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Santa Monica Seafood

While I'm not too happy about the quality of fish overall they've had since they re-opened they did start giving out ice packs again, if you ask for them at the front register. Just thought i'd let you all know.

Somehow their seabass, tuna, shrimp, and crabs always looks fresh but allot of their fish is poor to horribly poor quality.........

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  1. I got some farmed salmon there the other day and while it was not cheap the quality was there. I usually cook fish the same day I buy it but I ended up waiting a day and it was great, not a hint of fishy odor. I prefer Fish King but I can't call Santa Monica seafood anything but a high quality fish market.

    22 Replies
    1. re: blackbookali

      Some of their salmon isn't bad but most of their fish is not very fresh i'm really disappointed in the downward spiral their fish has taken since the move..

      1. re: Ben7643

        It's just so weird to me... because their fish is processed in a warehouse in South LA -- Dominguez Hills, I think -- and not on-site. Their Costa Mesa location has the same screamingly high standards I've come to expect (honestly, you'd think there'd be more places to buy great fish in Orange County, population 3 million, but you'd be wrong -- there are maybe 3 or 4).

        If I have a chance I'll check it out next weekend... but in the meantime, remember the Golden Rule of Fish Buying -- only trust your own eyes and nose, and if they won't let you smell the fish they're trying to hide something!!

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          I needed monkfish to try a recipe I saw on Lidia's Italy and Santa Monica Seafood was the only place in South OC I could find it. Luckily my son's business is two blocks away from there so I had an excuse to go there (I live in San Clemente). Is there anywhere else in the Southern reaches of OC that would be good for monkfish or some of the great shellfish at SMS?? I'm thinking maybe 99 Ranch in Irvine??

          1. re: Midlife

            You can go to 99 Ranch but just... caveat emptor, OK?

            Also, Dry Dock Fish sells at the weekly Saturday morning UCI market. They sometimes have monkfish.

            1. re: Midlife

              A friend who is a sushi chef buys her fish from either Marukai Asian market on Harbor in Costa Mesa (near Baker, across from Target) or Bristol Farms in Newport Beach. She will not buy fish from SMS. I have sworn it off as well. The one on 17th in CM smells horrible, and the guys behind the counter know nothing. Also, the fishmonger who sells at the Costa Mesa farmers' market on Thursday mornings (might be Dry Dock, can't remember) has very fresh and reasonably priced fish. Good luck!

              1. re: buffaloha

                I second the recommendation for Marukai. It's a membership store, but only like $10/year and the quality of the fish is outstanding. Also, you might want to try some of the grocery stores in Little Saigon. Very fresh to live in tanks. The mongers will whack it to death for you :-)

                1. re: janetms383

                  Nice rec, though not very useful for those of us on the West side!

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    There are Marukais all over So Cal, but you'll have to take a field trip if you want to visit Little Saigon....

                    1. re: janetms383

                      Happen to know where they might be around the westside or shall I just google it?

                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        closest marukai is the one in little tokyo. it's in weller court.

                        1. re: wilafur

                          Thanks, maybe I'll hit it next time I have business downtown, which happens to be this Thursday ;)

                    2. re: Phurstluv

                      The Marukai on Artesia in Gardena is about 20-25 minutes on an average weekend drive from the 90 and the 405 as a reference point. It takes me about the same amount of time to get to where Santa Monica Seafood is from the same reference point.

                    3. re: janetms383

                      If only some savvy entrepreneur would bring live fish/proper seafood store to the west side... I'm afraid people here, self-proclaimed foodies included, wouldn't know better though.

                        1. re: epop

                          another issue is whether or not they'd be willing to pay for both
                          1) quality, fresh, fish
                          2) high rents associated with the area.

                          1. re: epop

                            I disagree. It's pretty easy to tell good fish from bad - smell and taste. And anyone can do it. If there was a serious vendor on this side of town, you'd see all the restauranteurs and chefs showing up there in the morning. That gives you credibility, and that worth of mouth would spread. (Say, if Josiah Citrin buys his fish here - I'd go there. Trust me, Mr. Citrin's pic would never be on that Wall of Shame at Santa Monica Seafood. And his restaurant is a 60 second walk from SMF.)

                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                              Most chefs buy their fish from the same places the fishmongers too—IMF and the other wholesalers downtown.

                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                can't think of any successful chef that gets their fish from a retail store.. . . .

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  S.M. Seafood has a huge wholesale operation. I see them delivering to Katsuya, Brentwood several days each week.

                    1. re: Cebca

                      Fish King (not King Fish) is on Glendale Blvd., just north of the 134 freeway.

                      Fish King Seafood & Poultry Co
                      722 N Glendale Ave, Glendale, CA 91206

                    2. I've been burnt a couple of times with the fish I bought there. I should have known when I saw the fish sitting on plastic trays rather than on the ice it should be sitting on.
                      I ended up just throwing it away rather than make the trip back to the store.
                      Knowing what I know about the lack of freshness in their product I wouldn't be going to the new cafe.

