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Eating at Portsmouth LA
09/29/2013 by
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Even though this place technically is not in LA, it’s within reasonable driving distance.  Portsmouth is an oyster bar (with beer eventually) located close to downtown Whittier.  The actual site is in a quiet location in suburbia, so it was odd to see the building.  But with word of mouth, the internet, and Yelp/Eater-LA, it doesn’t really matter.

Portsmouth had just been opened for roughly a week.  There was a soft opening a few weeks back.  I accidentally stumbled onto this site when I was craving for seafood and didn’t want to travel to Santa Monica.  As some may know, the westside is just a pain to get around.  The parking is annoying, and the prices are less than friendly.  Eater LA posted an article about this little place, and I figured it’d be a nice small road trip for myself.  I met up with Fox W, who is a well-known Foodspotter.

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As we got there, the chef was starting to set up the oysters on the ice bed.

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The clam chowder itself was pretty good.  The orange oil had this nutty taste to it which complimented the broth nicely.  The actual broth was light with some clam flavors and surprisingly tasty.  The clams themselves were a little chewy, but I wasn’t expecting much from them.  It’s a shame that they were out of stock on the Crab Bisque.

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It’s definitely not as creamy and thick as you would think of a chowder, so to some it may not fit their palette.  For me, it was good.

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I ordered 1 of everything from their available oysters.  You can see a few pairs of oysters.  Half of the pairs were Fox W’s, as she prefers the smaller ones.

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The oysters were arranged in clockwise order to the above list starting from the top left.  The best parts of oyster eating as you all know already is sipping the water that they’re swimming in.

By far, the Kiwi Cups were the most delicious of the bunch.  They have a natural sweetness to them and were also a little milky.  They reminded me of Kumamotos.

The East Beach Blonde was also very good.  It had a very distinct sweetness to it.  Not as sweet as the Kiwi Cups, so they fit my taste buds perfectly.

The Stony Brook was also very delicious.  It was just as sweet as the East Beach Blonde with much more meat.

The staff were all ecstatic about the Wellfleet.  I thought this was just ok.  This one was very reminiscent of your typical oyster flavors.  It wasn’t really sweet, but there was a lot of meat and has that distinct ocean taste you would find in your typical oyster.

The Black Duck Salt was strange in that it actually was a little salty as if it was just pulled out of the ocean.  The meat itself didn’t have much sweetness to it and was somewhat more earthy.

The Naked Cowboy had a lot of meat and was naturally salty.  I think based on my palette, it definitely seems I prefer sweet over salty when it comes to oysters.  Here’s a funny note on the name: the naked cowboy oyster was actually named after a New York’s Times Square entertainer that goes by The Naked Cowboy.

The Malpeque oyster is from Prince Edward Island, Canada.  This one had an interested texture as it was more milky and not as meaty.  The oyster was definitely not as salty as some of the previous ones nor was it as meaty.

With beer, the salty oysters would’ve been great.  While sober, hands down the Kiwi Cups, East Beach Blonde, and Stony Brook were my favorite.

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I also had a Grilled Oyster, topped with Tequila mignonette, picked cucumbers, jalapeno, and cilantro.  I’m normally not a fan of cooked oysters, but this one was decent.  I’m not sure what type of oyster they used, but it had a little salt on it.  The toppings were pretty good although I wish there was a bit more citrus to it, but that’s just my personal taste.

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The Shrimp Meatballs were filled with applewood bacon, corn, cilantro, and put on top of tomatillo dry poblano chile sauce.  The meatballs were spongy but had a nice crisp outside texture to them.  I was expecting them to taste like shrimp paste purchased from Ranch 99 market, but they were surprisingly plump, soft, and tasty.

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The Crab Esquite was simply delectable.  Imagine steamed crab legs, grilled corn, garlic aioli, epazote, cotija cream foam, topped with dry poblano chile dust.

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After you mix everything together, this is what you get.  The crab was sweet and delicious.  I did find a piece of cartilage in my crab meat, but that made me smile because it told me how fresh and real this is.  I mentioned how much I enjoyed this dish to Chef Daniel, and he said that they actually pull the meat from the crab itself.  It goes to show when you put labor and love into a dish, it really comes out in flavor.  This would be a great starting order for your meal.

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The Crab Cake burger sounds like a great idea with a torta bun, corn, aioli, pickled onions, and greens.  However, it was a little disappointing.  It did contain crab, but it wasn’t the same type of crab found in the crab esquite.  Given the price point, I can say that I am not completely surprised.  The quality of the crab just wasn’t there in this one.  The crab cake itself was salted a little too much for my taste.  I wish that the chefs had used the meat from the crab esquite in this sandwich.

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Lobster Mac & Cheese for a low price is very tempting.  With this, you get shell pasta, lobster demi-sec, parmesan cream, and capers.  It’s a great idea if executed perfectly but can cause you to face plant otherwise.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t delivered as well as it could’ve been.  I actually enjoyed the base pasta sauce.  It was a white sauce with some seasoning and lobster flavors.  However, everything else was just heavily salted.  The lobster meat shriveled up due to the amount of salt added, and it was very salty itself.  You definitely don’t need to salt a cheese macaroni dish considering the cheese itself already is salty.

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As a closing, the chef gave us oyster shooters with a Kiwi Cup oyster.  (Please note: I drank half the shot already just so we can take a picture of the oyster).  This was really good, but I’m partially biased because I love spicy foods.  The oyster was dunked in some tomato juice, salt, lots of spices, and other things.  It left a nice kick to the face just like a Bloody Mary except it lingers.  Nicely done.

Chef Daniel came out to greet us and to listen to our feedback.  Despite our criticisms above, it’s understandable that a new restaurant will still go through some experimentation with their dishes.  After talking to the chef, I have confidence that he will fix these issues.

Once they get their liquor license, this would be a fun place for those inland Angelinos to have a beer and some oysters without all the mess (parking, $$$) associated with Los Angeles.

Did I forgot to mention that parking was a breeze?

Visit: Portsmouth, 13103 Penn St, Whittier, California 90602
Pictures courtesy of Fox W @ Foodspotting.com

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  • Fox W

    I will go back and try it again when they get the alcohol license. I think they’ll do a full French wine list, which is totally up to my drinking alley!