Monday, September 28, 2009

Bubba Gump - Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica, California.  The Left Coast.  The West Coast.  Home to the world-renowned Santa Monica Pier, mecca of sun-worshipers and people watchers, street performers and families, surfers and streetwalkers.  It even has a ferris wheel, carousel and other rides.  You're at the beach but it's not too far from the hills of Hollywood or Beverly Hills.  You know you're in a semi-civilized section of the United States but there is the ever present awareness of the nearness of Hollywood and all it represents.

Santa Monica has one of the most expansive beaches on the west coast and on warm days it swarms with people, families, surfers, runners, walkers and other sun-seekers.   But the 100-year-old Pier is the place to walk and to watch the ocean surge towards shore, and the surfers swim out to sea.  On one side of the pier you look across the beach and can watch up to a dozen beach volleyball games in full sweaty, bobbling activity.  Across the other side of the beach you'll see families and couples doing what they do on warm, sunny days in California.

The Pier is also the place to people-watch in general.  While there, I saw a man on a bike (not unusual in itself.)  But he was carrying a big, wooden seatless chair strapped to his back.  I also admired this Santa Monica ray of sunshine.

But I was in Santa Monica looking for a taste of local food.  Not really sure what that meant, but it was well past lunchtime and I was ready for a bite of something tasty and fresh-caught.  Unfortunately, the choice of restaurants was limited, and my dining partner chose Bubba Gump's, a chain of seafood restaurants built mainly on the reputation of Forrest Gump and his Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company - an imaginary company devised to fit the script of a MOVIE.  How odd that this restaurant would be located in California, so close to Hollywood and it's celluloid birthplace.

Nonetheless, it was time to get down to some eating.  What sounded good?  We started with the Cajun Shrimp appetizer and a big, cold glass of beer.  The shrimp was served to the table bubbling in butter, with a slice of garlic bread accompanying.  Oh my goodness, I wish I could say I stopped with the shrimp, because it was very good.  Sometimes you'll get shrimp that has been over-steamed and has lost its delicate texture.  This shrimp had been cooked by experts and sizzled happily when the waitress centered it on our table.  The fragrance was heavenly: spicy, buttery shrimp.   The heat from the Cajun spices was perfectly offset by the creamy taste of the butter.  If I happened upon a piece that was a little hotter than the others, well, I just took another sip of that ice cold beer.

I thought I was still hungry, and I wanted to try something a bit out of my normal routine, so I ordered the Mahi Mahi on jasmine rice.  Fresh off the boat, she told me.  I thought she was referring to the Mahi Mahi, but after a couple of bites, I was not so sure.  In contrast to the deliciously cooked shrimp, this Mahi Mahi was overcooked and completely taste-free.  They tried to resuscitate the flavor with fresh herbs and a special sauce, but sadly I must report, the fish flavor was dead on arrival.
Fortunately, they had enough ice cold beer to fill one more glass.  So the meal was not a total loss.

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