Lure Fish House
259 W. Ventura Blvd.
Camarillo
388-5556
Happy Hour menu
$1.50 oysters; $3-$9

Most happy hours are best suited to people who don’t work, or perhaps get off work around 4 p.m. and like to be sauced by 6. That is all fine and dandy, except for the majority of people who get off at 5 p.m. and simply can’t get discounted meals and drinks during the usual time frame. But a friend recently turned me on to a seasonal option — Football Sunday happy hour at Lure Fish House in Camarillo. “As long as there is football on Sunday, you can count on happy hour prices,” says a Lure staff member.

A couple of months ago, I was invited to join some companions at Lure for oysters and cocktails. I was skeptical at first that fresh seafood could be affordable and that there would be a decent happy hour menu, but thankfully, I was wrong. With a variety of oysters to choose from, at $1.50 each, and fish tacos, shellfish dishes, ahi ceviche and calamari — all between $3 and $9 — it was easy to settle in for a grand meal.

For my first visit, we ordered the ahi ceviche martini, charbroiled oysters and several different kinds of fresh oysters. We also ordered a round of drinks, jumbo draft beers at $2 off and a glass of wine for $3. (Lure also featured one of my favorite beers, Union Jack by Firestone, which is a rare find in this region.)

While waiting for the ceviche, we looked on curiously as a young, spirited employee shucked half a dozen oysters for us. Knowledgeable as can be about the oysters Lure serves, he recommended Skookums from Puget Sound. A popular oyster at Lure, they were rather large, sweet and dense, finishing with a splash of salty ocean water. Next we tried the Crystal Point oysters, which were also sweet, but smaller in size and soft going down. Not as flavorful as the Skookums, as there was little to note with any kind of aftertaste. The Blue Point oysters are very similar to the Crystal Point oysters. It takes a very finely tuned oyster palate to distinguish the difference.

Since one of my companions is an avid fisherman, often luring in massive yellow fin tuna that wind up as ahi appetizers, we were anxious to try the ahi tuna ceviche. Served in a martini glass, the ahi ceviche comes with large chunks of fresh ahi tuna, denaturized in lime juice (in essence, denaturization cooks fish, but without heat, and turns the fish firm and opaque), jicama, pico de gallo and diced avocado atop sliced green and purple cabbage. It is served with homemade tortilla chips, fresh out of the fryer. Upon review, if I could find one thing disappointing about this dish, I would certainly say so. The combination of the ahi, lime juice, jicama and avocado was perfectly satisfying and flavorful in its simplicity.

The baked oysters are warm and comforting, served with lemon, but for lovers of the sea, nothing but raw will do. Same goes for the fried oysters, which we tried our second time around. A burst of salty tender vittles of oyster in a light crust, they come deep-fried in beer batter (Union Jack) and served with lemon and tartar sauce upon request.

With our second visit, again during football Sunday, we ordered the calamari along with a variety of oysters, this time trying the Hama Hama oysters. As we analyzed the various oysters again, we found that the Hama Hama oysters were similar to the Skookums, if our taste buds weren’t deceiving us (no Skookums were available that time around). They were also dense and larger than the Blue and Crystal Points, with a very palpable flavor of the ocean. The calamari was very tasty, with thick tender rings and bits of tentacles fried in a light batter. It comes served with a sweet Thai chili sauce and a chipotle mayonnaise. James, the oyster shucker on site, gave us the wasabi aioli to try. It was a tossup between the aioli and mayonnaise, as my companions and I have a thing for the hot stuff.

After getting our fill of oysters on the half shell, among other select happy hour items, James informed us that Lure Fish House serves more oysters than any other restaurant from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, shucking between 200 and 600 oysters a day. We weren’t surprised, as we had eaten nearly 30 oysters among the three of us, in one sitting.

Not only does Lure have a great ambience with its open dining room and nautical theme, but the food has really put it a notch above many fish restaurants in the area. If Lure’s dinner prices were a deterrent, be estranged no longer! The happy hour menu truly has something for everyone, except perhaps the diehard beef fanatic or a strict vegetarian. But if oysters and fish just aren’t your thing, there are always cheap drinks and football games.

(Happy hour seats are available at the bar, the bar area and at the oyster bar facing the kitchen. Lure’s regular happy hour is between 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays.)

The VCReporter has recently begun reviewing happy hours throughout Ventura County. If you would like a happy hour to be reviewed for Three Cheers, e-mail editorial@vcreporter.com or editor@vcreporter.com.