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.
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).
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.
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.