When contemplating the venue of my first post in my new city I thought, what food do people think of when you mention Southern California? I think fish tacos, a dish that has a special place in my heart. I have come across this dish multiple times during food explorations and continue to sample the different renditions for the purpose of experiencing the culinary bliss that it brings me.My undying passion for this simple meal made me search near and far for restaurants that serve the best fish tacos around. This odyssey let me to James' Beach which is said to serve the best fish tacos in Southern California. Nestled in the middle of Venice James' Beach is most known for its prominence in the film I love You Man. In the movie one of the characters claims that this specific restaurant serves the best fish tacos in California, a line which was put in by the director who truly believes this.
(Image via Yelp)
Having seen this movie back when I was living in DC I never really though of keeping a note to try this place when. Even after I moved it didn't occur to me to try this place until my friend commented on a 4square check-in asking if this was the place from I Love You Man.
After this I made it a priority to visit this restaurant. Unfortunately a combination of not having a job or very many friends delayed the visit. Once I was finally able to go I made the short drive from Santa Monica to Venice. Despite the fact that traffic was backed up on a Tuesday night I full of joy and anticipation.
In the back of my mind I envisioned a line filled with hoards of tourists going for the same precise reason as I was. Being the victim of a number of tourist traps I could only think how long the wait would be and the possible conversations being struck up or people blurting out quotes like THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE or where's Pistol Pete? To my surprise I did not see any of that. In fact the restaurant was mostly empty which had me guessing that something may be up.
(Carrot and Jicama plate)
Once seated we ordered a round of drinks and were given a complimentary dish of fresh carrots and jicama to nibble on as we scanned the menu. In this case there was no need for that since I came for one reason. Once our server came I informed her that I wanted the famous fish tacos which were the special that day.
Before I could even start to crave the dish it appeared before my eyes. The presentation is a bit unorthodox but I really liked it. Instead of being wrapped with all the ingredients you are given all the components to prepare the tacos as you please. With a tortilla in my hand I began to ration my fish out. I then added the pico de gallo and guacamole which was all drizzled with a bit of salsa verde. I then topped it all off with a light coating of salt, pepper and a drip of tabasco sauce.
(Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos)
Once my concoction was built I began to nibble while I waited for my senses to fully register the flavors and relay it to my brain. My initial thoughts were how well seasoned the fish was. What followed was the same feeling of joy that comes every time I eat fish tacos. Having enough to make three tacos I played with the flavor combinations. I found that excluding the guacamole really brought out the most in contrasting flavors, especially between the salsa verde and Mahi Mahi.
After our meal was finished I came across the seemingly impossible question. Where these the best fish tacos I have ever had? If you diligently read my posts this question appears over and over again and my answer is yet change. While these tacos were great it is almost impossible for me to stand here and declare these as the best. Even though I have sampled this dish a great number of times I still have a ways to go before I can proclaim this dish as the best I have ever had. That does not however mean that these tacos weren't extraordinary because they really were.
In conclusion James' Beach good restaurant. The interior takes the touristy look and somehow makes it look really cute. The service was fantastic and the drinks were good. The prices were a bit on the steep side so I would stick to the daily specials. I only hope to come in next time and spot Pistol Pete and Joben drunkenly cracking jokes next to me while we both enjoy some fantastic tacos.