Not fancy, but very fresh fish and chips
By JR Grant 08/04/2011
Seaward Fish & Chips
1125 S. Seaward Ave.
When I was a small child we used to dine at my grandparent’s house once a week. I use the word dine because it always involved china, silver, napery and good manners. I’m grateful today for the early training in the art of fine dining; I’m also grateful for her fondness (about twice a year) for relaxing and calling “that shrimp place”’ for fried shrimp. We would eat more casually (even with our fingers!), and, oh, those deep-fried shrimp were so, so delicious.
I’m sure that shrimp place back in Colorado is long gone, but for a deep-fried similar taste here there is Seaward Fish & Chips in Ventura. Similar rules are mandatory: I can’t imagine anyone eating the crunchy yet moist selections with anything except their fingers. And the shrimp, if that is what you order, are big, delicious, and bring back for me those fun, informal childhood food memories.
Located next to the Seaward Fish Market a block from the ocean in Pierpont Village, Seaward Fish and Chips is certainly casual. Many locals get take-out and it is rustic and beach shack like in design. There are only seven tables inside (plus a couple outside on the street and along a bench on the side of the restaurant), one’s food is served in a plastic basket on greaseproof paper, so there is nothing about the restaurant that indicates “fine dining.” But if it is good fish and chips you are seeking, then you are in the right place.
Besides the shrimp, my favorite item here is the halibut and chips. The just-from-the-sea taste of the halibut, with the fish’s flavor sealed in by the thick, crunchy/crispy batter is a tasty fish lover’s delight. Of course, for the more traditional, the cod is equally enjoyable and reminiscent of the street vendor fish and chips in London.
Many people come to Seaward Fish & Chips just for the clam chowder. Very thick and creamy without being floury, the flavor is enhanced by the addition in the recipe of clam juice, rather than water. The sweetness of the clam juice greatly adds to the overall effect. Some diners order the chowder in a scooped-out sourdough bread bowl — for me, that is too filling. The deep-fried fish are certainly substantial enough for even the heartiest of appetites.
The food is served with an assortment of sauces. Of course, there is the traditional bottled vinegar on the table, but the restaurant also makes its own tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. (It tastes like a bit of habañero is added to the cocktail sauce, so beware, it has a bit of a bite to it.) The tartar sauce could be a bit thicker for my taste, but mixed with the cocktail sauce it is a great accompaniment for the fish.
One day, my companion ordered the fish tacos, and they were good (again, the freshness of the fish makes all the difference here), although I’m partial to the deep-fried specialties. Having said that, it is important to note that this restaurant doesn’t apologize for the greasiness of the food. The hot oil is fresh, the batter is made daily, and the food is cooked in a deep frying vat. It is almost impossible to use the words “healthy” and “slimming” when discussing batter fried food. But batter-fried it is; perhaps as a steady diet it would not be advisable, but for the occasional treat it is an enjoyable repast.
A word about the chips — it is too bad the kitchen and prep area are so small that they have to use frozen potatoes for the chips. They’re good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The onion rings, on the other hand are exceptional. The crispy/chewy batter on the onions really enhances the flavor, and I often ask just for the onion rings rather than the fries.
I’m sure there are some people who would be put off by the funkiness of Seaward Fish & Chips. But the Pierpont community enjoys its own casual air, and this restaurant exemplifies the neighborhood and its surroundings. Don’t go expecting fine, elegant dining. But do go expecting a satisfying and hearty fish and chips meal. And if Emily is your waitress, you can expect a friendly smile and efficient service, even if there are ton of people trying to get served.