Something’s Fishy in Valencia… and That’s Not Bad.

The Patios at the Valencia Town Center has seen both some success, and some failures in its dining offerings. One failure was the beleagured Roman Holiday wine bar. Roman Holiday offered a great concept, in a great location, but it was fairly poorly executed. When it shuttered last year, a prime location in the patios came open, ripe for a new eatery.

Enter California Fish Grill. A small chain founded in 1998, they’re primarily a southern LA County / northern Orange County establishment. They packed up and moved up into a northern outpost and chose to set up shop right here in the good ole SCV.
In case you can’t tell by the name, these guys do fish. Lots of fish, and only fish. (OK, there’s a couple of chicken dishes offered…. but it could very well just be tuna disguised as chicken if you ask Jessica Simpson.) And it’s not just generic “fish” fish. They put names to it and let you see it right up front. Ahi, Catfish, Mahi Mahi and Swordfish are all offered a number of ways, including chargrilled or fried, straight up, in a wrap, or in a taco.
Today was opening day (after a public, but quietly advertised preview day yesterday) and so we thought we’d stop in. After weighing our options my wife went with the fish and chips plate featuring swai and a traditional English batter (there’s an option to get it with pollock in a breadcrumb too, just known as their fried fish plate), and I took the Cajun Ahi Tacos.

The fish and chips, for being swai and not the traditional cod that is so difficult to find on the Pacific Coast, was pretty tasty. Tender and flaky, it was cooked perfectly, the batter making a nice crispy shell that was perfect along with their house tartar sauce. My ahi tacos were advertised as being seared, as ahi should be. What I didn’t know was that instead of a nice big piece of ahi, they serve small pieces in a traditional sized soft tortilla. As a result, the ahi was a bit overcooked (some pieces cooked through, not the rare that I much prefer for ahi), and made it a bit tough. The sauce was good, and the cabbage was balanced nicely. We each got a side of fries (because, what else are chips?) and coleslaw which was prepared with a sesame dressing, giving it a nice unexpected flavor and texture.

The arrival of the California Fish Grill in Santa Clarita is certainly welcome. The restaurant is casual, quick service with an order at the counter, deliver to your table approach. They have taken a bit of an unusual space left behind by the wine bar and made a useful dining area, converting the patio into an enclosed space. Aside from soft drinks and standard beers and wine, they do carry a number of selections from Karl Strauss Brewery on tap, much more deserving of your attention than the Corona and Coors Light bottles that are stocked. Best of all, this place is not only inexpensive with tacos starting at about $3 individually, combos with two sides and a drink for $8 or so and grilled fish plates ranging from $9-14, but it’s also quick. We didn’t wait for more than a few minutes for our food to be delivered hot, fresh and delicious.