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: latindancer

                        Not only is it just sitting in plastic trays, many of their cuts are sitting in pools of fishy water in the trays. Not on ice, not dry, but on water. I have found good fish there since they moved, all my recent experiences haven't been bad. However i've walked in and walked out empty handed 2 times out of the 4 times i've been, mainly due to not seeing anything I considered good quality that I was interested in.

                        1. re: Ben7643

                          Why not let them know that you're unhappy with the change? They have comment cards -- I just wrote one to ask them to go back to putting the country of origin and method of harvest on the price labels. Maybe they would switch back to metal trays if you asked.

                          FWIW, in 20-odd years I've never had a quality issue from them.

                          I tried their Kumamoto oysters last week, and was really floored by the taste. Fabulous.

                          1. re: Bjartmarr

                            it's not just the lack of metal trays that is the problem with how I view the place.

                            1. re: Bjartmarr

                              Why should the customer instruct the fish monger how to sell fish?
                              That's like telling the Italian lady how to cook her pasta.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                I don't think a comment telling them their fish quality has gone downhill since their move would do much.

                            2. re: Ben7643

                              I guess it's a decent seafood shop but there are better and I'm not willing to spend the time and energy hoping the next time I walk in their fish is going to be up to the standards I expect.
                              It's not only the fish I find just so- so but the prepared dishes are no different.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                Agreed, but i'd also agree with Bjartmarr the Oysters looked excellent I just didn't feel like waiting in line to try them.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  I don't think there are better west of the 405. I can imagine better but haven't found it. Please don't say Whole Foods.

                                  1. re: epop

                                    I won't buy seafood at Whole Foods. Ugh.
                                    Every single seafood section I've walked past at Whole Foods smells like a dirty fish tank.

                                    1. re: epop

                                      Safe & Save Japanese Market on sawtelle's fish blows the fish at santa monica seafood out of the water quality wise. They're west of the 405

                                      2030 Sawtelle Blvd, West Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                      However they don't have nearly the selection that santa monica seafood has. Call ahead to see what they do have, but typically there are about 6 or so different types of fish available all sushi quality. Their tuna is the best i've seen in the city.

                                      (310) 479-3810

                                      1. re: Ben7643

                                        That's good to know. I was just in there and noticed the fish.

                                        I wish there was a place that was superb and had variety, especially with whole fish.
                                        But one can't have everything.

                                        1. re: epop

                                          Downtown looks to be your best bet. American Fish would be a good place to start. If you're ever down Redondo Beach way you might drop by Quality Seafood on the International Boardwalk and check out their selection.

                                          Quality Seafood
                                          130 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA

                                          American Fish & Seafood
                                          625 Kohler St, Los Angeles, CA

                                  2. re: latindancer

                                    getting to this late. actually, fish should be sold on trays, not on ice. ice will draw the moisture out of the fish. The tray is a barrier that prevents it. a little bit of moisture in the tray isn't a problem, but of course there shouldn't be too much.
                                    None of this should be read as an endorsement of either fish king or sms, both of which i find horribly expensive, particularly after shopping at marukai or mitsuwa.

                                    1. re: FED

                                      I respectfully disagree with your opinion about fish on ice.
                                      I've been around fish mongers all my life...excluding the last several years I've lived in LA. I'm extremely particular when it comes to the fish I purchase primarily because of the things I've learned over the years from these people. I grew up in a city where local,fresh seafood is considered one of its many highlights and believe me...they know what they're doing.
                                      Not one of the stores merchandises their seafood on trays...it is all on ice.

                                      1. re: FED

                                        You've never been to the wholesale fish markets downtown, huh... there's no trays.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          in situations with whole fish or where the fish will be rotated quickly, it's not as critical. but dealing with cut fish (fillets) or in a retail situation where the fish might be stored for several days, it's important to use trays both to prevent the loss of moisture through the ice and to prevent cross-contamination.
                                          a quote from the Alaska Seafood marketing group from a primer on safe retail handling of seafood.
                                          "Seafood should be carefully arranged on display trays. Whole fish should be placed in shallow pans with drain holes in the front to allow drainage of meltwater and product fluids. Steaks and fillets should be displayed in perforated trays. Shellfish can be placed in solid, deeper pans."

                                          1. re: FED

                                            Given the crowds I've seen -- and regardless of my own feelings of the "new" SMS in Santa Monica -- it seems like the fish would not last long enough on the ice to dry out.

                                            That said, I don't go to SMS in Costa Mesa much anymore -- the Asian markets have better fish, and cheaper.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              i'll certainly agree with that! the first time i went fish shopping at Mitsuwa, I felt like I'd been played for a fool for all those years buying at mainstream markets. 99 ranches are more hit-and-miss, but there are others that are really terrific.

                                    2. I payed a visit to the 99Ranch market in Monterey park and they had all kinds of fresh fish, some in tanks, some still flapping around. Trouble was, I couldn't identify most of them. I bought a small bass which was quite good. But freshness is not the only issue. If its a poor farm raised fish, even if it is "fresh" it still won't taste good and will be mushy. I was hoping the Santa Monica Seafood would stick to top quality in wild or farmed, but, sadly, it looks like that is not the case so far. I don't understand why SMS doesn't keep the fish on ice. No excuse for that.

