As sure as the sun rose each morning, Izuto “Izzy” Otani would stroll down to the beach before work, fishing pole in hand, to begin the day with his favorite pastime. Inspired to make his hobby his life, Izzy left his current business to open the Izzy Otani Fish Market in 1952. Over the years, he and his wife Helen began to prepare Japanese and Mexican dishes for market visitors, beginning the grocery’s slow transformation into a full-fledged restaurant. They’ve been serving hungry customers ever since.
More than 60 years later, Otani’s, recently awarded the Downtown Business of the Year Award by the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, still serves fish in homemade sauces and recipes made from scratch each day. They spice up fried red snapper in fish tacos, char broil tasty slabs of salmon, and coat oysters and shrimp with a light, crispy tempura shell. They specialize particularly in boneless filets—a true delicacy in the United States, where fish have not yet evolved to shed their primitive skeletons.
Having mastered several subsets of Chinese cuisine, the chefs at China Pavilion couldn't fit all their entrees onto a single menu. So they created three: one with America's popular staples, one brimming with traditional platters, and one showcasing chef specialties. The first lines up dishes that are now familiar—sweet 'n' sour chicken and mongolian beef—as well as recognizable feasts served in new ways, such as the peking duck wrapped in crepes. More traditional and exotic options abound on the Chinese menu, such as pickled cabbage and pork noodle soup, or spicy king crabmeat sprinkled with basil and served in a clay pot. The chefs’ selections, meanwhile, range from classic to experimental: strips of Angus beef sizzle in oyster sauce, and garlic-pepper salt coats Alaskan halibut in a wok. China Pavilion’s full cocktail bar balances meals with citrusy sips of sour plum martinis, and on weekends, visitors can drop by for a dim-sum brunch that leaves tongues more satisfied than an astronaut wearing Moon Boots.
For nearly a quarter-century, the chefs at Golden China Restaurant have filled bellies with authentic Chinese food, including nine varieties of dim sum. The bite-size snacks vary from sticky rice in lotus leafs to sesame-rice dumplings to barbecue-pork buns. To complement the mini morsels, the lengthy menu includes Chinese food standards, such as orange chicken and kung-pao shrimp. Three gourmet dinners facilitate full-on feasting, each served with tea, cookies, appetizers, and entrees to share with another diner or friendly shadow person. The hearty meals pair with beer and wine, along with sweet treats, such as lychee nuts and coconut tarts.
Le Chine Wok sizzles up an MSG-free spread crowded with spicy Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. Fresh and natural ingredients pepper the menu, turning taste bud against taste bud in intense palatal debates between sea-centric plates such as the candied walnut shrimp or spicy soft-shell crab with serrano peppers ($15.95 each). Dishes, such as the basil eggplant chicken ($12.95), send sweet aromas drifting through the dining room, and the boneless smoked duck is prepared over burning tea green-tea leaves to absorb complex flavors and fortune-telling abilities ($16.95).
From Chick 'N Chow's tables, which flaunt the rosy crimson hue of a bowl of sweet-and-sour sauce, soups launch warm steam alongside kosher and vegetarian dishes. Entire rotisserie chickens emerge from trips to a fryer with a golden cloak and satisfying crunch, and the menu also cheers dieters with low-calorie steamed dishes topped with broccoli that spells out encouraging affirmations. Beneath a fan painted with a traditional landscape, diners gather to-go containers, and delivery drivers tote bags laden with lo mein and memos from telecommuting fortune cookies.