San Francisco does seafood exceptionally well — at least until the point where it does not. Cioppino, chowder, clams casino: we’ve got cooking techniques down. When it comes to minimal preparation and freshness, however, San Francisco fumbles a bit. There’s a dearth of decent sushi restaurants in the city. Reliable, well-priced seafood markets are far and few between. It’s a surprising, sad state of affairs for such a food-loving city.
Last month, when I was in Orange County, I got a much-needed seafood fix at Bear Flag Fish Company. Half deli counter, half fast-casual restaurant, the place is an absolute mecca for those who prize quality fish. My sister N and I went to town on the menu, ordering a picnic spread of Southern Californian specialties.
We got to Bear Flag Fish Company as they opened, but still had to wait half an hour in a line out the door. Once we placed our order at the counter, we grabbed a spot on the property’s Astroturf and our food appeared shortly thereafter.
Our eyes are almost always bigger than our appetite (maybe runs in the family?). Originally we had intended on getting a pound each of the salmon and ahi tuna poke salad, but The price point ($16/pound that day). Instead we got a half pound of both — more than enough! Both the salmon and tuna were flawless, mindblowingly fresh and cut into toothsome chunks, and even better once paired with fresh coconut and housemade guacamole and tortilla chips. My only suggestion: bring your own lemon juice, since they don’t add in any citrus into their salad and will charge you for lemons otherwise. Me being me, I might also bring my own tortilla chips (theirs were homemade and thicker cut than I prefer) and avocado, too…
One thing you can’t DIY, however, are their excellent panko fish tacos. My sister isn’t a big fish eater, but she loved these — I suspect, in some part, because the mild fish was overshadowed by the other elements on the plate. Next time, I might order the special, un-breaded version for purer fish flavor.
I’d been hearing so much about Bear Flag Fish Company over the past few years, and am glad it lived up to the hype. Now, if only there was a way I could bring those Southern Californian flavors back to San Francisco…
Bear Flag Fish Company (multiple locations)
407 31st St
Newport Beach, CA 92663