By VICTORIA THOMAS
I’m a Valley girl, by choice, not birth. Not coincidentally, many things I like about Burbank, when compared to the Hipster Fatigue of Santa Monica, do parallel my Brooklyn upbringing, and how it sharply delineated me and my fellow bridge-and-tunnel girls from the Manhattanites.
But one thing Brooklyn had was fish and fish-eaters. My father worked at the historic Fulton Fish Market, hauling pollock, grouper, flounder, octopus and live crabs out over the ice before dawn, back when the market was located near the Brooklyn Bridge at the East River waterfront. Many Brooklynites were old-school Italians and Italian-Americans who still ate fish on Fridays. Although, I must say, a steaming bowl of handmade linguini alla vongole, brimming with plump, briney clams, never seemed a form of penance. I looked forward to Lent.
Since then, Brooklyn’s become a surprisingly fashionable residence, while Burbank has not. Part of the reason is that Burbank has no fish.
There is a scary, low-ceilinged oyster house close to my ZIP code where one can perch on a stool and have an OK sea-sourced meal. But the freshness of the bivalves is more than overpowered by the stink of Lysol from the loo; the drunken cackling, squawking and brawling (primarily from the wait staff); and the reek of cigarette smoke, bitterness and despair from the overall establishment. If I were casting a Coen brothers movie, this place would be a gold mine.
I’d be happy if I could just purchase the fish there, take it home and cook it myself in a more pleasing environment. But in addition to the dearth of seafood restaurants in my part of the Valley, there isn’t a fresh fish market, either. The supers, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, offer defrosted Thai prawns; fake pressed-and-formed “krab” legs; and slimy slabs of farmed salmon, dyed Caltrans orange. There is often a whiff of something like ammonia from this deadliest catch. A few times, I’ve set down scraps that literally made my two cats high-tail it out of the kitchen.
Judging from the sad, frozen, battered filets and gruesome surf-and-turf combos at joints that have no interest or expertise in fish, Burbank might as well be a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. I know that my town is not close to the water, but I’m not asking the fish to swim over here.
And let’s talk about the raw stuff – the Geisha Lips, the Sexy Roll, the spicy OMG Roll (well, I do live in the Valley), all from Teru Sushi in Studio City. Back in the day, when my dad was slicing a piece of tuna so close to the bone that all that was left behind were a few wisps of purple flesh, he would say, “You could eat this fish raw.” That was a very different time and place, so we never did, but he was right.
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