It’s impossible to spot every excellent restaurant in Los Angeles, especially when so many of them are hiding in plain sight. But it’s kind of our job, so whenever we’re stuck in traffic, we’ll look over at a strip mall, take a mental picture, and then pretend we’re on a crime procedural and enhance the image. Except instead of trying to see some bank robber’s eye color, we’re trying to zoom in and spot the restaurants hiding in between the pawn shops and ophthalmologist offices.
Fish King, a seafood market and restaurant in Glendale, is one of those hard-to-spot places. It’s in a strip mall, and from the street, it’s virtually indistinguishable from the adjacent appliance store. But inside, there’s no mistaking what you’re here for. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a massive case of seafood - six different kinds of oysters, five kinds of poke, shrimp, scallops, halibut, hamachi, swordfish, salmon, snapper - and a huge board that tells you all the different ways you can order those things (fried, grilled, occasionally raw). If you’re looking for a new washer/dryer combo, you’re definitely in the wrong place.
But if you want fish, this is the spot. When we’re here alone, we usually order some poke. Poke has become so ubiquitous around LA that it feels like every other restaurant on Third St. has some version of it on the menu. But this is true, Hawaiian-style poke (which makes sense, since the owner’s family is from Oahu), meaning there’s no option to customize it with taro root or guacamole - it’s basically just a scoop of the freshest fish around, over rice and seaweed salad. Our favorite is the Hawaiian, with perfectly oily sesame tuna, but get whatever looks good to you.
Chances are that, in addition to the poke, it’ll be hard to resist the urge to order everything in the “fried” section. So just let it happen. The scallops taste like fried sea butter, the oysters hold their brininess well through the light breading, and the calamari is super juicy (although we wish they served the tentacles, not just the bodies). The fried “Crunch” fish sandwich is also a winner, and a lesson in simplicity - just fried whitefish, tomato, mayo, and lettuce on a toasted roll, it’s like if the Filet-O-Fish was actually fantastic.
In addition to being a damn good restaurant and fish shop, Fish King is also a distributor, so if you’ve eaten great seafood at a restaurant recently, there’s a good chance they bought it from these people. We’re not sure whether that fully explains how a strip mall spot in Glendale can have six types of extremely fresh oysters at any given moment, but there are some mysteries better left to the people on CSI. Or whatever’s on network TV these days.
You can’t go a block without coming across a sad poke bar in LA. Fish King is the opposite of sad, and this bowl is proof. There’s no option to add corn, or pineapple, or kale ice cream like at those other spots. Just incredible quality fish, some shoyu, and maybe some mayo or masago.
Sushi-burritos sound like a gimmick. And they are. But we could not give less of a f*ck when they taste this good.
Creamy soups aren’t really a thing in LA, probably because the closest we get to creamy soup weather is when it’s 65 and rains for 15 minutes in February. This excellent chowder would be right at home in actual cold weather, though.
Fish King has fried seafood down the way Disney has nostalgia down - no matter how many ways they do it, you’re going to like it.
The tortillas and cabbage are grocery store-quality, but the fried shrimp and aioli on top are so good we don’t care. Alternatively, you could also just get a basket of fried shrimp.
There are probably enough fried things in your order to make you worry about getting out of here on two feet - so maybe substitute one of them for something grilled, especially if it’s this sweet, flaky orange roughy with lemon-butter sauce.