634 Pearl Street, La Jolla
Thirty years after opening as a small fish counter, La Jolla mainstay El Pescador Fish Market finally moved into a bigger space back in September. It didn't go very far — directly across the street as a matter of fact — but in a number of ways the experience is far different.
Few of those ways involve the food. El Pescador still offers a glass counter filled with fresh-catch seafood, and it still grills said fish to order, including sandwiches and tacos. They've added burritos to the menu — actually they call'm burros — flour tortillas filled with spinach, black beans, grilled onions, and yogurt sauce; plus the choice of Mexican white shrimp, local sea bass, or a mixture of local yellowtail and squid. I should have tried the latter. I should have tried any of them, or the daily burrito special.
But these are 12- or 13-buck burritos I'm talking about, which seems a little steep, even for a La Jolla burrito. But that's not actually the reason I didn't eat one. I was after the sashimi plate, which has never let me down in either quality or value.
Prices have gone up across the board with the move, and the daily sashimi plate is no exception. What used to cost around $12 for about ten pieces of fish now goes for $14 or $15. I guess it's understandable given the cost to build out a new place, and the huge increase in square footage — La Jolla square footage no less. Also, this much raw fish for $15 still qualifies as a fair price compared to sushi joints willing to charge that much for six pieces. But it still stings, as progress often does.
Before, El Pescador was in the cramped little corner of a strip mall, next to Mitch's Surf Shop. Customers in line had to maneuver around customers waiting for their orders, and there was never enough seating to go around, even factoring in the outdoor tables. Nevertheless, the place had a certain level of charm that's tough to replicate on a bigger property.
The new spot loses outdoor seating, but gains four or five times the space, plus high ceilings and plenty of sunlight from a wall of windows lined with a bank of four-tops. There's a six-seater at one end, and two long community tables run through the center of the restaurant, offering a prime view of fish inside the long counter running almost the length of the place. There's even a dedicated parking lot.
I'm sure it might be tough for long-time regulars who've long gloried in the quirks of their local go-to fish source, but even if you prefer to take your fish home and cook it yourself, the relative ease of getting to and through the line has to be considered an improvement.
As for my sashimi — ahi and hamachi on this visit — it went down as quickly and refreshing as it ever has. End even if it costs me more, this will still be stop number one following a good La Jolla surf session.