You are here

The Dish: Don’t ‘Bass by’ Malibu’s Reel Inn

Pictured is the charbroiled Chilean Sea bass at the Reel Inn in Malibu. Photo by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Pictured is the sautéed halibut at the Reel Inn in Malibu. Photo by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media.
Pictured is the Cajun salmon at the Reel Inn in Malibu. Photo by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
6:37 pm PDT May 9, 2014

If you’re driving along Pacific Coast Highway and find yourself amused by a fishy pun the likes of “Mahibu” and “Don’t Bass Us By” painted on a sign outside of the Reel Inn, the restaurant has already lured you in hook, line and sinker.

“People say they drive past all the time – don’t do that,” said Andy Leonard, owner of the Reel Inn. “Seriously, don’t ‘bass by us.’”

The alluring puns on the Reel Inn’s sign, which at night glows like an anglerfish with neon delight, come from a bank of several dozen approved by Leonard.

“Sometimes a new guy will come on and suggest a pun for us and it’s just not funny,” he said, laughing. “I get final say about what goes on that sign.”

Leonard has owned the Reel Inn for approximately 26 years after acquiring it in 1987 from its previous owner, for whom Leonard was managing the restaurant prior.

With a display case showing off a sampling of the day’s catch – which Leonard said arrives at the restaurant daily from a variety of venues – the
interior of the Reel Inn looks itself almost like a wharf. 

Throughout the dining room of are long tables with picnic benches lining either side; the arrangement is such that unacquainted diners may either keep to themselves at the far ends of the tables, or converse with one another by sheer virtue of dining proximity. Of course, individual tables that can seat family-sized parties can be found along the walls, and an outdoor dining area with a similar set up is also present.

It’s important to take note of the fact that with the exception of some poultry options, if it doesn’t come from the sea, you won’t find it at the Reel Inn.

Some patrons may find the lack of red meat options to be a limiting aspect of the restaurant, but the offerings at the Reel Inn are more tailored than limited; the focus on seafood allows Leonard and his team to concentrate on purchasing and preparing some of best quality items to be found at the eastern-most edge of Malibu.

Falling near an average price of $15 with a standard deviation of a few bucks, any fish at the Reel Inn can be prepared in one of three ways: sautéed, Cajun – blackened and spicy – style or charbroiled.

“If it can’t be prepared in a pan, in a pot or a fryer, we don’t do it,” Leonard said, adding that the kitchen lacks an oven. “We do have a charbroiler, but we find that we don’t use it very often.”

A fish dish that certainly benefits from the Reel Inn’s charbroiler is the restaurant’s Chilean Sea bass; mild in flavor and zigzagged with lightly browned evidence of the charbroiler’s grates, the Reel Inn’s Chilean Sea bass could be one of the best ambassadors of seafood to the uninitiated. 

The fish is prepared to the extent that it flakes well at the touch of a fork and delicately falls apart in a short few chews.

The Reel Inn serves its Chilean Sea bass with a generous portion of potato chunks, skin left intact, which adds a bit more “oomph” and balances the dynamics of the dish, which is also served with a small garden salad.

Other dishes not to miss:

• Sautéed Halibut: If you’re in the mood for something a little more rich, this dish – featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” – is it. Sautéed in white wine, butter, garlic, tomatoes and capers, this dish is served with fries and a coleslaw that’s hard to beat.

• Cajun Salmon: This blackened fish flakes easily and does justice to the bayou traditions. It’s served with fries and a side of coleslaw.