                                      1. Can it be a surprise? disappointed in the fish market, as they focus more on prepared foods. I imagine that a two tiered system, the prepared foods will always be an opportunity to extend the time frame/ marketability of the initial product.
                                        I have yet to try the new shop, but will. How is the parking??
                                        if nothing else, find the quality of their frozen shrimp/lobsters are always acceptable in a pinch. And, with judicious inspection,some wonderful bargains here. they are still the only show in town for certain types of fish. oh well.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ciaolette

                                          "And, with judicious inspection, some wonderful bargains here, they are still the only show in town for certain types of fish, oh well."

                                          I wish them well as they've certainly figured out a way to keep people coming....and they are, in droves.
                                          I just won't be one of them....I don't care what they're selling.

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            Ciaolette the parking's insane you may drive around the lot in the back for 15 mintues before finding a spot. Bring quarters just incase you may need to park on the street.

                                            Most of their frozen stuff is good like you say but so is trader joes frozen fish.

                                            1. re: Ben7643

                                              well, thanks for the parking info.....just imagine how bad it will be on a busy day like xmas or new years, yikes

                                        2. Tsukiji it's not. But Santa Monica Seafood is not horrible by any means. It's a good neighborhood fish market that beats most of the other options in the area.

                                          In their old location, I could kind of understand some of their practices -- no live seafood (bivalves excluded) and very little in the way of whole fish. However, they don't have any excuse for not stepping up their game in the new location. They've already started carrying live lobster (although at a higher price and smaller on average than 99 Ranch) and they even had some Santa Barbara prawns out the other day (although not in a tank like you'll find at 99 Ranch). I'm hopeful that they start carrying a much wider variety of whole fish and that they start to process the fish at the retail location.

                                          I've defintiely got some stinkers there (which can really suck at $20/lb.) but I've also got some wonderful fish there as well. They are, as ciaolette said, the only show in [this part of] town for a lot of stuff.

                                          In short, don't drive down from the valley or anything to get here but if you live in the area and are picking up some fish for dinner, you can't really do better.

                                          27 Replies
                                          1. re: Frommtron

                                            I asked if they plan on carrying more whole fish but I got a clear NO from the management. I don't understand it, since it sells out as fast as it comes in.

                                            I wish there were other options in this part of town.

                                            1. re: epop

                                              Well, I've learned a few things since reading and listening to the Chowhound Brigade.
                                              I will drive ( if I have to I'll walk) out of my way to buy the freshest, the most authentic, the most value for the buck and the most memorable food items available.
                                              I refuse to buy mediocre, overpriced and unimpressive seafood just to say I ate fish.
                                              There are other places, as has been noted, in Los Angeles. I've experienced fish mongers who eat, breath and think FISH and their incredibly fresh product was a reflection of their devotion.
                                              I'd rather have no fish than so-so fish.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                I agree. If you want the best whole fresh fish you must go downtown to the fish district - where the restaurants go to buy. google "fish wholesale los angeles" and you'll get directed. Big wharehouses of fish. Some are closed by noon. I've bought whole salmon, loup de mare (kind a seabass). Best to go in jeans an shoes that wont slip on the wet floors. Can be fun and you will find good fish.
                                                For less excitement, the Redondo Pier has a fish market with many whole fish-which they will clean for you.

                                                1. re: Baron

                                                  In Redondo Beach you can also get whole fish (they will clean and fillet it for you) at Capt Kidds. I have bought a few whole salmon from them with excellent results.

                                                  1. re: bllrdfam

                                                    To clarify: I am looking for small whole fish. For example, sardines, red mullet, whiting and porgies. These, for some reason, are hard to come by. Santa Monica Seafood occasionally gets a bit of them and quickly runs out. It drives me nuts.

                                                    1. re: epop

                                                      I think that SMS sometimes has sardines. The smallest fish at Safe and Save today was Saba. Maybe 99 ranch.

                                                      1. re: epop

                                                        Get your sardines where they sell live bait.

                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                          thx. are the sardines always fresh?

                                                          1. re: epop

                                                            They usually come out of "live" bait tanks, so they ought to be fresh.

                                                            1. re: epop

                                                              They should be fresh - they should be alive. The issue is whether or not they look just alive or really vibrant and jumpy. Also the bait shop should have a clean tank. The good thing about this is that you will be able to see this with your own eyes. My dad and his buddies used to do a lot of off-shore fishing and used sardines and anchovies for bait. They'd usually bring home any live unused bait and cook 'um up over the Hibachi...

                                                          2. re: epop

                                                            My personal theory is that sardines are just too cheap. They want to sell at certain price point. Plus, they are highly perishable.

                                                            I love sardines and have asked for them many times.

                                                            This whole thread is distressing. SMS was one of the few places that I would buy fish.

                                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                                              too cheap?? who said great food ought to be expensive?

                                                              I haven't noticed that they're more perishable than other fish. At least they're whole so you can see what you're buying, instead of fillets.

                                                        2. re: Baron

                                                          Can you please give more details about the fish district downtown? Where is it? I guess I just never knew about it all these years... Is there more than one warehouse or just one place to find? Thanks.

