Ana Maria Montoya Kishihara first landed on American soil in the early 1980s, bringing along her two young children, the traditional Peruvian recipes of her mother and grandmother, and a dream to start her own restaurant. She opened up Inka Grill in 1996, stocking its kitchen with fresh ingredients and setting up a wood-fired rotisserie to roast juicy Peruvian chicken dishes. Today, Ana’s daughter has taken over the family business, whipping up the authentic the Criolla recipes passed down from the three generations of women before her.
Amid the smoky rotisserie and bubbling pots of stew in the Inka Grill kitchen, chefs whip up fresh fish ceviches, savory steak stir-fry saltados, and flavorful seafood paellas. They pair heaping scoops of rice and beans with their rotisserie chicken, a poultry that reporters from Orange County Weekly lauded as “so juicy from tail to sternum you can barely tell the dark from the white.” Servers tote sizzling platters to the dining room, where vivid paintings of Peruvian children adorn the walls and a soft flute plays traditional Peruvian songs, i.e., Wham! covers. The staff pours glasses of the traditional chicha morada corn drink and presents cans of imported Inca Kola to quench the spice of their ultra-spicy green aji sauce, which the chefs have lightheartedly dubbed “Gringo Killer”.
Before filling up a plate at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, take a moment to meander past the seemingly boundless rows of fresh crawfish, jumbo crab legs, and oysters, or to marvel at chefs as they toss steak and chicken on fiery teppanyaki grills. Stroll past the sushi station to admire sushi masters as they nimbly slice fresh fish and crispy vegetables into colorful specialty rolls, then saunter by simmering trays of pan-Asian specialties such as fried rice and crunchy spring rolls. The vast buffet abounds with more than 150 hot and cold items, many of which were made with seafood purchased directly from local fisherman.
Out in the spacious dining room, diners linger over last bites of creamy cheesecake and juicy strawberries in cushy booths, sipping imported beers and colorful cocktails. The bright space is decorated with nautical decor, including orange life preservers and impressionist pieces painted by local sea monkeys.
When Amelia Seton opened her restaurant in 1961, she filled the menu with favorite dishes from her native Sorrento, Italy, as well as with catches off Balboa Island. Now helmed by multiple generations of Setons, Amelia's Seafood & Italian Restaurant serves dinners of clam bisque and Amelia's recipes for calamari and bouillabaisse. Pastas such as angel hair and linguine twirl beneath alfredo and lemon-butter sauces with meatballs and chicken breasts, and the kitchen prepares veal and chicken in traditional parmigiana, marsala, and piccata styles. Back in Sorrento, Amelia's extended family still runs her brother's restaurant, which stays connected to Amelia's Seafood & Italian Restaurant via tin-can telephone.
The Deluca family has always had seawater in its veins. In 1898, Naples native John Deluca settled in the port city of San Pedro and began to support his family as a fisherman. His oldest son, Jack, soon acquired a similar passion for the ocean—as a young boy he pulled lines at the docks and learned to fillet fish. By the age of 21, Jack co-owned State Fish Company with his friend and future brother-in-law, Gerald Cigliano. Jack went on to work for a decade at L.A. Fish & Oyster. He decided to branch out on his own in 1939 and set up a shop at the end of the Santa Monica Pier with his younger brother, Frank. Santa Monica Seafood Company was born.
Jack and Frank would grow the company for more than four decades, selling fish to famished tourists before selling fish to some of the top area restaurants, moving to a larger location to match their success. Their cousins and nephews would eventually purchase the company and expand it to new facilities in Orange County, Costa Mesa, and Las Vegas, with a corporate headquarters in Rancho Dominguez. The headquarters boasts a marine tank system that holds 12,000 pounds of live crustaceans, or one bodybuilding mermaid and all her weights.
Today, the four-generation family tradition continues at retail stores with cafés and oyster bars in Santa Monica and Costa Mesa. As part of their commitment to quality and respect for the sea, they work closely with organizations such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and FishWise to help develop their research and educational programs.
Once a repair shop and storage facility for local fishing fleets, for the past 40-plus years Woody?s Wharf has flourished as a casual eatery serving prominent patrons such as Mickey Mantle and John Wayne. The waterfront locale fosters fresh seafood dishes such as crab cakes and swordfish, pleasing the palate of former owner Chuck Norris, who bench-pressed unsuspecting fishing boats amid sparkling views of Newport Bay?s harbor. For their popular weekend brunch, Woody?s chefs whip up classic egg dishes such as omelets and breakfast burritos, which waiters can ferry to a dockside outdoor patio for easier plate-sharing with mooching mermen.
JACKshrimp transports Louisiana's distinctive spices and love of seafood to an upscale restaurant perched along the West Coast Highway. For more than 20 years, chefs have been blending crawfish and andouille sausage with al dente pasta or fresh greens. Blackened prime rib and shrimp also share menu space with healthy choices and non-spicy dishes that are perfect for the sensitive noses of pet bloodhounds. Along with colorful frescoes inspired by New Orleans, the restaurant boasts a weekend wine bar and an upper outdoor deck for private parties.