Five months after one of my favorite gourmet food trucks left the road; SlapFish is back and morphed into a “modern seafood shack.” It had been nearly 5 months since I had my last lobsticle and major crunchy on the SlapFish truck. The long wait was well worth it to see that the SlapFish truck emerged from it’s cocoon into a fully functioning quick service restaurant in the heart of Huntington Beach. My reference to quick service simply signifies the way in which you order at the counter. Their food is 100% pure gourmet. Chef Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude started the SlapFish truck together in the summer of last year, 2011 with the goal of offering sustainable seafood prepared gourmet style, sans white tablecloth. Their experiment in the Food Truck format turned out to be a wild success and then they took their dream to the next level by selling off the truck and opening the SlapFish brick and mortar operation. Jethro and Andrew both come from very different backgrounds, but they were brought together by a single vision; sustainable seafood. Chef Andrew Gruel has a long history in the restaurant business, working in various roles including Executive Chef and General Manager. In addition to those roles, Andrew has been very active as an advocate of the sustainable seafood movement through his involvement at the Aquarium of the Pacific and other agencies. Jethro Naude has both a background working in the financial sector and owns a fresh and frozen seafood distribution company as well. Jethro’s seafood distribution company focuses on finding fish that can be clearly traced back to sustainable fisheries. Being the geniuses that they are, their operations at SlapFish are vertically integrated with the seafood distribution to ensure that SlapFish provides only fresh and sustainable seafood. Just a little foreshadow, the fish was remarkably fresh and exploded with flavor in my mouth. I can personally attest to this, as I ate everything that was put in front of my face, like a red snapper. Even though my stomach was aching from being overstuffed, I managed to try at least 3 of every dish, purely for investigative purposes Again my readers, I sacrifice my waistline for you!
Location and Ambiance
The restaurant is nestled in a major shopping center on Beach Blvd, just before Adams. If you have ever been to the Historical Newland House in Huntington Beach, it shares the same parking lot. From the outside, you can see their classic “SlapFish” logo on the signage and colorful posters with the names of their dishes, Andy Warhol style. When you walk into SlapFish, the interior is a clean design reminiscent of any seafood shack found along the East Coast. The interior had hanging lights, exposed cement floors and understated walls, except for black and white pictures of fishing scenes and taxidermy fishies mounted on the wall. The tables and countertops are made from reclaimed wood from a house built in 1908, sanded and shellacked to create a rustic, yet clean look. …adding to the seafood shack motif. The menu shifts often due to seafood being seasonal, so you will see that the menu is written on a chalkboard above the ordering station. This restaurant’s ambiance can be characterized as clean, rustic and fun! I once visited a seafood shack on the Peugeot Sound that looked remarkably similar to the interior of SlapFish.
Lobster Roll- This dish is a variation of the classic New England Lobster roll. It uses a classic East Coast style bread roll that is fluffy on the inside and slightly crusted on the exterior. This bread roll is amped up with a butter baste and grilled and toasted to form a crispy texture on the tongue. The contents of this roll are simple but luxurious; it only contains real lobster meat from the shell, a light sweet dressing and celery salt. The flavor is sweet and has a pleasant nose aroma as you bite into the roll. The natural sweet and savory flavors of the lobster meat are rightfully dominant in this dish with the dressing, roll and seasoning playing a supporting role (no pun intended). An amazing dish! This was Daniele’s favorite dish of the night due to the awesome flavors.
Sea Bream – (I didnt get a picture Fail!) A grilled piece of fish from the South Atlantic Ocean and is a relative of the Red Snapper.This lean dish is slightly flakey, mellow and has a sweet to savory flavor. The flavor is somewhere between a Red Snapper and a Sea Bass. It was served with a delicious slightly tangy and slightly sweet slaw. This fish was simply seasoned and grilled, so that the natural flavors of this fish would stand out. I could eat this all night, except that the other dishes would get jealous.
