It’s odd to think of our food flying around the world just to be eaten. Even though we live next to the vast Pacific Ocean, there’s something exotic about dipping a fork into a steamy John Dory from New Zealand, and let’s face it, that fish probably has more frequent flyer miles than I do.
At TAPS’ Fish House & Brewery, the menu seems to have been revamped to focus on the sea. The “From the Land” section has been reduced to roughly 20 percent of the giant two-page menu. So we decided to skip the prime cuts, and instead put on our goggles, plug our noses and wave one hand in the air as if we were snorkling off the S.S. TAPS.
As proof that I’ll order anything on a menu with the word yuzu in it, I got the soy yuzu-marinated hamachi collar for one side of the table and the grilled Spanish octopus for the other. I’m not sure why I love yuzu so much—perhaps because the acidity of the citrus fruit’s juice can brighten up any food or drink. The hamachi is deeply charbroiled until the crust develops a thin shell that, when broken with a fork, bursts into easily devoured bites of light, flaky meat. It’s resting in a soy fish-sauce aioli, which pairs perfectly with Poseidon, a triple IPA at 8.5 percent ABV that highlights the tropical-citrus notes of the dish.
The octopus must have been great, as I didn’t get to snag anything more than a photo, but the guilty looks from the rest of the table were telling. The tender tentacles are sous vide for eight hours at 158 degrees, making them perfectly fork-sliceable, and the veggie panisse cakes and caper berries resting in the smoked paprika puttanesca sauce were “plate-lickable,” according to my wife. The obvious pairing would be a dirty-dry martini to match the salty caper berries, but she claimed the Irish Red ale matched the caramelized flavors of the dish perfectly.
For mains, the new “Jet Fresh” menu changes weekly to reflect what’s caught and available. TAPS paired with Santa Monica Seafood for this section, and the only thing the kitchen tries to keep on hand is the branzino from Greece, which is filleted whole and comes with your choice of two heaping sides. The fun part is picking a topping to be drizzled on as it’s served, which is perfect for those Boomerang Instagram stories. We went with chimichurri as it’s a perfect match for the light, sweet fish, and we paired it with a Björn In the USA unfiltered pilsner. Why pilsner? It’s just as jet-fresh as the fish and won’t overpower the delicate flavors.
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, 13390 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 619-0404; also at 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; tapsfishhouse.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!