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A little (sand)dab'll do ya

  • m

I keep reading about sand dabs and still have no idea what they are.

Is it a fish?

A shellfish?

Are they small like sardines or large like trout?

Where does the "sand" part of their moniker come into play? Do they burrow into the sand and become extra delicious there?

Are they always served the same way (i.e. fried) or are they prepared in different ways?

Lastly, where are the most delicious sand dabs to be found?

Please help unlock the mystery of sand dabs for me!

Mr. Taster

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  1. Sand dabs are a small flat fish---maybe two-thirds the size of a trout (at least the ones I catch). Most of the local ones come from Catalina; you'd want to avoid sand dabs from the Palos Verdes area.

    They're usually pan fried or sauteed. I've had plenty of good versions and am partial to the one's at "new" Tony's on the Redondo Beach/King Harbor pier.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Christine

      Was Tony's recently revamped or purchased? Never eaten there but I'm fond of the bar upstairs in the little tower with its great views.

      1. re: petradish

        My favorite version as of late was at Pacific Dining Car.

        1. re: petradish

          You're talking about "old" Tony's. Which I prefer for having a drink with some atmosphere. "New" Tony's is the one facing south on the older part of the pier. (Next to the former El Torito or Red Onion, whatever it was.)

      2. Sand dabs are small white-fleshed fish, like European sole, but smaller and a bit more delicate. IMHO the best sand dabs I've had, outside of San Francisco, are at the Petit Cafe on Colorado in Santa Monica. Prepared in butter with lemon and capers, they are sublime.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mnosyne

          Print mnosyne's post, Mr T.

          Sand dabs do not get better than at Le Petit Cafe. Plus two -- count 'em -- bonuses:
          1. They always seem to be available; and
          2. LPC will prepare 'em to your liking if you are tired of or uninspired by the traditional butter, lemon, caper preparation.

        2. Sid's Seafood House in Canoga Park does a good version.

          1. For lunch, Joe's does a great version w/ avocado, cherry tomato, sweet rock shrimp and a chive nage.

            Link: http://www.joesrestaurant.com

            1. Me, I go fo the sanddabs at Chez Mimi in Santa Monica. Best ones I've ever had, and i have to sing...

              "saddabs, I've had a few
              but not too few
              to really mention
              but the best.
              at Chez Mimi
              are really good
              and for them
              I have a penchant.
              if I had my wish,
              I'd have that dish,
              I'd have it Friiiiiiiiiiidddaaaaaaayy."

              But Freday we're going to Little Ethiopia. Oh well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Diana

                LOL.....Ol' Blue Eyes would be proud!!

                1. re: dave g

                  We're going to M&F tonight. I would be afraid that their fish is previously frozen, not fresh. If I can trick one of our party into having the sanddabs I'll report back tomorrow.

                  1. re: dave g

                    I didn't have to trick anyone; one guy was looking forward to them. He didn't offer me a taste but he cleaned his plate and they looked delicious.

                  2. Cafe Bizou in Santa Monica makes a good sand dab, although Musso and Frank's is pretty good too.

                    1. rex sole as sold here

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: dkd

                        No, sand dab and rex sole are similar but different. Rex sole is considered to be somewhat inferior, and I agree, though it's a nice fish and can be prepared the same way. The guy at the fish counter might tell you it's the same, because the restaurant guys buy up all the sand dabs before we civilians can get to them, and for all I know that "sand dab" you get at a resto could actually BE a rex sole after all.

                        1. re: dkd

                          Sand dabs - Citharychtis sordidus
                          Rex sole - Errex zachirus

                          I like old fashioned sand dabs. Chez Jay - get the sand dabs and only the sand dabs, rest of the menu is bad. Have it with a bloody mary. If they have green goddess dressing, get the salad with it, otherwise a la carte and go elsewhere for dessert.


                          1. re: Jerome

                            Took your suggestion. Had lunch at Chez Jay on Sunday, then went to the beach. Everyone else in the place had us beaten in the age department by at least a generation and a half, except for the bartender. I had the sand dabs (advertised on the lunch menu as "fillet of sole", about $10... althought the dinner menu listed something like "Chez Jay sand dabs almondine" for about $17. Which sand dabs were you talking about? The plate I got was pretty basic, several thin egg battered and fried pieces of fish, with a really mild flavor which the squeeze of lemon and the great tartar sauce greatly enhanced... the fish itself however was largely flavorless. Also great call on the bloody mary... not so bloody as it was rusty, but spicy and delicious. Lastly the green goddess dressing was gloppy but tasty... my first experience with this old LA standby.

                            On a side note... someone's black BMW had the window smashed in while parked Chez Jay's lot. The bartender made an announcement and when nobody replied, he said "well if they're not in here, then fuck 'em."

                            That experience along was was worth the trip...

                            Thanks for the tip!

                            Mr. Taster

                            1. re: Mr. Taster

                              The sole is something else. Sand dabs aren't sole. Did the waiter tell you they were the same thing? What I remember wasn't breaded, just pan-sauteed with almonds...

                              Maybe I'm misremembering. If you go again (and that's SO UP TO YOU), go at dinner and fork out the extra $7. I'm going to go sometime later this summer I think (will have visitors), soI'll post.

                              Should probably post about my dinner at Metro cafe. Great sarma - filling dinner under $10.

                              Glad you had a good time.

                              1. re: Jerome

                                There were no sand dabs on the lunch menu at all, so I asked the bartender/waiter/only employee for the sand dabs and he said confidently and without hesitation "that's the fillet of sole". After reading the brief bank and forth on CH regarding sand dabs being interchanged with rex sole, I figured he knew what he was talking about.

                                When you went, what time of day did you go? Lunch or dinner?

                                Mr. Taster

                        2. Try Joe's in Venice on Abbot Kinney for lunch. The sand dabs are wonderful and inexpensive.

                          1. Get thee to Peppone!

                            Huge portion of delicious sand dabs...

                            1. i third or fourth the vote for joes. for lunch its a great deal!