                                                          1. re: aliris

                                                            Just a few:

                                                            American Fish & Seafood - www.americanfish.com - (213) 599-5700

                                                            Los Angeles Fish Co - http://www.lafishco.com/index.php - (213) 629-1213

                                                            Pacific Fresh Fish Co. - www.pacificfreshfish.com - (213) 623-6220

                                                            Taiwan Seafood & Fish Inc - www.taiwanseafood.com - (213) 624-2927

                                                            Yamasa Fish Cake Co. - www.yamasafishcake.com - (213) 626-2211

                                                            Ore-Cal Corporation - www.ore-cal.com - (213) 680-9540

                                                            International Marine Products - www.intmarine.com - (213) 688-2577

                                                            Unified Seafood Co - www.unifiedseafood.com - (213) 623-7670

                                                            1. re: RicRios

                                                              Ric have you been to any of these lately? Any tips or suggestions?

                                                              1. re: Baron

                                                                They're all walking distance from my office, you better be there early.
                                                                Huge inventory, humongous carcasses of really big fish, guy asking you knife in hand which part you want, etc. Beware they also have frozen stuff. Like: they don't get everything every day. I went a few times, problem is during the week I don't have much use since early morning to late afternoon I stay downtown. Really stuff for professionals, which I'm not. Fun to do a few times though. Also as Baron points out below, we're talking the heart of skid row, no touristy route.

                                                              2. re: RicRios

                                                                Love this thread!!

                                                                Reviving with some personal experience. I tried visiting IMP but was turned away. Not exactly opened to public. I did end up buying a live halibut from Pacific Fresh Fish. Think they jacked up the price a bit since we were "new" to this buying-fish-from-wholesaler thing.

                                                              3. re: aliris

                                                                Thanks to RicRios. He listed them. Ive been to several. International Marine Producs had convenient parking and a good selection. Keep in mind that they open early and close like at noon. The restaurant folks get there early for the best. Some may be open on Saturdays. Be prepared if you go, this is skid row, not Beverly Hills.

                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                              There's out of your way and then there's spending the evening hours after work fighting through some of the nation's worst traffic to score the best branzino you can find in the city. If that's your thing then I actually think that's awesome. I seriously commend you.

                                                              But you mention value, and that has a lot to do with SMS for people (like me) -- you simply have to consider the effort required to get your hands on an everyday foodstuff that spoils nearly immediately. Will I do that kind of driving to procure my food? On the weekend, sure. For things like chicken and meat that can stay in my fridge a couple of days or anything for my pantry, absolutely. Fish, you eat the day you buy it or you might as well buy the frozen stuff from Trader Joe's.

                                                              Now if there was a place on the westside that had the combination of selection and quality that SMS has, people would be going there instead. Alas, there isn't.

                                                              Safe and Save has very high quality fish, but the selection is awful. 99 Ranch has a really wide range of fish but the quality is really inconsistent.

                                                              While I'm with you that I don't get SMS as a chowhound destination to drive across the city for, it is certainly a very good neighborhood fish market with a lot of high quality offerings.

                                                              1. re: Frommtron

                                                                Safe and save isn't set up to have a huge selection they have a small case, I actually went today and they had 3 or 4 different types of whole fish and about 6 different filets all of which were fresh. Except for the black cod which didn't look so hot to me. They also had great looking shrimp and some other good looking shellfish. I got a nice thin long halibut fillet a little under a pound for about 9.75. At santa monica seafood the same size fillet of fish would most likely be frozen or lower quality and would be twice the price. I'll risk not having as many choices for fresher fish at better prices any day of the week. Now if i'm feeling indecisive then I will go to SMS, they do have the selection but they are not up to par on the quality.

                                                                1. re: Ben7643

                                                                  I agree with all of that, and I do like Safe and Save a lot. I also happen to like SMS for what it is, too.

                                                                  Black cod is ALWAYS hit or miss for me. I don't know what it is but even stuff that's looked good has been so-so when I had it on the plate. I'm no Eric Ripert but I can cook a fillet of cod just fine. I just find that one hard to judge.

                                                            3. re: epop

                                                              I didn't know that they didn't fabricate the fish on-site until a poster above mentioned it. I think that's huge. They could really move from good to great if they did that and minded the trays the fish sit on better.

                                                              1. re: Frommtron

                                                                I am very upset with SMS since the move. I drove 10 mi RT to SMS every week for fish. At the new location parking is nearly impossible, the store seems even more crowded and you have to compete for floor space with the crowd there to eat. At the old place you could watch them cleaning and filleting fish behind the counter. I always found the fish to be consistently excellent. For some reason the fish at the new location looks old and tired like the fish at Whole Foods. The seafood at Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 S Centinela Ave has always looked fresh and good but it is prepackaged in the case, not cut to order like SMS. The fish monger at the Culver City farmers market can have good fish but the guy is a jerk and you have to watch him closely or he will give you odd cuts. Has anyone tried the seafood from the SM farmers market?

