THE CUISINE SCENE

Brenda

Hill


 


The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

King's Fish House
Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Long before I started school, my grandfather entertained me for hours with magical stories about long-ago castles in his native France and the ladies and brave knights who inhabited them. 

He wasn’t my ‘real’ grandfather, I later discovered, since he married my widowed grandmother long before I came along. But that didn’t matter to me. We’d listen to symphonies on the radio and he’d point out the different instruments and comment on their different sounds, then he’d place my feet on the top of his, hold out his arms for mine and whisk me across the floor in a waltz. I adored him. 

The only problem was his weird taste in food. I knew it was weird because my grandmother and mother couldn’t get out of the kitchen fast enough when he’d dig the smelliest cheeses and pickled herring out of the icebox. I’d brave it, though. If my grandfather loved those weird things, I’d love them too. To this day I love tangy pickled herring in wine sauce on crispy crackers. But no matter how I tried, I could never get a raw oyster past my lips.

In later years, I’d occasionally try a fried oyster. It didn’t seem quite so repulsive when it crunched instead of jiggled.

In the early eighties, a horror movie, Cat People, came out and I loved the ambience, the creepiness, of a dark, rainy New Orleans. When John Heard took newcomer Nastassja Kinski to an oyster place in the French Quarter and taught her how to eat them, I considered trying them again. Then, in the late nineties, my son represented his software company during a Comdex computer expo in Las Vegas. We met for dinner at a seafood grotto and ordered oysters on the half shells as appetizers. The iridescent shells sitting on chipped ice looked so pretty that I couldn’t wait to try them. Ever since that night I’ve loved them and so does my son. The only problem is they’re so hard to find.

Kathryn, fellow adventurer and friend, came to the rescue. Not only did she suggest a place to try, but she picked me up and whisked me off to Victoria Gardens, an outdoor mall in Rancho Cucamonga alive with shops, street vendors, and people strolling the central square where a fountain splashed next to a running creek. The spicy aroma of pizza, garlic, and probably a smelly cheese or two wafted in the air, and all the trees strung with lights felt magical and reminded me of the stories my grandfather told me long ago.



  We headed straight for at King’s Fish House on North Mainstreet.



Before even checking the entire menu, which changes sometimes daily, the manager told me, I spotted the oysters. Home of the fresh, topless, salty oysters, the menu says, a sampler of six for $12.95 and 12 for $25.75. They’re shucked to order and the sampler includes one of several different kinds, the Gigamoto and Sinku from British Columbia, Hama Hama from Washington, Rappahannock River from Virginia, Stingray from Maryland, Watch Hill from Rhode Island, and Island Creek from Massachusetts. I had no idea. I thought an oyster was an oyster, but Chad, one of the managers, explained that the Eastern oyster is more briney, as it stays open underwater and filters more water. The Western oyster is more meaty because it uses its muscle because it closes when it’s out of the water. The plate arrives with a lemon, grated horseradish, seafood sauce and vinegar and oil with shallots as condiments. I dabbed a bit of the horseradish and seafood sauce on mine and they were delicious.



Oysters were only one little section of the menu. They have everything from fish tacos for $7.75 to trout, calamari, catfish, salmon, sea scallops, 1 1/2 lb Alaskan King Crab Legs for $42.95 to 2 Australian Lobster Tails for $46.95. You can have your seafood broiled, grilled or fried.

One of their Regional Specials for now is the Pacific Swordfish, now being caught beyond the Channel islands off the Southern California coast. They offer it grilled or crusted with parmesan and sauteed over fresh spinach, or with pasta for $18.95, or served with ratatouille and rosemary potatoes for $23.95.

The have gumbo, Louisiana-style, for $15.45, jambalaya, or Southern fried catfish for $16.75, sesame seared Ahi tuna with shitake ginger cream sauce for $24.95, and even a New England Clambake with a 1 1/2 lb Maine lobster, steamed Manila clams, mussels, red potatoes and fresh corn on the cob for $36.95. I’ve seen it on TV and it’s something I definitely want to try.

They purchase their fish fresh each day and cook everything to order, including their French fries. Some of the sides are sautéed fresh spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, coleslaw, jasmine rice, ratatouille, macaroni and cheese, fries, corn, new potatoes and baked potatoes.

We had the oysters, although I have to say that I polished off most of them as they weren’t Kathryn’s favorite. But I didn’t feel too badly because she dug into the crusty bread and fresh butter.

She ordered the blackened salmon, and for sides, she had the baked potato and sautéed spinach. The salmon was tender, she told me, but had a little too much thyme for her taste.


 

Although I was tempted by the Louisiana catfish, I decided on the combo platter of shrimp, scallops, and a whitefish, either halibut or cod. Although it’s typically served with fries and coleslaw, I could exchange them for any other sides. When the platter arrived, the fries were under the seafood and I thought they’d be soggy. To my surprise, they were crispy and I asked our server why. They use Panko bread crumbs, he told me, which are a coarser texture than ordinary breadcrumbs, and make a lighter and crunchier coating. He said they don’t soak up as much oil, so the fries underneath would stay crisp. I just know that the seafood, even fried, tasted fresh. The coleslaw had a little more vinegar that I like, so next time I’ll try the corn, or perhaps the ratatouille.



If you’re with someone who doesn’t care for seafood, they also offer several pasta dishes and chicken and steak dishes, such as sautéed breast of chicken for $16.75 and chicken parmigiana for $16.95.

Their soups, usually about four, are made fresh each day.

And they haven’t forgotten children. Not only is there a kids’ menu, but it’s also an activity book with washable tattoos, puzzles, and they encourage children to visit the lobster tank and watch the oyster shucking at the oyster bar.

I’ll certainly be back. So many things I want to try. 

King’s Fish House
Victoria Gardens
12427 North Mainstreet
Rancho Cucamonga  909-803-1280
Sunday & Monday 11:30am-9pm
Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm
Friday & Saturday 11:30am-11pm