Fisherman's House, Channel Islands Harbor; Secret Dining Room - Anyone Ever Tried It?
In the downtrodden Channel Islands Harbor, I stumbled today into the "secret" dining room of Fisherman's House. By "secret," I guess I mean that because I don't read or speak or look Korean, I've been able to wander past it dozens of times without ever noticing it. And, i can't seem to find it on Chowhound.
If you walk in the front door, you are in a decrepit food court, packed empty with dozens of forlorn tables and chairs. To your right, a Mexican food counter. To your left, a sushi bar/noodle/non-specific Asian food counter. It's all kind of iffy looking. It's easy to understand why there are few if any customers. This place aspires to mall food court status.
But something "just didn't look right." After some nosing around, and a bit of the "you're not Asian, so we're going to ignore you until you go away" treatment from the staff, I figured it out. This schlocky teriyaki counter has several big tanks full of live fish, Dungeness crabs, and other goodies of the sea. Peering through the kitchen, I could see a tatami room of sorts. Raised white tile slabs with low tables. And, that telltale sign that something Chowish is afoot - well-dressed, wealthy-looking Koreans tucking into a colorful, fresh-looking spread of food.
I needed to know more. What I learned has penetrated my every waking moment since. I need to locate a babysitter, rally 2-3 friends, and go back to experience the "secret" side of Fisherman's House.
As they grudgingly described it, one orders a whole fish. They sashimi the fillets on the spot, and serve the sashimi up with a selection of panchan. Then, they take the rest of the piscine parts and whip up a special soup. You eat this fishy feast in direct view of the Channel Islands Harbor, where boats bob and sway, and the seagulls swiddle of better times in the past and ahead.
The smallest version of the experience runs $50 and serves approx. 2. More people = bigger/additional fish = more $.
My goodness. How good does this sound? Has anyone on here ever tried it? What should I know before I go (tomorrow)?
So, the deafening silence in response to my post above told me that I was going to have to take one for the team and report back. Take one I did, and I'm pleased to share my experience. Two adults and one 3-year-old sampled Fisherman's House last night, and here are the facts:
- start with a live fish (rock fish, white fish, other non-descript, not-traditionally sushi-ish fish)
- within 10 minutes of sitting down, said fish has been reduced to more sashimi than any two people could eat. It is delivered beautifully arrayed on a football-shaped platter, accompanied by lettuce leaves, wasabi, chili sauce, miso paste, garlic slivers, jalapeno slivers, cucumber and carrot sticks, and a pitcher of cool, unsweetened tea
- two diners tuck into the sashimi course and eat as much as they can
- when they cry uncle, the server takes away the sashimi (more on this later) and delivers 4 types of kimchi (cucumber, cabbage, other and other other) and a couple of bowls of good, sticky rice, and sounds the alarm that the spicy soup is coming right up
- said soup hits the table in a large cauldron, spiced in a kimchi dimension, and with big chunks of tender fish (and a whole fish skeleton for flavor) strewn throughout. it is delicious, and induces perspiration and lots of oohs and aahs of appreciation.
- the aforementioned sashimi that didn't get eaten in round one went to two worthy causes. first, they tossed some of it into the fish soup kettle, where it cooked up nicely and added to the soup portion of the experience. the rest of it (maybe 15 little pieces) took a quick trip through the tempura station and came back packed to go in an open cardboard container so it wouldn't get soggy. after 15 hours in the fridge, it baked up nicely today (375 for 12 minutes) for a delicious day-after lunch.
A couple of other notes:
- this is a family-owned restaurant, with regular customers who have been coming for decades from up and down the coast
- this is the only restaurant in the Channel Islands Harbor with a license to recirculate "fresh" harbor water into their tanks on a continuous basis. Any boater can tell you that "fresh harbor water" is a bit of an oxymoron, but when you consider that the option in most live/fresh fish restaurants is water that gets changed weekly or monthly, with filtration in between changes to keep the fish alive, one can see how the recirculating option is considered a selling point to those in the know.
- the first generation owners (50s or 60s) seemed worried that I was not going to appreciate their authentic experience (perhaps a bit of a language gap). the second generation staff (Jamie, the daughter) got that I was on a Chowish adventure and explained that to the elders. from that moment on, we enjoyed first-class treatment all the way, and the entire staff made us feel very, very welcome.
Summing up, if you haven't tried Fisherman's House, seriously consider it. It is very good, and a great "experience" meal to boot. Oxnard is a bit short on chowish cuisine, but Fisherman's House proves that if you know where to look, you can find some great stuff.
