They say the best things come to those who wait. Or, at least that’s what my mother said to me to keep me quiet when I was a kid. The old saying may ring true for Restaurateur, David Cortina, owner of Lure Fish House and Oyster Bar in Ventura, CA. Cortina signed a lease at the ground-floor space at 60 S. California St. last January with an opening on November 19, 2012, but this isn’t Cortina’s first opening.
He opened his first Lure Fish House and Oyster Bar fifteen miles away in Camarillo, CA in the Camarillo Town Center in November, 2010. Before he had completed construction in the new Ventura location, another developer proposed a third location thirty miles away in Westlake Village, CA. Ground broke at the Westlake Village location in August, last year.
We visited Lure in Ventura for lunch a few days before Christmas, and decided then that we’d make it our first restaurant review to kick off 2013. The 4,900 square foot art deco / Spanish building is every part Cortina’s vision as his phenomenal menu. Unlike his first Lure Fish House, Cortina had the opportunity to build the space out literally from dirt floors, and it’s an artistic masterpiece.
Outside the main entrance is a chalk board display announcing the catch of the day. Lure brings its seafood in daily directly from fishing boats in Santa Monica, and all of its produce comes from local farms. The space is open with abundant natural lighting, as well as beautiful, artistic light fixtures that set a cozy and warm mood when the sun goes down.
Shortly after being seated at our table, Bryce, our server introduced himself, then offered an introduction of the restaurant. Having never been to a Lure Fish House, we gladly accepted the invitation to hear about the history and concept behind this amazing restaurant.
It’s not only a pleasant demeanor that makes an excellent server. Service excellence is born as much from knowledge and training as personality. Bryce made us feel comfortable, and his knowledge of the restaurant and menu items was impeccable.
If you’re going to visit any fish house that boasts an oyster bar, there would be no excuse to not try at least one order of fresh oysters on the half shell.
Bryce recommended a special, six Silver Point Oysters harvested in Coos Bay on Oregon’s Pacific Coast ($11.95). One note, there are hundreds of species of oysters around the world, and even within the same species, no two oysters will really taste the same.
The flavor of an oyster comes from its locale, water temperature, tidal patterns, mating cycles, their diet and the mineral content of their habitat. Silver Point Oysters from Coos Bay are cold water oysters that do not spawn due to the colder temperature; this actually helps them maintain a firm texture and light, sweet finish.
While chatting with Bryce about the menu, I mentioned that we’re avid lobster fans. He quickly recommended the Lobster Spinach Dip ($14.95), a creamy and delicious spinach dip topped with succulent lobster meat served with garlic bread.
The fresh, lobster combined with creamy house made spinach dip was absolutely amazing. This starter would easily serve four people. The last thing you want to do is fill up on your starters, before the meal even arrives. This was a relatively large starter for two, considering we also each had three oysters.
Lobster Ravioli ($17.95) was the perfect choice for a smooth transition from our Lobster Spinach Dip starter. Lure’s Lobster Ravioli is an addictive decadent treat with rich, bold flavors and chunks of fresh lobster, smothered in a buttery, creamy white sauce; it definitely didn’t disappoint.
Cioppino is one of my favorite seafood dishes. It’s the one dish I always steer to when I can’t make up my mind about which fish I’m in the mood for. Cioppino is a splendor of seafood, offering a little of everything. This classic California dish originated in San Francisco in the 1800′s, and what I love about Cioppino is there is no single recipe, other than the base. It consists of a garlic tomato wine broth and fish. How the broth is produced and the fish that goes into it is about as varied as the cooks who prepare it.
Regardless of the preparation, a good Cioppino broth is a well-cooked, brick-red tomato base integrating the flavors of the seafood that stews in it. Bryce recommended Lure’s Cioppino highly, and considering we hadn’t gone wrong yet with any of his recommendations, I felt it would be a sure thing.
Lure Cioppino over linguine, made with fire roasted tomato broth, fresh fish, little neck clams, mussels, gulf shrimp and scallops and served with a garlic brioche bread ($19.95) was by far the winner of the day. Every piece of seafood was absolutely amazing – tender, juicy, bursting with flavor, and fresh. I ordered with linguine to balance the dish, but it wasn’t necessary at all. Hands down, this was the best Cioppino I’ve ever tasted, and as you know I don’t take my seafood lightly.
For dessert, we started with Sorbetini ($5.95), a delightfully sweet mango, lemon and raspberry sorbet with house made raspberry chambord sauce. It was as delicious as it was beautiful to look at with a sweet tartness that wasn’t too sweet or too tart.
This is a perfect dessert after a hearty meal – light, cool, refreshing and sweet – but I couldn’t leave without a taste of the Key Lime Pie.
Lure’s Key Lime Pie ($6.95) is the perfect blend of tart and sweet, made with what tasted like freshly squeezed key lime juice in the filling in a marvelously sweet graham cracker crust, topped with whipped cream, and sprinkled with graham crumbles for a whimsical finish.
Without hesitation, Lure Fish House & Oyster Bar was the best choice for a final review lunch in 2012, and it certainly raises the bar for 2013. As stated on its website, Lure Fish House was created with the goal of providing a Top Tier Seafood Experience, featuring fresh and sustainable seafood from trusted sources. It strives to provide locally caught seafood, organically grown local produce, and wines from local vineyards whenever possible. Lure also features a full bar with specialty cocktails, and an oyster bar serving a variety of fresh items that can vary daily. Lure specializes in Mesquite charbroiled seafood while also providing uniquely prepared selections. The menu is printed daily, and can vary depending on season and the catch of the day.
Lure’s primary goal is to provide its guests with a fun and exciting seafood experience, and they’ve certainly hit the mark.
Overall Impression: 5.0 Plates
60 South California Street, Ventura, California; 805-567-4400; Open daily at 11:30 a.m., Happy Hour 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and all day on Sunday. Reservations are recommended for dinner and weekends.