                                                                1. re: schellter

                                                                  Couldn't agree more. Brokenhearted about their move. I've been going to old location for 10 years for great seafood, Indian candy and garlic bread. Parking at new location is a nightmare (what were they thinking), noise level is crazy. They should have kept the old location as a fish market and opened this as a restaurant only. There's a guy who sells farmed oysters at SM farmers market. Fresh local catch usually available at BH farmers market on Sunday.

                                                                  1. re: schellter

                                                                    I've been buying tuna for sashima from the vendor at the Wednesday SM farmers market for over a year. It's always been very good. Also have purchased small seafood mix there--also good.

                                                                    1. re: schellter

                                                                      Other posters have said that both SM farmers mkts sell fish, and that "The Anjin II at the Sta. Monica farmer's mkt has the freshest fish in the area."
                                                                      We get excellent fresh fish at the Topanga Farmers mkt (from Smart Fish)
                                                                      on Friday AM 9 to 1

                                                              2. What does Santa Monica Seafood charge ($/lb) for, say, a farmed salmon filet?

                                                                I've never been. But I live 10 blocks away. Trying to decide whether it's even worth the walk.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: fatassasian

                                                                  Last I checked it was in the $12/lb. range.

                                                                  By contrast you can get farmed salmon on sale at Vons for $4/lb.

                                                                  1. re: fatassasian

                                                                    imo, any walk is worth the effort, in and of itself.

                                                                    1. re: fatassasian

                                                                      Depends on the type but probably around 20 dollars. Some cuts are cheaper some are more depends on the type really.

                                                                    2. Wow, sorry to hear. I'm in OC and have never had a bad experience at the Costa Mesa location (been going there for years).

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: mikester

                                                                        I'm so glad it's not just me... I don't understand how the same fish from the same abattoir in South LA can travel the same distance in two directions and end up bad in Santa Monica and good in Costa Mesa.

                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                          Santa Monica Seafood, as a chefs resource, RIP.
                                                                          The fish quality appears less fresh,matte and dull colored, more expensive, and less informative signage. After walking up and down the counter, I finally choose some snapper that looked pink and glistening. not my favorite, but for the recipe I had in mind , ok. The signage stated fresh Pacific, wild caught. In the past , they would often note, Mexico, local, or Oregon. So I asked the counter guy, "where's it from, what area" and his response was, " it's Pacific".
                                                                          That's a big ocean, thanks.
                                                                          There were only 2 other fish market customers, and this is late afternoon,a time when the original location could often have a 10 person line of customers.
                                                                          Why screw up what appeared to be a excellent business model? Where else do people take a number and line up ALL DAY LONG to pay double wholesale.

                                                                      2. This is going to get me kicked off of Chowhound, but...

                                                                        The other day I was in the Westwood Whole Foods, and the fish looked...good. Not amazing, go-out-of-your-way-for-this good, but...good. The guy behind the counter said that the buyer had "stepped up his game" recently, though he also implied that it was because some West-coast inspector was coming soon, so I have no idea how long the step up in quality will last. Just a heads-up to check it out if you're already in the area--it may not be as dead and gross as it usually is.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: conor610

                                                                          Last week I bought 3 lbs of halibut that looked good at the SM whole foods and it was downright gross. Other people thought it edible but I knew better. SM Seafood is better but still isn't all that great. Frustrating, to say the least.

                                                                        2. maybe it's the lighting. I was there last week... not super impressed. I remember I was impressed the first time I went to the Colorado location.

                                                                          1. Last Saturday, I had lunch in the cafe part. It was around 2:45 p.m. when I arrived, and I waited about 45 minutes to be seated. I was alone, and ordered the albacore tuna salad melt. It came very quickly (I mentioned I was in a bit of a hurry since I had spent so much time waiting). I picked up the small sandwich and noticed right away that the bread was thoroughly soaked and dripping with oil. I took a bite and it was barely lukewarm. I wonder when it was actually grilled, and for how long. My fingers were glistening with oil, I fingerpainted my plate with it.

                                                                            The tuna salad part was incredibly bland. I tasted more mayo than anything else; at some point I forgot there was even any fish in it. The side of salad was extremely tiny and plain (not a big deal, though it was so underwhelming and insignificant, I wondered why they even bothered in that case to offer any).

                                                                            I had come here last year when it was still a ratty-looking, barely-post-Carl's-Jr. transitional joint that only sold ready-to-eat dishes -- and it was very good back then as an eatery. I am so sad and disappointed because I really wanted to keep liking this place. They obviously don't care about food they prepare and serve in-house.

                                                                            After the uncomfortable crowdedness, the extreme wait time for a single person during what I thought wasn't peak hours, and most disappointingly the awful awful awful food, I will never ever return to SM Seafood again.

                                                                            The one upshot was, during my long wait to be seated, I saw Patrick Dempsey wait patiently like all the other peons for some fresh seafood at the counter. He was there for about 10-15 minutes.

                                                                            1. And if you sit at the counter the guys who open the oysters don't know how to do it -- lots of broken shell left for you to swallow with the oyster, ruins the whole thing

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: LarryT

                                                                                Oh, that sucks - a waste of good oysters. If it was of my doing, oh well, but there's no excuse at a seafood counter.

