Baja Catch & Grill brings Mexican seafood fusion to Playa Vista
Story by Lawrence Yee | Photos by Zsusi Steiner
When restauranteur Gaby Maalouf wanted to branch out from his eponymous Mediterranean restaurants, he knew exactly what cuisine he wanted to tackle next.
“I’ve always been a fan of Baja-style seafood,” Maalouf explained. “Baja-style seafood” is typically the street food you would find on the Mexican peninsula, from Tijuana all the way down to Cabo San Lucas. The cuisine’s mainstay is fish tacos with either deep-fried or sautéed white-fleshed fish, shredded cabbage, and a white sauce. No cheese.
Maalouf’s fascination with Baja cuisine began decades earlier when he was working as a filmmaker, often filming south of the border.
“We did a lot of movies down there,” he reminisced. “We had to feed crews of 50, 60 people. I also learned about the fishing harbors.”
Working with expert chefs, Maalouf relaunched Gaby’s Express as Baja Catch & Grill with a seafood-focused menu. The interior got a refresh too; swaths of blue give a cool, Baja vibe.
The change has been embraced by the Playa Vista community.
“They know food,” Maalouf said. “They come in to sample the ceviche and return for a full order.”
Ceviche is one of the many fresh seafood options on the menu. It comes in fish, shrimp, crab and the special la tia (“The aunt”) version.
Maalouf’s personal favorite is the seafood cocktail. In addition to the traditional shrimp cocktail, patrons can order octopus, clam, abalone, trophon, scallops and campechana. One of the most luxe items on the menu is the piedra cocktail with generous amounts of oysters and shrimp, which Maalouf jokes will have you feeling like “a rock” (the translation of piedra).
Baja Catch & Grill also features standard tacos and burritos (Maalouf recommends the fiesta vegetarian burrito made with grilled zucchini). But fresh caught and grilled fish is the name of the game — literally. Options for seafood — sourced from Mexico/Ensenada and Alaska – include salmon, mahi mahi, cod, swai, catfish, tilapia and snapper.
The fish tacos are addictive, made with crispy fish that’s tender inside. Instead of rice and beans, opt for the grilled zucchini and sweet potato fries. Add a little sweetness with one of three colorful aguas frescas. Plans to offer beer are in the works.
But it’s the freshness of the food that Maalouf wants to drive home.
“Every cuisine has fish and meat and tomatoes,” he explained. “With this venture, we’re thinking about the freshness and the quality of the food.”
Baja Catch & Grill is currently open for take-out.
Baja Catch & Grill is located at 12219 West Jefferson next to Starbucks, just east of Centinela. Visit meetmeatbaja.com to order online or call (424) 253-8129.