Which is why I am slightly confused by the connection between Enterprise Fish Company and Hurry Curry. Enterprise Fish Company is an almost-All-American seafood extravaganza physically and philosophically between the beach and subtly stylish Main Street in Santa Monica. Hurry Curry is a tiny Japanese curry joint physically and philosophically almost-QSR in a mini-mall on Tokyo-trendy Sawtelle. They are owned by the same people, so I suppose they are “sister” restaurants, but I have no idea how these two restaurants, with completely different concepts, menus, and markets, can be related.
Then again, sometimes I have no idea how my sisters and I can be related, either.
From the outside, it’s difficult to guess what Enterprise Fish Company will be like on the inside. The logo is a colorful, almost ethnic looking fish that has the feel of some tourist cantina on the beaches of Cabo. However, the broad, brick façade is what gives way to a huge, lofty, almost warehouse-like interior. Apparently, the restaurant has been there since 1979, and was built to echo the wharf-side fish houses along the California coast. The space extends deep into dark reaches where I’ve never been, mostly because my attention is always immediately attacked by the full bar on one side and a tiny fishbowl of saltwater taffy on the other. I am a sucker for saltwater taffy. I have no idea why.
The restaurant isn’t “nice,” which is a strange thing because seafood always tends to be on the more expensive side, and when food is expensive, I usually expect a slightly more upscale ambience. On the other hand, Enterprise Fish Company isn’t a dive either. It’s not that it’s right in between both ends of the spectrum, but rather, can be either/or, depending on the customer. You can walk in off the beach in your boardshorts and t-shirt (but maybe not a bikini top), or dress to conservatively impress and come with your boy’s parents who are visiting from out of town. Eek.
Yes, Mr. and Mrs. had flown in from the midwest, and even though I have met them several times before, even though they are the sweetest, most welcoming, accepting, good-natured, good-hearted people, the kind who go to Africa every year on their vacation to build schools and teach math and music, the kind who bring fresh cheese curds to us in LA because I loved them when I tried them for the first time out there, even though they really are every girlfriend’s dream set of boyfriend’s-parents, I was nervous.
Perhaps the nerves are what did it. Now, I know I am highly aware of certain things – probably more highly aware than is mentally healthy – and I love to complain about them and make sure that everyone around me is as highly aware of the annoyances as I am. However, that weekend, wanting everything to be absolutely perfect for Mr. and Mrs, the usually warm weather was suddenly uncomfortably sweltering.Though traffic is always bad, suddenly it felt like every single household in the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area decided to simultaneously take their 1.5 cars on average out for a drive and collectively hit the road at some pre-synchronized time planned to exactly coincide with the exact moment the four of us got on the road to drive to dinner. Enterprise Fish Company had always been “safe,” but suddenly I was critical of every dish that came to the table.
Had the salivary glands in my mouth shut down in involuntary response to nerves, or was the bread so dry that even with a generous slathering of herbed, whipped butter, I could hardly choke it down? It had to have been the latter because I certainly had no problem swallowing a taste of thin and watery soup that had no business calling itself a chowder. I had recommended the New England Clam Chowder to Mrs. as something that I had really liked the few times I had eaten at Enterprise Fish Company before, but now its underwhelming blandness was a bowlful of shame. Had I never noticed before the cafeteria-esque ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes before? The fish was rubbery. The shrimp were rubbery-er. Er. Had I always been too happily buzzed on previous occasions that I was looking at and tasting Enterprise Fish Company through Citron/soda goggles?
The only thing that was marginally acceptable to me-as-girlfriend-dining-with-boy’s-parents was the celebratory dessert, which is something that we could get at TGIFriday’s – mud pie.
Perhaps my judgment was influenced by external factors. Or, perhaps, it really was as disappointing as I thought. It doesn’t really matter because even if it was, Mr. and Mrs. are far too sweet to notice such frivolous things. It wasn’t fair, really, to be so critical that time just because Mr. and Mrs. were there.
However, it is fair to be critical when I went back to Enterprise Fish Company for a casual lunch, and it was disappointing. The service was painfully slow for a late lunch in a mostly empty restaurant. It was a good thing that the drink got my positive attention. I liked dirty martinis until they went the way of too-trendy Cosmopolitans. The Pepper Martini, made with pepper-flavored vodka (Absolut Peppar perhaps?) and a splash of juice from the pepper jar, is my new hot, literally, drink.
The kitchen was kind enough to accommodate a high-maintenance, dubiously allergic request for coconut-crusted scallops instead of shrimp (I know I’m not allergic physically, but I do react emotionally to shrimp), but the scallops were sandy. I ordered a Niçoise salad, but throwing a couple of olives – okay, I exaggerate, there were actually three olives – on top of greens does not make a salad Niçoise, at least not the canned tuna and capers Nicoise salads I prefer. I probably wouldn’t have minded the salad if the tuna had been good, but as fresh and flavorful as its alarmingly neon bright color could have proven to be, it was bland and strangely fibrous. I think I flossed between my incisors with a bite.
I sure am going to miss that saltwater taffy.
Enterprise Fish Company
174 Kinney Street (just west of Main)
Santa Monica, CA 90405
** a year ago today, marix don't mess with tex mex **