As we recently mused, it seems that L.A. is having a bit of a seafood renaissance, offering up creative preparations that stray from the city's tendency towards solely serving fish raw (no complaints here--I'm a sushi addict). Pasadena's newish Lost At Sea is doing just that, providing the neighborhood with fresh oysters and perfectly-cooked octopus in a laid-back, casual environment. Santos Uy and Tim Carey are at the helm of the consistently popular spot, bringing a sense of approachability to the space that resembles their experience at local Hollywood hole-in-the-wall Papilles. The restaurant itself is quite intimate, which made for a casually buzzy atmosphere on the Friday night that we visited; the blue walls and wood tables keep it modern and fresh, but add a dose of seafaring adventure. Sticking with the go-to shared plates format and light-to-heavy menu, most dishes have some sort of seafood twist, even if it's a simple crudité with a smoked albacore tonnato. Between the varied menu, casual environment, and focused wine list, Lost At Sea is undoubtedly solidifying itself as a Pasadena neighborhood staple.
Of course, we had to start out with oysters. They were fresh, clean, and crisp; I definitely appreciated that they weren't served with too many accoutrements, allowing the flavor of the oysters to shine instead of covering it up with sauce after sauce. A nice, light way to begin the meal.
Another light starter was the Citrus & Fennel Salad with grapefruit, blood orange, and quinoa. It was perfectly and lightly dressed, with quinoa providing a nice crunchy, textural element. The citrus and fennel were definitely the star here, making this a really enjoyable dish and quite a good starter salad.
Since I'm not a huge fan of eating heads, the fried smelt required a short adjustment period...and by that, I mean I would just bite the lower half of the smelt off and discard the head. I'm sure the heads were delicious, but it just freaked me out. The rest of the smelt was great though! They were crispy and salty, and the sauce was a nice, smoky, creamy addition.
Up next was the Octopus, which was definitely one of my favorites of the night. The octopus itself was really tender and cooked very nicely, while the smoky mole added a lot of flavor and spice. The little bit of citrus and sweet potato added some acid and sweetness, balancing out the heat of the mole.
Our final savory dish was the Albacore-- seared tuna with sunchoke, apple, pear, hearts of palm, and mole verde. The tuna was really tasty, and I enjoyed the pairing of the sunchokes, apples, and pears. Overall, it was another light dish and well-balanced dish that reminded me of some of the seasonal bites from Papilles.
To finish up, we had some Key Lime Pie and a Butterscotch Pot de Creme, which were both great desserts. The pie was light and citrusy, while the meringue was really good. The butterscotch budino was definitely decadent, creamy, and so satisfying.
Overall, it was a really nice meal. I really enjoyed the mix of creative and classic preparations, as well as the casual, neighborhood feel. Lost at Sea is definitely a great place to stop in for a fun seafood meal if you're in the Pasadena neighborhood.