Malibu Seafood isn’t just one of the best places to eat in Malibu; it is in the upper echelon of fish mongers and casual seafood restaurants on the entire West Coast. The little market offers grilled, steamed, and fried seafood of all kinds and prepares them with expertise. It lacks a big beer cooler (though BYO is allowed) and doesn’t boast the gritty atmosphere that we love at Neptune’s Net; but the quality of fresh seafood is sky high. Malibu Seafood actually is run by a fisherman. The fish is pristine and handled with love and sensitivity.
You can’t go wrong here, but there are some smarter choices to make as you navigate the waters of a broad, appealing menu.
The bad news first: We were disappointed by the fish taco. Though it was large and came with a nice dressing of crunchy cabbage, chipotle aioli, and sweet red bell pepper, we thought the fish had been mishandled. It was dry and flavorless. This proved to be strikingly out of step with the capabilities the kitchen, which were demonstrated through the rest of the meal.
The best deal on the grilled menu is Pacific snapper. It comes as a hearty portion of two fillets, grilled with extreme simplicity. There is not even any detectable flavor of oil or salt. The bare approach works because the quality of the fish is so high, although we would have preferred a basic level of seasoning. Even top quality sushi is served with a brush of soy. Without salt on the grill, the diner is left to rummage the condiment table.
Malibu Seafood’s fried fish is peerless. The fried Alaskan cod in fish and chips is as good as any we’ve had on either side of the Atlantic. Fries are well-seasoned steak-type timbers like you might find in a British chip shop. Fried cod is the best way to experience fin fish at Malibu Seafood.
For shellfish, our favorite sections are the steamed and cocktail portions, for which gentle steaming highlights the excellent products. Steamed shrimp are perfectly cooked to a bouncy texture, offering subtle scents of the poaching liquid. Part of what makes this section of the menu so attractive is the cocktail sauce. It is peppery and bright, hardly recognizable as ketchup-based. Its quality presents a dilemma, as the seafood is so good that you don’t want to overdress it, even with such great sauce.
As good as the fish is at Malibu Seafood, the views might be even better. We sat at the top perch of a terraced deck gazing out into the Pacific. We watched gulls and pelicans get their lunch fresh from the Pacific, but we felt no envy.