Reeling It In: Pasadena’s Guide to Seafood

Where to find the best new sustainable seafood dishes—from fish stews to paella and crudo.
Saso's Prawns

At Saso in Old Pasadena, chef Dom Crisp makes it a point to work with farmers and fishers who focus on sustainability. While the seafood paella is reserved for special events, fish is also the star of the Pasta Saso, with handmade duck-egg-yolk pasta, shellfish, fin fish, and ginger—or try the Garlic Ganbak prawns cooked in a Josper charcoal oven.

“We have a collective of sustainable and local options,” notes Crisp. This includes purple savory clams from Hama Hama Oyster Company in Lilliwaup, Wash., local mussels from Hope Ranch, and black mussels from Santa Barbara Mariculture. “We are predominantly using a sushi-grade Ora King salmon from New Zealand or Baja Aquaculture striped bass. Both companies practice unmatched fish-ranching practices with a low to zero impact for carbon or waste emission along with respect for the environment and ecosystem they farm in.”

The prawns and white Mexican shrimp are from TransparentSea Farm. “They are a small, local operation and grant us a small allocation that allows them to continue to grow their shrimp at sustainable rates using very straightforward and honest practices,” adds Crisp.

While chef Suzanne Goin was originally inspired by the Old World architecture of the building for her latest concept, Caldo Verde at DTLA Proper Hotel, she has had many encounters with Portuguese people and cuisine over the years and fell in love with their humble spirit and simple yet vibrant food, which emphasizes on local ingredients, including seafood.

As for the signature and namesake dish of Portuguese fish stew, “Traditionally the dish is a very humble peasant soup made of potato, sausage, and kale,” says Goin. “I decided to make my own Southern California version highlighting some of our beautiful seafood.” Goin looked no further than her friend “Sea Stephanie,” who connects local fishers and divers in Santa Barbara with chefs. “I asked her what was abundant and underused—she brought me these local rock crabs that I decided to use as the base for my Caldo Verde, along with Alex Weiser’s potatoes, mussels, Coleman Farms’ kale, and grilled linguiça.”

Goin has also worked with the same DTLA fish purveyor for over 25 years, Julee Harman from Ocean Jewels Seafood. “I always think it’s about finding like-minded people to work with to achieve common goals,” says Goin. “Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is a great tool for home cooks as well as professionals to help make the right seafood choices.”

One of Australian-born chef Monty Koludrovic’s favorite menus is the extensive crudo options at Grandmaster Recorders in Hollywood. Most of the seafood comes from fishmonger Liwei Liao, with prawns from TransparentSea. The daily oysters and crudo menu are also resplendent with full-service Petrossian caviar and a savory cannoli conceived by pastry chef Jaci. “We have always had cannoli on the menu so we wanted to get people excited who maybe have not had a lot of experience with caviar to have that little snack,” says Koludrovic.

Another craveable crudo dish can be found at Fanny’s by chef Raphael Francois, who works with a fishmonger in Hawaii to get fresh hamachi and yellowfin tuna, used in a reduction of beet juice and sultanas, then marinated with jicama, olive oil, and brown butter, and served in a round formation where the sauce forms a pool for dipping. Craveable indeed.

San Marino Seafood on Huntington Drive won’t carry anything unsustainable like bluefin tuna, which is on the endangered list. Its Chilean seabass is sawtooth from Argentina, which is not on the list. Idaho trout and farmed salmon can be picked up from the front case, and restaurant menu staples include clam chowder, fish and chips, and tuna salad. You can also buy raw directly from the case or dine in at the Pasadena Fish Market on Orange Grove, which specializes in catfish.