You should already be quite familiar with California Fish Grill, the largely local seafood chain that has spawned a lot of copy cats trying desperately to replicate its formula of reasonably-priced fish meals with rice or French fries. That many of its imitators have failed is a testament that the original still produces one of the best-prepared seafood deals in the county. The food has been dependably consistent over the years, even as their salsa and coleslaw remained inexplicably bitter and odd-tasting, respectively.
Every once in a while, the chain puts out specials that I wish were permanent. The last limited-time offer was an immensely enjoyable Hawaiian ahi poke using dice-sized cubes of raw tuna suffused with just a touch of soy, textured with onion in micro-granules, scallions and a not-so-secret ingredient of Huy Fong Foods' popular Sambal Oelek. That dish, unfortunately, is long-gone.
But now, there's the corn chowder, which I saw being ladled in two sizes of bowls at the Irvine store. I hope this one sticks around a little longer. The orange-tinged brew is not unlike the clam chowder, except it's seafood-free (grilled shrimp can be added for a nominal fee) and has a deeper, slightly spicier flavor in its milky-thick soup. What it lacks in protein it makes up in fire-roasted bits of corn, whose char can be seen in the generous amount of kernels suspended in the liquid. It is not obvious whether the restaurant makes it in-house or if it's from a supplier, but who cares when it's this good. Now about that salsa...
3988 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, CA