Pismo's Coastal Grill recently opened in Fresno. Before Pismo's, the only option we had for seafood was Red Lobster. I have nothing against Red Lobster (I love those cheddar biscuits) but Pismo's is really something special. For the first time, you can actually find a raw oyster bar in Fresno. I don't think I've ever seen a plate of fresh oysters in Fresno before this past weekend. Even better, the oysters were fresh. They also have a "fish market" within the restaurant. Although, I have to say I wasn't impressed with the fresh fish they had in the display case but the food that came out of the kitchen was pretty damn tasty.
My first impression of Pismo's was this: good-tasting food in hefty american portions. The salads are HUGE. However, the unexpected surprise was the flavor of the food. Although the portions were not delicate, the flavors were. The salad was not just a bunch of vegetables carelessly thrown together. Everything had been carefully prepared. The cioppino I had on a previous visit featured a delicately flavored broth with perfectly cooked seafood. In a dish like cioppino it's easy to, for example, overcook the mussels while undercooking the scallops. However, Pismo's managed to bring out a steamy iron pot of cioppino that impressed me.
That being said, Pismo's is still a relatively new restaurant and although the service was decent, there were some obvious kinks that still needed to be worked out. Luckily, both times that I went, we were served our food rather quickly. However, I've heard of other people complaining of slow service. Also, one of my pet peeves is being served hot food first when raw oysters were ordered. We were served fried oysters before raw oysters. It should definitely be the other way around. Other than that, my dining experience was pretty good.
Pismo's Coastal Grill
7937 N. Blackstone Ave.
Fresno, CA 93711
Oysters on the Half Shell [$7.99]
half dozen, cocktail sauce, horseradish, mignonette
There were nice and briny Fanny Bay oysters, not too creamy, that exceeded my expectations in freshness. They were also expertly shucked and a very good deal at only $7.99 for a half dozen. That's a deal that would be hard to find in LA...
Clam Chowder [cup $3.99, bowl $4.99]
It's certainly not the best clam chowder I've had, but it's not bad either. The restaurant is still having problems with consistency--the first time I went it was a little thick, the second time it was a little looser with nice distinguishable pieces of clam
Fried Oysters [$10.99]
green olive tapenade
The salty, briny green olive tapenade with capers and fruity olive oil was the highlight of this appetizer. It was pleasant and expertly fried but I could have been eating fried anything. It's not noticeable that it was oyster.
The Albacore Salad [$10.99]
house poached tuna, romaine lettuce, picked red onions, green beans, tomatoes, kalamata olives boiled Yukon potatoes, hard egg, and dijon vinaigrette
The picture does not do this salad justice. The size of this salad was MASSIVE! And more than worth the $11! It was enough to probably last me three meals and I'm a big eater. The humongous size of this salad also led to its less appealing appearance. However, don't let that fool you. This was easily one of the best salads I've ever had. There was so much going on but every ingredient was carefully prepared and taken care of. The green beans were mandolined...mandolined. Who does that? They also seemed lightly picked which was delicious. Also pickled were the red onions which definitely made the salad. They were perfectly sweet and sour with just the right amount incorporated in the salad so that you get a little bit with every bite without it being overpowering. The poached tuna is nice and the potatoes were delicious after soaking up some of the dressing. I almost forgot the boiled egg pressed through a strainer to get that crumbly texture. It added a much needed richness to a light and delicious salad. Needless to say...I love this salad!
Ultimate Combo Louie [$17.99]
jumbo prawns, shrimp, dungeness crab, louie dressing, hard egg, gherkin garnish
This was also a ginormous salad. Similar in composition to the albacore salad but with a different dressing on the side. I don't have much to say about this other than the seafood was very fresh. I stuck with my albacore salad. It was large and tasty enough to keep my attention and wandering fork to myself.
Beach Burger [$12.99?]
Cheddar, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions
This burger was deliciously juicy although I only got to steal two bites. The menu indicated that the beef used involved some kind of Kobe beef...I don't know if it was actually Kobe beef but it was definitely tasty and juicy and beefy. The sauteed mushrooms were also delicious. I don't know what part of this burger makes it a "beach" burger but overall, a solid standard burger.
Given Fresno's lack of really outstanding restaurants, I have to say that Pismo's Coastal Grill is a great new addition. I might hop on a train and go home right now just for one of those salad. If you ever find yourself stuck in Fresno for some reason, and happen to be in the mood for some seafood, treat yourself to one of the better meals in town and go to Pismo's.