Additional notes for those trolling the board looking for other options in the Oxnard, Channel Islands, Port Hueneme area: Blue Elephant Thai is excellent, HC Seafood is great for live, fresh crabs to go (call in your order, they take 20 minutes to cook), and Pete's Breakfast House in Ventura is a very good breakfast option, even though it isn't in the charming part of Ventura's Main Street.
Shockingly, the tab was: $50 for the whole live fish sashimi kimchi spicy soup and some leftover sashimi done tempura style (for two). $6 for the order of tempura fish/veggies I ordered up front for my kid. $5 for large HITE Korean beer. That's $61 plus a 30+% tip because of the unbelievable value and first-class treatment, and we were out the door. Also, plenty of free parking. Weird, right?
Well, here is a reply --- I can HARDLY imagine there is good food in that part of the world, nevermind a "secret cool room." My Mom lives in Port Hueneme and I have to say that's it's such an odd place. A throw back to the 1970's, the area seems to be stuck in time --- or stuck in something. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get into those harbor old fashion wierd fish restaurants wtih blue napkiins stuffed in baskets and white flour rolls with packets of margarine on the table. Big YUCK.
Anyway, enough snobby complaining....thanks for the tip, I"ll check it out next time I"m there.
Or, rather than posting a sort of snyde "google it yourself" to make someone feel bad, a giving selfless person just posted the address, which is, by the way:
2810 Harbor Blvd
Oxnard, CA 93035-3954
Which I got by typing in "THe Fisherman's House", and not "Channel Islands Harbor"
Servorg as befitting the name has tirelessly posted over the years numerous helpful posts on addresses, links to previous threads for searches, etc. Perhaps this time even he finally lost his patience and unfortunately you were on the receiving end of it.
It can be very frustrating for many people to see a short retort without seeming to make an effort to look for it. It's one thing to say, I searched and couldn't find it and another to just say, what's the address?
Or maybe even taking the same amount of time that was used to post as to type in the search term, find the address and contribute to the group by posting.
The above is not meant to be negatively directed at you, just an explanation over what might have occurred to make servorg post the google link when in the past, he's always been very helpful in replying with hard info right away.
A small group of Santa Barbarans saw this query about the secret Korean sashimi and made the trip down there to check it out.
We were directed out the back of the "food court" area and off to the side, where the tatami room was (with a better view of the harbor, too). There was three of us, and while we snacked on nibbles like carrot and cucumber sticks, pieces of fried fish and ice tea, they scooped out our California sheepshead and prepared a very large platter of raw fish for us. The amount was all we could stuff ourselves with x2. There was also a small plate of raw sea cucumber for eating, and its muscles were still contracting on the plate. The sea cucumber turned out to be too chewy for most of the dining party.
The sashimi portion is served with a pile of lettuce for wrapping, crunchy vegetables, and an assortment of kimchee.
Then the spicy kimchee soup came out, using the body of the fish that had not been part of the sashimi plate. We had a choice of spicy or very spicy, we opted for the former and it was spicy enough.
There were three of us, the meal was $60, plus some extra for a bottle of soju, tax and tip. I took home the lion's share of leftovers - packed on ice - and it fed four people the next day.
We loved the experience, and enjoyed sitting in the room and chatting with one of the owners. She recommended we return during lobster season in October, as they have locally caught spiny lobster sashimi.
We did return, and had the lobster. It was very good, and the price for it varies according to weight. About $19/pound and they recommended about a 3 pounder for 2 people to ensure people are not fighting over the last pieces. The soup for the lobster is in more of a miso broth this time and is delicious! Plus, lots of lobster pieces and legs to crack and suck the meat and juices out of. The lobster sashimi meal can still be in the $50-60 range if you get a skimpy 2-2.5 pounder, or closer to $100 if you want lobster sashimi in the quantity received for the sheepshead.
There is a hole-in-the-wall atmosphere to the place, and while most people I've discussed the experience with automatically associate raw fish with Japanese style sashimi and then automatically assume sheepshead sashimi can't possibly be as good, I found the meal to be very very good. It was more like being invited into a family's house for grandma's sunday dinner. It's really not comparable to a Japanese sashimi experience.
I've attached a few photos, but I took more pictures that that. If you're curious, the set is at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosminah...
Hope that helps.
2810 Harbor Blvd, Oxnard, CA 93035