The Otani family & their descendants apparently are carrying on the torch in order to continue the family legacy of a fish store cum restaurant that carries superior quality fish & seafood at reasonable prices & dates back to 1952.
On the way to the restroom, there is a wall chock full of old photos depicting members of the family & the photos of shots around the neighborhood.
The interior is well worn from countless customers in the past & present, and decorations are Japanese bordering on kitsch which creates a feeling of homey unpretentiousness.
The space is now mostly dedicated to their restaurant. Although there is no longer fresh seafood to be displayed directly to its customers, fish & seafood can be ordered by the pound with the latest prices on a cardboard sign.
The seating is a hodgepodge of cheap fast food benches & tables interspersed with banquet hall style seats & tables. For single diners on the go, there are tall bar stools & counter facing the order counter.
This is definitely a down home dining experience. Don’t bother wearing your Givenchy, Rolex, Ferragamo, or carrying a Louis Vuitton.
Since this is a fish market dedicated eatery, the most perspicacious act would be to order something piscine. There are generally two ways of cooking the seafood: frying with a batter, charbroiled.
There are seafood salads, Cocteles a la Mexicaine, soup in the form of chowder, either New England with milk or “Our Own Style” which seems to be Manhattan with a tomato soup base.
However for those not inclined to partake of the “fruits from the sea”, there are Chicken, Pork Rib, Beef Burger Teriyaki.
Since this was my first time, I had no clue as what to order so the friendly young staff member steered me to get the Teriyaki Red Snapper with steamed “dry”rice & mixed green salad. The rice was indeed dry & chewy in texture but at the same time, glutinous & sticky.
The crowning glory was the soft yet firm, fresh, sweet, delicate sea minerality of the Red Snapper which was miraculously not over-cooked to a dry, mealy toughness.
The fried batter surrounding the Red Snapper was another feat of excellence where the batter was lightly ethereal & crispy, crunchy at the same time. There is a light Teriyaki sauce thickened with cornstarch poured over the fried batter. It may be better to ask for the Teriyaki sauce on the side to keep the fried batter crisp.
The batter also had a herb mixture, that when fried, added an indescribable subtle bouquet which translated in the palate as to what may be a type of Vadouvan or curry powder mix. All the factors of the Redsnapper & the fried batter made for some toothsome eating.
If it were possible to do a BYOB, I would pair the above batter fried Red Snapper with Sake (sah keh) such as Katana, Shirakabe, or even a variety called Yamahai. All of which are drier, astringent, capable of clearing the palate of the fresh oils in the Tempura batter.
The other approach would be with wine such as a flowery, tropical scented, sweet yet acidic Viognier, or Grenache Blanc. A good strong, hops herbal IPA or a lighter bodied yet refreshing Hefeweizen beer with citrus undertones would also work. Since there was no Sake, wine, or beer, I opted for their fresh brewed dark iced tea.
The entire staff is friendly, helpful, willing to go the extra mile to make you feel at home. One young aspiring waitress related her goal to go to art school when I mentioned the crayon based artwork pasted on a long defunct refrigerated case.
Later, a more mature woman, who may have been one of the owners, came up, and inquired about how the food & service was with a kind smile.
All is good at the House of Otani. I certainly hope that they continue to prosper & flourish for another 60 more years.
608 S A St Oxnard, CA 93030 (805) 483-6519