Spicy Lobster and Shrimp Grinder – A deliciously savory, sweet and spicy dish. This dish is comprised of minced rock lobster, organic shrimp, green apple and lemon juice. The components are mixed together in a creamy habanero sauce to former a grinder style meat composite and they are served over lettuce. This dish had several flavor profiles competing for attention. The sweet/savory proteins of the chopped lobster and shrimp provided a nice base flavor and the central focus point for the taste buds. The creamy habanero sauce provided a subtle crescendo of upfront habanero chili sizzle, which was offset by the mellowing effects of the sweet dairy protein. In the dish, the sauce provided a pleasant spice flavor of the habanero, but with low-level heat. The green apple added a subtle tartness that cut through the protein, cream and habanero. The lemon’s acidity cut through the protein savory / sweetness which accentuated the apple’s tartness and made the habanero flavor pop. The flavors altogether were incredibly balanced on the palate and were pleasant to consume. I had about three of theseJ. My co-editor, Daniele, suffers from chili intolerance, so this dish was a tad too spicy for her taste. If you have young children you may skip this dish or request to customize it to be made non-spicy. In my opinion, I loved the complex flavors of this dish and would order it often.
Wild Pacific Albacore Tuna “Pounder Melt” – Although I just had a sample of this sandwich, the full sandwich weighs a full pound. This isn’t your Mama’s Tuna Sandwich; it has a little naughtiness between its slices of bread.The sandwich rests on thick slices of toasted white bread and is stuffed with a fluffy mixture of albacore and melted provolonecheese. This sandwich takes an adulttwist, as wilted spinach, cool cucumbers and warm tomatoes enter the party. These veggies add complexity to the flavor by adding sweet, bitter and acidity. The creamy chipotle sauce is then drizzled on the inside and outside of the sandwich providing smoky flavors to the nose and a gentle sizzle on the taste buds. The result of these flavors and texture combinations created a big smile on my face as I explained; “Now that’s a Tuna Melt!” Did I mention that it weighs a full pound? That’s a lot of albacore! Come hungry for this sandwich and be sure to cage your angel before taking a bite.
Shrimp Pops- An interesting concept. Do you like pizza bites from your local pizzeria? Do you like sweet succulent shrimp? Then this dish is for you! This is a whimsical dish that takes sweet shrimp that is wrapped with pizza dough. This nugget of goodness is then baked to a dark golden brown. The result is a pizza bite that is slightly crisp on the outside, with hot gooey pizza dough on the inside and a sweet shrimp surprise when you bite down. This dish comes with a side of creamy sweet chili and pepperoni infused sauce that perfectly complements the yeasty pizza dough and sweet proteins of the dish. This dish is appropriate for anyone from kids to old people with dentures. Although, if you are very adverse to a little spiciness, I suggest you request their buttermilk tartar sauce.
Lobsticle- The most famous cross-over dish from the SlapFish Truck. This dish is basic, primal and a F$%K you to the white table cloth restaurants who are charging $25+ for a similar offering. This dish is a half South Atlantic lobster tail that is skewered and simply grilled over open flame and then brushed with melted butter. This dish speaks for itself, sweet lobster meat and melted butter! When this dish is sitting in front of you at the table, it is like a teenage boy making out with the hot girl in the class, you can’t keep your hands off it.
Michael Harris’ Gambas a la Plancha- This is the recipe contest winner, Michael Harris’ dish. The rough translation of this dish is “Pan Grilled Shrimp.” This dish was simple, yet had amazing flavors. It is made with organic shell-on shrimp that is seared in a cast iron skillet with garlic and butter and some secret seasonings. It is served with a crusty baguette. I had a similar dish to this at a Tapas bar in Barcelona, although this one was actually better.
Freshly Shucked Oysters on the Half Shell –SlapFish has partnered with a local off-shore oyster farm in Carlsbad called, Carlsbad Aqua Farm. This operation uses green practices, such that the oyster farm doesn’t pollute the ocean and helps keep the oysters delicious. The farm actually uses heavy duty filtering systems to ensure the water leaving the farm is cleaner than the ocean provided. The Oyster Farm provided three types of Southern Pacific deep cup oysters.
- Carlsbad Luna Oysters – This oyster is described as having a having a salty and semi-metallic finish and a crisp texture.
- Carlsbad Blonde Oyster – A more mature oyster that has an upfront brininess and a slight “brassy” finish.
