The last time I was at this place was about five years ago when it was still House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer. Although the space looks pretty similar to what I remember, the restaurant is now Big Fish Tavern, with new ownership, and a menu overhaul.
We are in Laguna Beach on this rainy overcast day, lamenting over what would otherwise be a clear ocean view. However, we are hungry and the seafood-heavy menu has a bunch of items shouting our name.
Of course, we must have Hawaiian Ahi Poke ($16) a tower of ahi tuna cubes with onions, seaweed, avocado, and inamona (ground kukui nut and salt). A spicy soy sauce is drizzled onto the tower and surrounded by crispy wonton skins before it is brought to the table. When we mixed up the concoction, we are surprised by how big the portion is. The fish is super fresh, and the ingredients all come together to produce one of the simplest, yet super delicious poke dishes I’ve eaten in a long time.
We are having trouble deciding on another appetizer, so we ask our server Tyler (who is also the host and barkeep) for his suggestion. His recommendation of Thai Glazed Calamari ($13) is a solid pick. I ask for “light on the sweet spicy sauce” which worked out perfectly. The dish is accompanied by peanuts, julienned carrots, bean sprouts, cilantro, and scallions. I toss the whole thing together and it turns out to be an aromatic salad of sorts. I love all the different textures in this dish, but make sure you eat it at the restaurant. I took some of the leftovers home and it doesn’t travel well.
On weekdays (Monday to Friday) the restaurant offers select lunch specials for $7. It is an awesome deal including Breaded Fish & Chips ($7/ $15 a la carte) which comes with two generous pieces of breaded fish served with shoestring fries, an addicting kale slaw and tartar sauce. The breading is not what I expected, but it’s decent.
Or, choose the Fish Tacos ($7/$11 a la carte) which are two to an order. Choose either blackened or grilled tilapia – we choose one of each – I personally prefer the blackened over the grilled. The tacos are then topped with shredded Napa cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro sauce, with a side of black beans, and Spanish rice.
Because it was a rainy day, I was hankering for something soupy and Pho Noodles ($11) jumped out at me. Although it is not your bowl of pho from Westminster, it is a valiant effort considering it is a vegetarian offering with rice noodles, tofu, onions, sprouts jalapeno, cilantro, all in a bowl of vegetable broth. I added shrimp ($3) and it was a good amount for a mere $3. I wish there was some fish sauce I could have drizzled to this.
If you’re looking for a hearty entrée, Spicy Seafood Jambalaya ($21) is a good choice. There is an ample amount of fresh catch seafood including fish, mussels, and shrimp. The chunks of spicy sausage add a good contrasting flavor to the rice which has been simmered in a tomato herb broth. The best part? The leftovers the following day!
I’m happy to report that the food here has improved in leaps and bounds from my visit years ago. Service is genuine and friendly, and the food is good. If you haven’t been in a while, it is time for a re-visit.
This week, I have two $25 gift cards to Big Fish Tavern for you to win. Please leave me a comment with your full name and why you should win one of these gift cards. Entries close on Sunday, March 5th, 2017.
Big Fish Tavern
540 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651