Hold it, hold it. One at a time, please. In fact, don't go to the Fish Grill until I say so. I should know. There are only 12 tables and you'll have to trample 50 people to sit down. You can order to go, or, better yet, call first and pick up later. It's a fast-food restaurant with the emphasis on the fast food, spelled takeout.
The lucky few who get to sit have a nice view of the open mesquite grill smack in the center of the room, and of the owner, Robert Klein, 26, the brain behind this simple fast-food restaurant. He's the one wearing a yarmulke, one hand under his chin, another writing furiously, as he calls orders to the mesquite cook or the salad makers. Not terribly professional, but who cares?
In fact, the refreshing simplicity, the nondescript decor, the sawdust on the floor, the sweet kids at the counter and the exciting aroma of the fresh fish cooking on mesquite are beyond reproach.
It's the kind of restaurant that undoubtedly will inspire imitation. It has that kind of magic.
Simplicity Was Goal
Klein, whose bright idea for the Fish Grill came after having worked at a few fish places, strove for utter simplicity. Simple menu, simple cooking and simple accompaniments. Grilled or fried fish, baked potato, French fries and a chopped Mediterranean salad. That's it.
Klein chose fish for his restaurant because it is healthful and easy to cook and serve. It is also far more cost effective than meat. The place happens also to be kosher (certified), meaning that no swordfish or shellfish is served, according to Orthodox Judaic dietary law.
"You're automatically kosher if you don't carry swordfish or shellfish," Klein said.
Klein also decided that offering a variety of fish to people generally accustomed only to gefilte fish and herring would be a service to the Jewish Orthodox community around Fairfax Avenue, in which the restaurant is located.
Sunday is the big day at the Fish Grill, attracting neighborhood families by the droves, with Grandpa, Grandma and the kids' kids. So you may want to lay low until the weekdays to try getting in. Expect a wait.
If you are looking for fresh, fresh fish at low, low prices, this place is it. You can hardly do better at any of the best restaurants in town when it comes to the product. Trout is from Idaho, sea bass is from Chilean or Mexican waters, baby salmon comes from Washington state, and the menu changes daily, depending on availability of fish and the season. All sweet-tasting and delicious--a testimonial from a basically non-fish-eater: me.
The prices? $5.75 for splendid snapper, $6.75 for sea bass and $7.50 for salmon. There are two fried fish items--fish and chips with the fish from Boston (only $4.25) and fried trout (4.75), both cooked in a blend of almond and peanut oils.
A few words about the accompaniments, which are still experimental. I loved the baked potato, which is cooked on the grill so that the skin becomes crisp. It comes with globs of butter and sour cream in paper cups. The fries are really quite good and, better yet, abundant. If one plate has more than the other, as often happens on the "line," ask for equality. Klein will comply.
The Mediterranean salad, which is actually a chopped Middle Eastern salad with a simple vinaigrette, is quite fresh and refreshing. Klein thinks he'll keep the salad but add slaw as well.
You get paper plates and plastic forks, a stack of sliced fresh rye and pumpernickel breads from Famous Bakery on Fairfax, salt-free seltzer or cream soda (or others) for 75 cents and a pleasing din of friendly voices around you that reminds you of summer camp. People reach over to borrow your catsup and say "hi" with a smile. Who needs more?
The Fish Grill, 7226 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 937-7162. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturday. Cash or checks only. Reservations not necessary. Evening parking in adjacent gas station and street parking. No beer or wine. No dessert.