>> Samakaya Mediterranean Fish | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Samakaya Mediterranean Fish

EGYPT 🇪🇬
Katella Avenue facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant is fully open for indoor dining. Orders are placed at the counter before eating.

If you are strolling the coastal avenue of Alexandria in Egypt, you can pop in and out of old world cafes, enjoy a day at one of many sun-soaked beaches, or eat at one of dozens of seafood restaurants. These have the feeling of fish markets, with the day's fresh catch displayed on ice at the front of each, ready for customers to select just the right fish or seafood and ask for them to be prepared in the style of their liking.

While Los Angeles and Orange counties do not have enough of an expat Egyptian community to make a place like this viable, brand new Samakaya in Anaheim's Little Arabia is about as close as it gets to those feelings in Alexandria. The fresh catch might all be kept in the kitchen instead of at the door, but that does not hold them back.

Red sea style shrimp

At least for now the menu at Samakaya is small and anchored exclusively by seafood options as the name of the restaurant suggests. It focuses on their strengths and is just as refreshingly sparse as the space's nautical decorations. The item that pops off the menu the most is probably the Red Sea style shrimp ($27.99, above) simply because of the name. Mediterranean is in the restaurant's name but the country has just as important of a relationship with the Red Sea.

Eight big and snappy fresh shrimp are submerged in a garlicky tomato broth with onions and more tomatoes. Each meal you order comes with a plate of spiced rice, arugula salad, tahini and eggplant sauces, and a puffy piece of bread. It ends up being a lot of food, satisfying from all angles.

Whole grilled fish

While you do not get to pick the specific fish that gets cooked, another good order is the whole grilled fish ($22.99, above), served as a meal like the shrimp. While often around the world the interior of a grilled fish might be stuffed with the most flavorful items like garlic, lemongrass, and plenty of herbs, in Egypt they use small chopped up vegetables like carrots and celery. This keeps the fish extremely juicy and tender inside, even if the chef leaves it cooking a couple minutes too long.

The skin of the fish is powdered with a blend of what they call "Egyptian spices," and gets just a bit crispy from the grill. This makes it an important part of the tastes and textures of each bite, so do not just remove the skin like you might with other fish dishes. Squeeze on a little lime and eat it with bites of bread or rice, and you might forget you are in a nondescript shopping plaza in Anaheim.

Fish & chips

To pull in more customers to the new business, Samakaya is currently running a fish & chips ($9.99, above) special at an unbelievably low price, especially these days. It is a remarkable amount of food for the price, and again the fried fillets are dusted with Egyptian spices. Tahini and tartar sauces as well as eggplant and ketchup are all served with the dish, you will not be asking for any malt vinegar for sure. This take on the British isles classic blows the original out of the water.

Fairly empty on a recent Sunday afternoon, Samakaya has the feeling of a place that could only last a few months but is definitely good enough to be long-lasting if it gets more recognition from the neighborhood. The hope is for the latter, for it is bringing a new edge to an already vibrant community.

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