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Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar embraces its surroundings
From Africa to Massachusetts, Malibu Pier Restaurant executive chef Jason Fullilove has a history of connecting with his surroundings through food.
“When we were living in Africa, we had no TV and limited radio — it was all about community, meeting people, dinner parties and communal eating experiences,” Fullilove said. “It was my first introduction to how food can bring people together.”
Although many of his experiences abroad can be attributed to his mother’s studies in international relations when he was a child, Fullilove has since worked and lived in a litany of locations as a professional chef, honing his craft and pursuing his passion.
But California always called his name.
“Back in New York, I always got excited about produce from California — it was seen as the place to be for produce,” Fullilove said. “I really wanted to be closer to agriculture.”
After making the move out west in 2009, where he has worked for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Patina Group, Fullilove’s longing to become closer to the source of his dishes has now come full circle at the Malibu Pier Restaurant, which will host its grand opening on Thursday, May 15.
The marriage of Fullilove’s connection to his ingredients, with the Pier’s connection to the community, has resulted in a restaurant that is conscious of its surroundings in every sense of the word.
“We wanted this menu and this location to serve as a place where anyone can walk in and name the experience they want to have,” Fullilove said. “You can come in here in jeans and flip-flops and feel comfortable. Or you can sit down for a four-course meal. This is the place to see whatever side of Malibu you want to see.”
The menu focuses on providing guests with a wide-variety of environmentally conscious, sustainably caught seafood, 75 percent of which is caught by the Pier’s own fisherman Rick Hayes.
That authenticity can be tasted in Fullilove’s Malibu seafood stew — a rich, complex dish that utilizes the diversity of the restaurant’s ocean surroundings.
The dish starts with an intricately crafted broth, the ingredients for which Fullilove simmers together for six hours before the seafood even hits the pot. Roasted bell peppers, fennel, carrots, celery, onion, anchovies, puréed heirloom tomatoes, olive tapenade, Italian chillies and saffron pasta pearls meld together to create a deep, robust flavor that is balanced with the addition of fresh wild octopus, striped bass, PEI mussels and Carlsbad clams.
“Everything is cooked separately then added all together so you can really taste the individual flavors,” Fullilove said. “When you’re dealing with seafood and vegetables, you have such a large palette to work with.”
It’s not just flavors that Fullilove and Malibu Pier team work to blend together seamlessly. The site of the restaurant, at the near end of the pier, is the very location where the storied bar and restaurant, Alice’s, once stood.
Since the closing of Alice’s more than 20 years ago, the location has served as both an ode to both old school Malibu and, more recently, a destination for tourists from all around the world. When it was announced in September 2013 that the Bay Area-based Lark Creek Restaurant Group would be moving into the California State Parks-owned space, questions arose about what kind of establishment the Pier would host this time.
But, with two buildings — the restaurant on the right-hand side, and the smaller patio and bar on the left — Fullilove knows the Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar will succeed in finding an experience for every guest that comes through the doors.
“We’re not new Malibu and we’re not old Malibu,” Fullilove said. “We’re just Malibu.”
Other dishes not to miss...
• Uni deviled eggs — This play on the traditional American dish features deviled eggs with yuzokosho, a Japanese seasoning made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt.
• White sea bass carpaccio — This dish features thinly shaved white sea bass, cured for one hour and served raw with puffed rice, olive oil and a Meyer lemon relish.
• Tuna crudo — This dish features line-caught, sustainable yellow tail tuna, served raw and topped with Ojai pixies, petite sea grass, pistachios and an olive relish.