                                                                              2. Was there a week or so ago, sat at the counter and had ciopinno. (came with some grilled bread). Very good. I'd have it again.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                  Visited the new location today for the first time - the place had a very VERY noticeable off odor - I couldn't believe there were people sitting in there eating - it was that strong! Los Angelenos: your low expectations and your willingness to accept less than the best really worries me - we need to be able to do better than this: we are a world class city, are we not?

                                                                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                    No offense but SMS would be the last place on earth I'd eat cioppino....their fish is not fresh.

                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                      forgive me if i missed this, but, latindancer, where do you like to purchase your fish. i see that you are not a fan of sms, nor whole foods, and i see that other posters have recommended some places, but i'd be interested to know where you do think the fish is fresh and of high quality? thx.

                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                        I've been back again, and again I enjoyed the ciopinno. With a raw fish (yellowtail?) starter. No problems.

                                                                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                          The difference is...I wouldn't be willing to take the chance.
                                                                                          Their fish is not fresh and apparently nobody there cares judged on how many times I've bought their fish, come home with it, and thrown it away because of the way it smelled. I agree there are many people who don't have the same standards I do....the place stays open so there's somebody buying it and eating it.

                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                            where DO you like the quality of fish, latindancer? i'd love to try out someplace you recommend, since you are clearly specific about your requirements in a fishmonger. thanks!

                                                                                            1. re: chez cherie

                                                                                              The Anjin II at the Sta. Monica farmer's mkt has the freshest fish in the area

                                                                                    2. I was just in there today with my wife and daughter. My daughter was the first through the door and commented right away about the strong fishy smell. The guy behind the counter was less than helpful and had to be asked a few times to pick up some of the salmon fillets so we could see the better looking fish underneath. When I asked him for a couple pounds of clams, he acted as if I had personally insulted him. I am wondering if the management has changed with the move, because the attitude sure has.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: editguy

                                                                                        I happen to know it is owned by the same family, but couldn't comment on the management.

                                                                                      2. I'm not a fishmonger by trade whatsoever, but I just returned last month after visiting the biggest seafood market on earth: the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

                                                                                        While there, I was most struck by the way the Tsukiji Fish Market smelled - it didn't.

                                                                                        After the visit, I went to SMS - definitely something in the air.

                                                                                        Granted, the high ceilings in Tsukiji may offer better ventilation, but there was an AWFUL lot of seafood under that roof (it's friggin HUGE!)... Could it be that truly fresh seafood, shouldn't smell too much?

                                                                                        In any case, I buy my fish at 99 Ranch, FWIW.

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: J.L.

                                                                                          I wish there was a 99 Ranch closer to the west side. Meanwhile, compromising...

                                                                                          1. re: epop

                                                                                            SMS is about 10 minutes from my place (no freeways), and 99 Ranch Market is a 35-minute-plus, mostly freeway commute (assuming no traffic) for me, but hey, that's what a 'Hound is willing to do for fresh seafood...

                                                                                            1. re: J.L.

                                                                                              I go often but can't on a daily basis.

                                                                                              1. re: epop

                                                                                                not knowing precisely where you are, there's a Mitsuwa in the Mar Vista-Culver City area. they don't have as many whole fish (except smalls like sardines, mackerel, etc). but their cut fish is superb.

                                                                                                1. re: FED

                                                                                                  I should go back there to Mitsuwa, thank you. I am dying for some sardines, btw. Do they usually have them?

                                                                                                  1. re: epop

                                                                                                    I can't speak for the Mar Vista branch but both Mitsuwa and Marukai in Costa Mesa always have fresh sardines, and usually reasonably cheaply ($3-$5 a pound).

                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                      i would have given the same answer last year, but for some reason, there was about a 4-5 month span this winter and spring when they didn't have them. never did figure out what happened, just that they weren't available (no sarde en saor all spring!).

                                                                                        2. Way over-priced and the market is now more of a scene with a bar, restaurant and full of wealthy retired couples- not a fish market anymore as it was, they ruined it!
                                                                                          Got to the Japanese markets on Sawtelle for great fresh fish that is more affordable or Mitsuwa on Venice Blvd.

                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: amandachef

                                                                                            I have shopped at SMS for about 15+ years.I buy primarily wild Pacific local types of fish, just what I prefer, salmon , halibut, sole, etc. It was a good source, it used to smell like fresh seawater, and the stock was very high quality and turned over. It has always been pricey, but there was a time when in season, one could walk in and get Copper River salmon for $12 .The good local snapper,halibut, wahoo type fish for under $10- a pound.
                                                                                            I don't really mind paying $$$ for fish, If I can be guaranteed a high quality product. SMS has been going downhill for a while, and has NEVER had management that responded to customer inputs or complaints. I always accounted this lack of interest in their retail customers to their being primarily a wholesale operation.
                                                                                            I shop at Mitsuwa often, the meat dept has excellent product. But the fish selection is not great for me. The salmon is all farmed. Whole fish (such as the sole ) can be good if you get it the day it was packed, and they do have a clear dating system.
                                                                                            A "Live Fish" market would'nt do me any good,I have never been big on , catfish, carp, bass, etc. And to be honest, though I dig lots of stuff at 99 ranch, the meat counters are just too funky for me! Those tank crabs don't give off the pristine vibe of the briny deep. I admit that is a cultural thing. Fish, to me, is from the ocean. My grandfather fished off the pier in El Segundo for tuna, halibut, and my Mom used to dive for Abalone off Palos Verdes. And she would buy whole salmon and bake with dill and lemon. ( Danish roots)
                                                                                            I did get a great Dungeoness crab last week from SMS, but the scallops I got at the same time were tough and not very sweet. OH WELL.....

