No matter what type of seafood the chefs at Cajun Islands are cooking up, they end up giving it a distinct Cajun flavor in their cooking pot. That's because the chefs prepare their snow crab, crawfish, clams, and oysters in a flavorful Cajun broth, which complements seasonings that they wet-rub and butter onto each cut. That doesn't mean that all the dishes have the same flavor, however. Chefs alter the spice content to include more herbs and garlic or more of the mouth-tingling spices to create dishes that vary from mild to flaming hot. They can tame the fire of these dishes with their tropical blended drinks, in which they toss fresh fruit such as pineapple, coconut, papaya, and mangos. When paired with a basket of beer-battered fries and clam chowder, the dishes take on a degree of comfort only replicated by lounge chairs equipped with an anti-peer pressure forcefield.
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.
On the Reef Restaurant’s outdoor patio, every seat is a good one. The space stretches along the Long Beach Harbor, giving diners unobstructed views of the skyline, Queensway Bay, and the Queen Mary. The menu matches the elegant seaside ambiance with meals such as sesame seared tuna with sweet ponzu drizzle and grilled lobster tail with garlic mashed potatoes. The extensive drink list has a California-centric selection of 30 wines along with several craft cocktails, including the Evergreen, a blend of vodka, muddled basil, cucumber, simple syrup, and sparkling wine.
The chefs at Dang! Crabs transform empty plates into flavorful plumes of zesty New Orleans–style delicacies. A dose of half a dozen charbroiled oysters swims through garlic herb butter sauce ($10), and salad bowls overflow with a choice of sea candies, such as shrimp ($7), oysters ($7), or crawfish ($6) on a bed of crisp romaine, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy cucumbers drizzled in tangy Cajun red-pepper aioli dressing. Choose from a septet of hefty po boy sandwiches, including the fried catfish ($6 for half; $9 for whole) or Mikey’s Special, which recruits beef and ham to spar with a pickle spear in a vat of red-pepper aioli ($7 for half; $10 for whole). Traditional bowls of chicken or andouille gumbo ($7) make mouths even spicier than the bell pepper mouth-guard from your lacrosse days, and fries in varieties such as sweet potato, Cajun, or utilitarian accompany plates of fried catfish ($10), calamari ($8), and okra ($5).
Owner and CNN Hero, Bruno Serato, presents diners with variegated menus packed with Italian and seafood entrees prepared under the culinary eye of Executive Chef Eddie Meza. Bob for apples of dough with the gnocchi gorgonzola, with small potato and flour dumplings soaking up the flavor of tomato and gorgonzola sauce ($14.95 lunch; $19.95 dinner). The restaurant's signature dish, brasato piemontese, sports boneless beef short ribs braised in an italian barolo reduction for three hours and topped with a touch of horseradish and a dash of extravagance ($22.95 lunch; $30.50 dinner). Steamed salmon sweetens its style atop belgiun white chocolate mashed-potato purée ($23.95 lunch; $29.95 dinner), and the pesce bianco's sautéed whitefish inherits a spicy attitude by hanging around moroccan couscous and japanese peppers ($17.95 lunch only).
Who said you can't have wings for breakfast? To be fair, those wings do come with eggs or waffles. At R&J Southern Home Cooking Restaurant, a prominent southern influence springs forth starting with the first meal of the day. It carries through the afternoon and culminates at dinnertime, when cooks presents diners with an eclectic spread of seafood and soul food. A quick peek at their cookbook reveals the source of this inspiration; rather than using the generic recipes found as prizes in cereal boxes, the restaurant relies on time-tested family favorites, including some recipes that originated in Louisiana and Arkansas. Those guidelines now fill the menu with authentic southern eats, including entrees such as smothered steak, catfish filets, and gumbo.