The Gossiping Gourmet: Keep it simple at King's Fish House

Although King's Fish House is a regional chain restaurant, it prides itself on the quality of its sustainable, farm-raised fish and seafood in addition to a large selection of wild caught products.

For example, their Idaho rainbow trout comes from Clear Springs, a farm along a 30-mile stretch of the Snake River. It is fed by thousands of natural underground springs that filter through lava rock and gush between canyon walls, which keep the water at an ideal temperature for raising trout.

On entering the King's Fish House restaurant in Huntington Beach, you find yourself stepping back to the old-time fish houses of San Francisco; the space features lots of wood, large high-walled, comfortable booths with rippled glass dividers at the top and Victorian-style lighting.

The extensive menu changes daily, according to availability and seasonality, and includes a dozen or so different kinds of shucked-to-order oysters from all over the United States and Mexico.

Seafood appetizers predominate but there are also chicken quesadillas, Buffalo wings and grilled artichokes if, for any reason, there is someone in your party who is seafood averse.

A full sushi and sashimi menu is also available with everything from a two-piece plate to a 24-piece platter. Our touchstone for evaluating sushi is hamachi (yellowtail), usually the most succulent and flavorful fish.

It was fresh but perhaps it had been cut a bit too soon as it was slightly dry. The rice was right on, with distinct grains that had tasty undertones of sugar and vinegar.

Miso soup had a very nice broth although it lacked the traditional taste of dried bonito flakes; however, the tofu was perfect and so was the wakame (seaweed), which had been added at just the right moment so that it retained its crunchiness.

We ordered the shrimp pot stickers, which we found doughy and a bit greasy with a skimpy amount of filling. If you want to start with shrimp, try the wild Mexican shrimp cocktail.

We enjoyed the grilled artichoke with a really good basil-garlic mayonnaise for dipping but found the vinaigrette that was drizzled on the four quarters to be unnecessary; we just scraped it off.

From the "Fish House Favorites" we chose coconut-crusted wild Ecuadorian mahi-mahi with rum butter sauce. The fish was moist and tender, but the breaded crust was without any discernible coconut flavor and the rum butter sauce was nowhere in evidence. Both this fish and the rainbow trout desperately needed the addition of at least a little salt.

Seemingly, the same light breading cloaked the rainbow trout. Once again, the fish was very fresh and juicy. In fact, it was quite delicious in its classic preparation with lemon butter sauce and toasted almonds.

Most of the entrées come with a choice of two sides. Our favorite by far was the nicely seasoned cheesy grits with just the right amount of spiciness and cheese mixed in. Also good were the garlic-mashed potatoes, very creamy with a subtle touch of garlic.

Less subtle was the sautéed spinach, which had lots of garlic and lots of flavor. Even the simple grilled zucchini was quite pleasant.

Heat lovers will appreciate the condiment tray on the table, which includes Cajun power garlic sauce and hot sauce.

Desserts are mostly the good old-fashioned kind, such as New York-style cheesecake, bread pudding with Jack Daniel's whiskey sauce and a seasonal fruit crisp. The chocolate cake was a moist, rich, dense devil's food cake with deep chocolate flavor.

For us, the very sweet chocolate ganache was overkill. The unsweetened whipped cream on the side balanced things out.

Our experience here led us to the conclusion that the simplest preparations are the best.

We found the quality of the fish and seafood to be quite good, so try fish from the charbroiler and steamed seafood from King's crab and lobster menu for the ultimate fish house experience.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

King's Fish House

Information: King's Fish House (714) 793-1177; kingsfishhouse.com

Where: 7691 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach

Hours:

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday

11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES (for dinner):

Appetizers: $7.95-$15.45

Entrées: $13.95-$31.95

Desserts: $5.45-$7.95

Kids menu: $5.95-$8.95

Wine:

Glass: $6.25-$13.95

Carafe: $11.50-$27

Bottle: $21-$68

Corkage Fee: none

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