Sunday, January 16, 2005

KIng's Seafood - best of the formula restaurants

A couple of summers ago I went to Hyde Park, New York. I was attending a certification class in food styling. What does that have to do with formula restaurants???? Well, the class was filled with CIA chefs and me. I am not a chef. I was however, invited to join them for dinner one night. I suggested a place to go and got a unanimous "groan". "Not a formula restaurant, ugh" said one, another said "Please, we're in Hyde Park, there is no way I'm eating at a "cookie cutter" place." Okay, they're the pros, I'll stick with their suggestion. We went to a local place and had "american fare". It was not spectacular, but it was dinner.

"Formula Restaurants" are not my favorite places to eat. However, occasionally, there are a few that stand out. My favorite is a unique place. They really can't be lumped in with the "formula" group as they aren't a nationwide chain. However because they have a theme style restaurant in more than one location in Southern California some purists would call it a formula place. The restaurant to whom I am referring is King's Fish House.

King's began business in Long Beach California as King's Seafood Company in 1945. The have elvolved and gone through a sale or two. You can read more of their history here: King's Seafood Company. Recently they have begun operating restaurants in several locations under the King's Fish House banner. I can't say enough good about the place. The location that has me hooked is run by Mark McQuaid in Carlsbad, Ca.

The menu is excellent. You'll begin with sourdough bread, real butter and drinks. Moving on to appetizers - an enourmous assortment of oysters from the Pacific or regional favorites in season. Of course there are other selections available if you're not up for the oysters. Ceviche, Shrimp cocktail, Calimari, steamed Artichokes or clams. We usually skip the appetizer and go right on to the Mixed Greens with Vinaigrette or a bowl of the White Beans and Smoked Salmon soup. Either are tasty and a great way to begin this meal. We have enjoyed the Australian Lobster Tails, the Angel hair Pasta with Shrimp, Grilled Salmon, and the best Angus New York Strip I've ever eaten. You also choose side dishes to go with your entree - choose the sweet corn! It is cooked on the cob, fresh, and then just prior to service it is removed from the cob and plated. Mmmm. All your other choices are good too (I just happen to love the corn). Everything is cooked to perfection and service is timed to a "t". Make sure to leave room for dessert or take home some bread pudding or the ice box cake for later!

Of course all of the accolades are due to the hard work of the top guy - Mark McQuaid. A crew doesn't work this well or go to the effort to make their customers feel so good about their meal without a good leader. Thanks, Mark. And thanks, to your crew also!

So as I said before, occasionally a "formula place" works. King's Fish House does an excellent job of keeping the customer happy and well fed. It's not just one location either. I had lunch at the Calabassas location while having my car serviced in late December - lunch at this location was great too! So even it is your rule to "rule out" these cookie cutter formula type places, every once in a while there is the exception to the rule. Keep that in mind and you'll be pleasantly surprised.