El Pescador Fish Market627 Pearl St.La Jolla858-456-CLAM
"This is good," said my girlfriend, smiling as she squeezed more lemon juice onto her fish sandwich. I'd long tried to take her to one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall eateries, El Pescador in La Jolla, and she'd finally relented. I couldn't help but feel vindicated.
El Pescador features a large selection of fresh fish, much of it locally caught, and some varieties not found in other fish markets. For example, one can purchase harpoon-caught swordfish, removed from the water quickly, leaving the flesh white and not gray. The entry hole from the harpoon shaft is often visible in the pieces on display.
El Pescador also sells house-made gravlox (a Norwegian cured salmon), sashimi, ceviche, smoked fish, clam chowder and cioppino (a tomato-base seafood and vegetable stew)-all of which are delicious. However, the best items here are the fish sandwiches.
With choices that include local swordfish, sea bass, thresher shark, yellowtail, jumbo Mexican shrimp and fresh Alaskan salmon (in season only), deciding what to order can be difficult. Once you select your fish, you then choose a marinade from options like olive oil and garlic, lemon butter, teriyaki or Cajun style. We settled on the local sea bass with olive oil and garlic, and halibut with lemon butter, along with a small cup of the cioppino to enjoy while we waited.
The cioppino, dense with tomatoes, celery, green pepper, shrimp and large chunks of fish, is the perfect thing to tide you over while you wait for your sandwich. The flame broiler where the fish is cooked is located out front, so don't be surprised when your stomach starts rumbling in anticipation when you smell your fish grilling.
The sandwiches come on fresh torta rolls, dressed with shredded romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes and a dab of tartar sauce. The fish juices blend with the tartar sauce and moisten the bread, which gives the sandwich an especially decadent taste. Lightly charred from the grill, the fish is moist and flaky and lightly flavored from the marinade.El Pescador also prepares their fish on salads, or on a plate with rice and salad. The dining area is small, seating only 12 or so, but the service is quick and the food well worth your time. Prices are moderate: cioppino is $4 per cup, and the sandwiches are roughly $8 apiece.