                                                                                            1. re: ciaolette

                                                                                              While I think their quality has slipped and I don't really like SMS any more when I have complained they've been responsive. I once bought 80 dollars worth of halibut and told them it wasn't good and they gave me a $100 credit and were very nice about it.

                                                                                              I wish they hadn't changed locations. They went from average to bad. I'm eating more red meat now, unfortunately.

                                                                                              1. re: epop

                                                                                                lol, you must be more charming than I am! I have returned fish to SMS, and received a refund no problem, but never graciously and NEVER more credit than the exact price of the offending fish!
                                                                                                And, for every time I has able to return stuff, there have been more times it just was not convenient to do so.
                                                                                                Back when I was a bigger fan, and recommended SMS constantly on these boards, I emailed twice to the management about issues I had concerns about, and never received any response. Additionally I have spoken to a manager at the old location once, and he was pretty dismissive.

                                                                                                1. re: ciaolette

                                                                                                  Funny. I feel better after reading your assessment.

                                                                                                  Not to rub it in but I've done it three times.
                                                                                                  I had to. Most people don't notice the difference. I need to go to Galicia to make up for the seafood in LA.

                                                                                                  1. re: epop

                                                                                                    This is what drives me insane... the seafood even a hundred miles down the coast down in Mexico is of a variety and quality that far trumps even the best of what's available here, and I don't bloody know why. Someone walking through our markets would assume that there were no razor clams, or seppie, or robalo, or local lobsters in our waters.


                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                      You and me both brother!!!

                                                                                                      But this has repeated itself over and over in California History.... right now I'm reading public health articles from the early 1900s about produce sales... and althougn So Cal was pretty much producing at every corner... all the GOOD produce was being shipped out east... So people had to buy really bad produce sold by shady dealers... It's the SAME thing, now with a global market, our seafood is being shipped out by the ton to every corner of the world... leaving us with slim pickin's. :P


                                                                                                      1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                        that sounds interesting dommy. what are you reading?

                                                                                                        1. re: FED

                                                                                                          You know, I'm still toughing out with this advanced degree thing... so are you SURE you want to know... ;)


                                                                                                          It hasn't been a bad read and really takes an interesting look on how initial east coast migration to LA was spurned by images of health... plastered on boxes of oranges...


                                                                                                      2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                        An entrepreneur will figure out how to take advantage of this. Someone who understands how to market the local. Meanwhile we are stuck with all the pseudo-seafood houses along the coast. And places like SMS. When all standards are lowered SM seafood can operate as if that's gold.

                                                                                                    2. re: ciaolette

                                                                                                      A year or so ago, when the LATimes started a new thursday-sunday weekend paper and brought the Wed. food section to
                                                                                                      Sat., the regular SMS advertisement STOPPED carrying their $5.00 coupon (off a $30 purchase) in the ad. I wrote the mgmt several times and they FINALLY restored the coupon. i guilt stupted them about their responsibility to help citizens in bad economic times. However, i noted that they remove the coupon during all holidays (including mothers day, etc.)! jeez. I have been shopping there for approximately 37 years, which was probably close to when they started on Colorado. It was near my co-op then.
                                                                                                      These are pretty greedy folks.

                                                                                                  2. re: ciaolette

                                                                                                    IMHO there are no great fish markets in LA, but there are several which are better than SMS. The bestI have found is clearly Seafood Paradise in Rosemead. Great quality at very reasonable prices with lots of live options. the selection is targeted to the Chinese market, so they definitely don't have all the same Items, but what they do have is quite good. I haven't explored all the wholesale market's downtown, but if there is someplace better please let me know.

                                                                                                    1. re: Mateo R

                                                                                                      i agree with Mateo. Not much that is very good, especially on the West Side. Very disappointing.

                                                                                                      1. re: epop

                                                                                                        I feel your pain. The great seafood markets are gone! Remember Phils Phresh Fish in Brentwood, Gordons on Pico? Last week I was in Marin County. I went to a market with a fantasitc fish case. Very jealous. Why them and not us? Locally, I've had some good luck at Bristol Farms in Playa del Rey. Great scallops and Mahi. Quality Seafood at the Redondo Pier for live shell fish of all kinds. Also, for fresh off the boat or plane, you might pay a visit to Pacific Fresh in the wholesale fish district downtown. I've had their live, still swimming jumbo shrimp and a lupe de mare - both as good as it gets.


                                                                                                      2. re: Mateo R

                                                                                                        This is ridiculous. Last year I put up a discussion asking for good bread on the Westside and got the same answer...not much good stuff here, just as with the seafood.

                                                                                                        1. re: VenusCafe

                                                                                                          There is good bread on the west side. For a limited, but excellent selection - both Maison Giraud and Farmshop are great.

