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RESTAURANTS / THE GASTRO ECONOMIST

These fish could only be fresher if you caught them yourself

December 20, 2007|Cynthia Dea

IF you've ever longed to eat seafood among the quaint fishing villages of New England, then the faux cottages at the San Pedro Ports O'Call Village will, ahem, float your boat. Though the waterfront has seen better days and the tourist shops may not inspire a holiday shopping spree, the place still attracts weekend crowds hungry for fresh seafood.

One of the main draws is the San Pedro Fish Market (1190 Nagoya Way, Berth 78; [310] 832-4253), both a working fish market and a restaurant selling the daily catch at market price. Around the corner from a display case loaded with shellfish and fillets, seasonal whole fish, crustaceans and exotic meats like shark and baby octopus lie on a bed of ice. From here on out, it's basically self-serve: Use a pair of tongs (though plenty of people use the market's plastic bags as makeshift gloves) to grab the fish and pay at the counter. Take your bag of goodies to the cooking station where the staff will prepare it just about any way you want it for free: grilled, steamed or deep-fried (which they do very, very well). Locals rave about the combination shrimp and fish fillet done "fajita" style: mixed with spices, potatoes, onions and bell peppers and haphazardly piled onto a plastic tray lined with paper (price depends on which fish and shrimp you choose).

If carrying your freshly gutted fish straight to the fryer feels a little too fresh, head over to the outdoor eating area and turn left for even more fish vendors. One is Pan Pacific Restaurant (1136 Nagoya Way, Berth 79; [310] 547-1940) and despite its name and red pagoda-style roof, the menu has a hearty list of Mexican-style mariscos. The tilapia plate ($11.95), with the entire fish fried crispy on the outside and tender-flaky on the inside, comes with rice, refried beans, tortillas and pico de gallo. The sope 7 mares ($12.95) -- a seafood tortilla soup with tentacles and crab legs sticking out of a brass pail -- is an appropriately hearty and spicy meal to counter the cold ocean breeze.

-- Cynthia.Dea@latimes.com

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