- Carlsbad Del Sol Oysters –Delicately sweet oysters with a subtle hint of astringency.
All oysters were shucked on the spot by one of Slap Fish’s talented chefs and served with horse radish and red chili sauce. I am proud to say that I had about 8 of these delicious oysters, with my favorite being the Carlsbad Blonde.
Tower of Wasabi Tuna- One of my favorite dishes. This is a simple and well balanced dish that teases the palate and tickles the tongue. This dish is a wasabi slider on a fluffy brioche bun, seared tuna, marinated cabbage, cucumber, tomato and a wasabi infused dressing. The slider had a nice play of textures from the fluffy and chewy bun, delicate seared tuna and crunchy vegetables. The flavors were cool and refreshing on the palate, yet had a pleasant zing from the wasabi. I would order this dish on a hot summer day and wash it down with a cool beer.
Crispy Fish Bites – The kiddie version of their adult fish and chips. Nice thick and juicy chunks of white fish are rolled in panko and deep-fried to a dark golden brown and served alongside hand-cut French fries. Nothing is ever frozen or pre-made here. The fish and chips are playfully presented in a brown paper lunch bag. When I bit into the fish bite, it literally exploded with sweet and lush juices. I will say that this was one of the juiciest fish and chips I have tried. The flesh of the fish was very bright and light and had a nice clean flavor…very fresh!
Farmer’s Market Salad– Chef Andrew Gruel actually went to the SOCO Farmer’s market to pick up farm fresh produce to make this creative salad. I am still not sure as to what was in this crisp and tangy salad, but I can report that I tasted cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and pickled beets? Whatever the genius mind of Chef Gruel conjured up, it was extremely delicious and had a wonderful sweet, tangy, bitter flavor playing on the palate. This salad would be a perfect pairing with any fried or heavy dish on their menu, or just by itself.
Creamy Chowder- A shack-made New England style clam chowder that is chocked full of red potatoes double smoked bacon, and delicious clams! This was a wonderful interpretation of the classic dish that is both hearty in texture and elegant in taste. If there are any New England transplants living in Orange County please taste their chowder and let me know how it compares…I’m curious. My west coast taste buds only recognized that it was tasty.
Chowder Poutine – A variation of the French-Canadian dish. Simply, they pour a ladleful of their creamy chowder over their hand-cut fries. I am a huge fan of Poutine and SlapFish’s chowder, so this dish was a natural fit. I added a floater of bacon, chives and squeezed lemon juice to the poutine. Decadence!
We had some really awesome baked goods provided by Simply Sweet Cakery. I tried their Chocolate Chip Cooking with Cream and their carrot cake. These deserts were made by hand, with love and butter! Chef Gruel said that they plan to feature Simply Sweet Cakery products as part of the desert offerings. I plan on eating their carrot cake after a lobsticle.
What would BraveHeart do?
Every restaurant should be known for doing something well in order to attract customers and succeed. I bet you can name a couple of restaurants that you would consider the masters of their niche and consider them as the go to place to satisfy your foodie cravings. For example, if you are looking for a greasy burger and fries, I would go straight to In-N-Out Burger. If I was looking for a juicy steak, perhaps I would choose Morton’s. If you ask me what is the first restaurant that comes to your mind when I say fresh fish? I would say SlapFish! What restaurant comes to your mind when I say sustainable? I say SlapFish. Where do you find fresh and sustainable seafood creatively prepared in delicious dishes? SlapFish!
I think Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude have created an incredible seafood restaurant that provides some amazing dishes that you can feel good about eating. I was a huge fan of their truck and even more excited about this new brick and mortar restaurant. This team has stayed true to their original dream for the restaurant and it shows in the creativity, quality and positive vibe of their staff. As a general rule I only blog about restaurants that I am actually excited about, and SlapFish ranks as one of my favorite new restaurants. I am giving SlapFish 4.5 out of 5 stars for, flavor, presentation, sustainable practices and originality. To my readers, I highly recommend that you try this place out at least once. When you go, please leave me a comment on this blog about your experience at SlapFish. I am curious about your reaction to the food, ambiance and service. (See Pictures Below)
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