                                                                                                          And seafood? Well, SM Seafood is spotty - generally I go to the Asian seafood markets.

                                                                                                  3. The FRESHEST FISH I have found recently is at the Hollywood Farmers mrkt on Sundays the stall owner is-the boat owner and the lady at the W end of the SM farmers mrkt both are cheaper and better quality than SMS

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Faim

                                                                                                      if you're talking about west coast fish (the siracusas) ... they're not actually boat owners but they do stock a lot of fish from local fishermen. not as much as they used to, though. they sell a lot of salmon (usually called "wild" and usually at suspicious prices).

                                                                                                      1. re: FED

                                                                                                        I'm not talking about them.I am not a fan,and agree with you about their "wild "salmon.

                                                                                                    2. I have been going to this fish market for years. Recently, they opened a Cafe and it seemed like a good idea to sit at the Oyster Bar and have a quick bite with some good wine.

                                                                                                      The BYO wine was terrific.

                                                                                                      Oysters: Coromandel, Kumamoto, Sinku, Malpeque and Fanny Bay - they were freshly shucked - the best were the Kumamoto

                                                                                                      New England Clam Chowder - absolutely horrid and inedible - tasted like tin. This should never have been served and if a cook tasted it, I have questions about the tasting ability of the cook. I was going to buy a quart to bring home - I wouldn't have bought one teaspoonful. John complained and they did take this off the bill.

                                                                                                      I asked our server if the calamari fritti was lightly battered as I was debating between that and another couple of dishes. I was assured that I would love the calamari - think heavy, zero flavor and a waste - two bites only was enough. Paid for this in full.

                                                                                                      Instead of the soup, John ordered their lox with bagel, avocado, HB egg and cream/mayo dressing (???) Think absolutely soggy bagel, barely, if at all toasted, and no one in his/her right mind would want it, let alone eat it. I suggested that John deep-six the bagel and just eat the lox with the avocado and some of the dressing. Edible.

                                                                                                      Santa Monica Seafood used to be one of my favorite fish markets. This is a joke - I used to look at whole pristine fish, carefully laid out on crushed ice and "talk" to the fishmongers about which fish would be best for a certain preparation. I was going to buy some fish, but one look at piles of prepared sliced fish, convinced me not to bother. Of course, the absolutely lousy lunch wasn't exactly a major plus factor.
                                                                                                      Bottom line: I wouldn't go back if they paid me. What a shame!

                                                                                                      Photos here:


                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: lizziee

                                                                                                        Well said. The good old days of whole pristine fish.

                                                                                                        I don't eat much seafood anymore, given what's around here... 99 Ranch and those kind of places are decent but far. I miss a lot of the places in the world where it was truly outstanding.

                                                                                                        1. re: lizziee

                                                                                                          Lizziee, give it another try. I have become a fan. I confess to not caring for the NE.Clam chowder but the fish chowder is terrific and I adore the oyster bar. I have been buying fish 3-4 times a week lately. Each fish I have selected has been beautiful. The Arctic Char is one of the best. I just sauté it in a little olive oil and we have a winner. The fishmongers are outstanding. As I said, you wrote this review a couple of years ago, perhaps you ought to give both the cafe and the market another try.

                                                                                                          1. re: maudies5

                                                                                                            Last I tried it - I liked their NE clam chowder. Not as good as a place on the east side of Martha's Vineyard (in my memory, best NE clam chowder to date), but it works find for me. I've had other stuff at the cafe which was pretty good - the cioppino, and the hamachi appetizer. That's pretty much it for me.

                                                                                                            But last time I bought fish - some halibut - it was like something you'd get at Von's. It just SUCKED. Fishy funky. And I'd made a great sauce for it too. But it couldn't mask the awful fish. And not cheap either. That was a month ago and I'm still pissed off about it. So bad I might not eat halibut for another year or two just waiting for that awful memory to fade.

                                                                                                            I also remember this place being pretty good when it was on Colorado. Never missed a step for at least ten years. And the new place is pretty close to me (5 minute drive at the most), but what's the point if it's a crapshoot?

                                                                                                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                                              I agree. The quality is inconsistent and sometimes very poor.

                                                                                                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                                                                                                This used to be a regular stop for me after working out. I'd get a gorgeous tuna or salmon fillet steak, but that was when they were on Colorado. It kills me to think they've gone so far afield. I moved to NYC and we have the same problem. You have to get to the fishmonger at the farmer's mkt on Wed. or Sat., otherwise it is paying a huge amount to Citerella. I would never buy at Whole foods, their fish is just as bad on this coast!

                                                                                                                1. re: sing me a bar

                                                                                                                  My experience with Santa Monica Seafood extends way back to my childhood. In my adulthood I could count on them for a decent choice of great fish.

                                                                                                                  When the cafe opened and the location changed, it went far, far downhill. It was like I was going into a "B" grade local market. It is simply not worth a trip out of the way, especially not the usual 15 miles.

                                                                                                                  In a perfect world, SMS would rethink their business model and restore a world class city seafood market. Otherwise, an ignominious end.