Sampling good eats at Neptune’s Net

I love it when you don’t make any plans and one thing leads to another and you end up by the beach gorging on a seafood platter during the golden hour. That’s exactly what happened when I ended up at Neptune’s Net on the Malibu and Ventura border.

I actually had never been to Neptune’s Net – a casual roadside seafood heaven with a gorgeous view of the Pacific that’s been around since 1958. My friend was in shock and my other friend and I were coerced into going — no regrets though.

Neptune’s Net reminds me of the little food shacks that Frankie and Annette would go to in their beach movies. You choose either the boiled seafood line or the grill seafood line. Make your order. Pay. Get your number. And sit on under the covered patio and wait for your number to be called as you look across the street and see the ocean.

My friend and I split Neptune’s Sampler.

Don’t you love the lighting? We got our order right at the golden hour. Neptune’s Sampler is mostly fried. Fried calamari! Fried fish! Fried shrimp! Fried clam strips! French fries! Oh… and there’s the crab cake that’s not fried but grilled instead. My favorite was the shrimp and fish – perfectly fried with a great crunch. I tried to stay away from the fries (even though they were tasty) because it was filler food — I needed to spare the space in my tummy for the seafood goodness.

Right when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, my friend who had driven us here said we couldn’t leave without trying the crab and ordered a Dungeness crab. Before I could slip into food coma, the dungeness crab had arrived in front of me.

The crab came pre-cracked with a side of melted butter. It was perfectly cooked. And the best part is I didn’t have to crack the shell because it was already done.

If you’re headed up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu, drive a little further to Neptune’s Net for a sunset meal – it will be well worth it.

Casablanca, Venice Beach

When my friend said we were having her birthday dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Casablanca, I thought she meant “Casa Blanca.” I was wrong. The Venice Beach restaurant we went to was actually named after the movie and Moroccan city.

When you walk in, there’s Casablanca tchotchke everywhere – the walls, the shelves… even a life-size mannequin of Humphrey Bogart wearing his trademark trench coat encased in glass. The restaurant has been open for over 30 years and apparently, they have one of the largest Casablanca film memorabilia collections in the country.

Besides the decor, the restaurant is also known for their homemade flour tortillas. I could have eaten these all night. They were piping hot and each one had a slightly different shape – definitely a sign that it was handmade. You can see the tortilla in the background and the “muy, muy, grande margarita” in the foreground.

In terms of food, they have your typical Mexican restaurant fare of enchiladas, burritos, and tacos but the waiter told me that they are known for their calamari dishes. He suggested I get the Calamari Acapulco which is basically shrimp and crab sauteed in a whole lot of garlic and butter served with rice and vegetables.

It was a little too buttery for me so I ended up taking my leftovers home. The shrimp and calamari were prepared just right – not overcooked and rubbery – but I do wish there was a little more acid to cut down on the butter.

This is a great place for a birthday and it’s definitely family-friendly. The atmosphere is really fun and kitschy – but what else did you expect from a Mexican restaurant named after a Moroccan city?