE: It’s an hour drive each way from Santa Monica. And the food court is not very “up-scale,” but that’s part of the charm of the place: it’s really a family run “hole in the wall” but with a nice patio and an outside seating area on the water, with boats going by.
WHAT TO DRINK: I usually have a beer. The iced tea is unusual, but it goes well with spicy foods. And a lot of Korean dishes are very spicy.
PRICES: A pound of the spot shrimp, which is about six large shrimp, is $25, which is enough for two people. This is far and away the most expensive item on the menu, but a whole fish or steamed live crab is also expensive for a food court item. You can eat well off the menu for $10.
BOTTOM LINE: You should try it. And while there, go to the new Mullin antique car museum nearby and see the most beautiful collection of old French cars in the world.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org