Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hagfish at the Wrench & Rodent

I'm torn about telling you too much about hagfish. These slimy sea creatures are truly disturbing and may have you clicking away to read about kale salads or spicy tuna handrolls. But, when prepared right, they are truly delicious, with a terrific crunch.

Gagging yet? Don't go anywhere--or, actually, head over to the crazyass Oceanside sushi restaurant, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub, where chef Davin Waite will prepare you a gorgeous dish of grilled hagfish.

The hagfish starts out as a long (perhaps around a foot or so) slim brown eel. They're known as "slime eels" thanks to the defensive goo they shoot out that when mixed with the saltwater becomes a sticky, slippery slime. Think Ghostbusters. They're the vultures of the deep, feeding on dead and dying fish, devouring them from the inside out.

Still with me? Good. Hang around. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

So, Waite gets hagfish periodically from local fishermen and what he does with them is magical. First he skins them, then guts them to remove--get this--five hearts. Yes, the hagfish is a culinary freakshow.

Waite marinates the hagfish in a smooth mix of ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, then grills them on mesquite.

The result is a sublime, smoky flavor with that crunch I mentioned before.

Sweet, huh?

Not so much interested in hagfish? How about a foursome of ceviches, served with chicharon instead of tortilla chips?

 Or, a delicate serving of hamachi sashimi with pickled onions? Or other, more traditional sushi and sashimi?

I love this place and now get why my friend Tommy Gomes drives up there sometimes several times a week. It's a funky little place (as you already figured out from the bizarre name) that doesn't even have it's own entrance (walk in through Bull Taco), seating perhaps 50 if the patio is open. But the seafood is mostly local and sustainable and Waite grows much of his own produce in a nearby garden. I almost hate to tell you about it for fear that word of mouth will make it impossible for me to enjoy it in the future. But I'll take the risk. Now, it's your turn to take the risk and order the hagfish.

Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub is located at 1815 South Coast Highway in Oceanside, inside Bull Taco.

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