Sunday, January 30, 2011

Enterprise Fish Co. - Crustaceans' Siren Call - dineLA Winter 2011

A few years ago, I convinced my good friend and uber specific red-meat carnivore "Lindyhopper" to branch out from 'turf' to 'surf' - starting with sea bass.  I was so proud of her when she first tried it, and now there's no looking back (ok, so she still won't eat sashimi, but hey, baby steps...).  Anyways, now the carnivore and the marinavore can eat at select seafood venues together, and for dineLA I decided to join her and a group of her friends at Enterprise Fish Co. for their advertised "2lb Live Maine Lobster", as part of a three-course prix fixe for $34!

Located on the far edge of Santa Monica, bordering Venice, Enterprise Fish Co is a standalone on a small side street off of Main.  It's a casual dining space, with a bar and open kitchen, that offers seafood lovers on a budget a relaxed atmosphere to grub -  a bit more upscale than Red Lobster, and much more laid back than McCormick and Schmick's.

Enterprise is a place for a rowdy Happy Hour, which  runs Mondays to Fridays 4-7pm and Sundays 8-10pm at the bar, with specials on well drinks, beer and wine as well as appetizers (including oyster shooters for $1.50!).  All while catching the game, if you are so inclined on big screen TVs above the bar.

We started our meal with a round of cocktails - and I ordered the Lychee Martini ($10) which was good - not too sweet and the lychee was not so subtle that I couldn't taste it (a problem with this drink at a lot of other venues).

And on to the food - the dineLA menu here is the easiest, for our table anyways, we've come across in terms of making our selections.  5 out of 6 of us ordered the same appetizers and entrees.

We all started with the Boston Clam Chowder, which was cup-sized ($4.95 on regular menu), creamy with large chunks of clams - again, not fine dining fare obviously, nor did it dethrone Boudin for me as the king of clam chowder for the masses, but fine for the tier.

That of course was followed by the entree that drew us to the mothership - 2 lb Live Maine Lobster, steamed and split.   This was served with one side item - at our table, we had grilled veggies and Potato Romanesco (mashed and shaped into a ball, then fried on the outside to form a cheesy crust.  Some felt the potatoes were too spicy, but I didn't taste any note was that it was too dry, a bit bland, and mealy).  When I had mentioned to my boss earlier in the week that we were planning this visit, he offered up some insights which I now know ring true.  Being from Maine, he really knows his lobsters - and he shared that though counter-intuitive, it's actually better to order the smaller lobsters - 1.5 lb lobsters are optimum size.  Two pounders are too 'muscular' and their meat is going to be tougher - 1.5 lb is the perfect balance of lots of meat while still having it be soft, juicy, tender and sweet.

And it's possible that it was the size, or just the way Enterprise Fish Co. prepared it, or perhaps I was freshly ruined by the amazing seafood I had just this past holiday in Sabah - there are so many confounding variables - but the meat tasted a bit tough and dry to me.  I'm also a fan of tomalley, and there wasn't that much to be had inside these lobsters' skulls - there wasn't even close to a 1/10th of a forkful.  I am tempted to finally get that live lobster from a Ranch 99 market and cook it myself - sometimes they are on sale for $2.99 per pound, and all the restaurants do is steam it, which I can in theory easily do if I weren't so concerned with hearing the steam exiting through their shells (this particular 2 pounder at Enterprise works out to about $21 with the dineLA deal).  I've become fairly adept at steaming my own live crab, but for some reason haven't been able to graduate to DIY lobster.  Maybe, like my ex's mom who was absolutely adorable, I will apologize to them and thank them for the meal they are providing before putting them in the pot.

The table was split on dessert - so I was able to try a bit of Lindyhopper's Orange & Chocolate Pots de Creme, which is a dineLA special, not offered on the regular menu, and pretty tasty for a casual restaurant.

I had the Enterprise Oreo Mudd Pie ($7.95 on regular menu) and was not so generous with sharing - it was delish (again, for casual dining - everything in context!).  Creamy where it should be creamy, and cookie bits and crust were crunchy as they should be.

All in all, not a bad meal for a casual dinner for larger groups.   I would probably not return for the shellfish at market price, but may come back for oyster shooters at happy hour prices.

One last thing to note:  parking was easy, on that Friday night anyways - I pulled into the public lot directly across from the restaurant and got a metered spot right away.  The meters are 'old-school' though, not the kind that accepts credit cards, so make sure to bring plenty of change.  I think I put in under $1 worth of change for 2.5 hours?  Was in a rush as I was late as usual, so can't remember exactly - but no more than $1 by my rough estimate.  The only drawback is that there is a 3 hour time limit, enforced 24 hours a day - so you couldn't park in one spot the whole night, if you wanted to go bar hopping down Main Street after dinner.  But you could always move it to another one of the many public lots off Neilson Way when time is up.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 5 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 70%


Enterprise Fish Co.
174 Kinney St., Santa Monica, CA 90405-5302
Ph: 310.392.8366

Twitter (Santa Barbara location):
OpenTable:  Look for reservations

Enterprise Fish Co. on Urbanspoon

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