It's hard to find a good yet inexpensive meal in La Jolla these days outside of a food court mall, especially in the La Jolla Village area. It's also hard to find a good yet inexpensive seafood meal these days in any area. Yet El Pescador seems to fit that bill, half fish market/half quick meal restaurant you get fresh cooked seafood at a reasonable price.
The store is located on Pearl street in a small strip mall with an even smaller parking lot. And then you walk into the restaurant which has an even smaller seating area. Be warned, it will get busy and it will be hard to find a seat.
When you walk inside you see rows of fish and seafood in the cooler display case.
Probably not the cheapest fish prices you can get, but significantly better than Whole Foods. Of course, some of the fish come from highly suspicious waters.
Plastered against the wall is a chalk board with the daily specials.
They have a variety of seasoned fishes on special that you can order to eat as well as take home. For our meal today we settled on the non-seasoned variety and let the oil, texture, and natural flavors of the fish guide our taste buds. Once you order the fish, they grab it and toss it onto a grill. They have a large variety of fish, Halibut, Sword Fish, Sea Bass, Yellow Tail, Salmon, and all kinds of other varieties. After placing our order for Yellow Tail and Halibut we settle down in the small restaurant (5 tables only, so watch out! someone jacked our seat!)
We first started off with an order of ceviche.
Sadly I wish we didn't. As you can see in the picture there are large chunks of tomatoes, bits of carrots and celery that really detract from the ceviche experience. I'm a big supporter of onions, some lime, maybe some veggies/fruit that match with it (mango anyone?) but definitely not giant chunks of tomatoes and carrots. The crispness of the carrot was just all too weird considering how soft the fish ends up being in ceviche. On top of that it seems as though they used barrels upon barrels of lime to make the dish. I was puckering up each time I took a bite.
Luckily to follow up on the ceviche we each had a bowl of clam chowder.
I warn you, I like my clam chowder different from most people, and I really liked this one. I'm not a fan of the Soupplantation style thick, hearty, and chunky clam chowder with large pieces of potato in bowl of soup so creamy you can watch it slowly crawl off your spoon. I love the Monterey style chowder where its very soupy with a slight creme base to hold some structure. Just little bits of potatoes so you just concentrate on the flavor of the soup and the clam. The only thing I didn't LOVE about the soup was the large amount of pepper that they seemed to cook into it.
And finally to the main dish. So the deal here is that you can get your fish/shrimp/crab/scallops in a variety of ways: salad, sandwich, plate meal.
Matt with the House Yellow Tail plate ($12)
It comes with rice, a very generous piece of freshly grilled fish and a side of salad. I felt the yellowtail was a TAD overcooked, just an itsybitsy amount overcooked. It was meaty and flavorful and the thick strong texture you normally find in Yellowtail.
I hope the Alaskan Halibut sandwich with Avocados ($8.50).
A generous piece of Halibut topped with mix greens, slices of avocado, tomatoes and green onion stuffed in sourdough bread.
Very tender and flaky halibut. The natural oil and fattiness from the fish work well with the grill. I tend to find that most grilled fish dry out when you grill them because they don't have enough fat, but this and seabass hold up really well. As I was biting into this I thought "this is probably the best fish sandwich I've ever had". But as I almost finished the sandwich I started to get a weird flavor in my mouth, a bitterness that came from the overabundance of green onions. I was not a fan of the green onions in the sandwich. If you took them out, you'd have an absolutely amazing sandwich on your hands.
So whenever you get the craving for a fresh grilled fish sandwich just drive into the heart of La Jolla.
627 Pearl Street
La Jolla, CA