As Close as Fish Tacos Will Get to Coming From China – Wahoo’s

wahoo's fish tacos
There was a point in my life when I ate Wahoo’s Fish Tacos at least twice a week. After the Wahoo’s on Wilshire at Westgate opened, how could I not challenge myself to try every delicious thing on their menu? I mean, they have something called a Kahlua Pig Bowl!! Kahlua. Pig. And holy shiitake, they have some pretty good beer-battered Maui onion rings. Gawd, it’s so embarassing to gush over a chain isn’t it?

You would think that after seeing a restaurant featured on the Food Network, I would swear it off forever, especially since it’s a *gag* chain. But I just can’t help but love Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. It was started back in 1988, which alone is reason to love it, for who doesn’t love crimping irons, leg warmers, and anything else that comes out of the 80s?!?! But Wahoo’s founding brothers’ background explains the first link in the restaurant chain and the strange influences on Wahoo’s menu. The three brothers travel to places like Hawaii and Mexico to surf, they’re Chinese, and they lived in Brazil when they were kids. The rice that comes with most of the meals might seem Chinese, but seasoned heavily with parsley (maybe it’s cilantro!?) and garlic, it’s actually Brazilian. So are the black beans. So am I. ;) The Asian heritage doesn’t show up in a big way really, except that the “hot sauce” in the small plastic to-go cups look very suspiciously like a dry version of sambal. And of course, the fish tacos, the basis for the restaurant, come from many years at the fish taco stands that line the beaches and streets of Ensenada where the brothers surfed. Okay, so the first restaurant opened in the OC, but we can forgive them for that one little fault. ;)

I won’t even fault Wing, Ed, and Mingo (those are the brothers) for a somewhat trying experience at their restaurant at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. I actually deserve that punishment for going to Fashion Island in the first place. I mean, for fox ache, it’s called Fashion F’in’ Island!

We decided on lunch at Wahoo’s mostly because the only other viable options were either Red Robin or McClownburger. Unless a very large bird was going to pour me a Citron/soda, there was no way I was going to perch myself amongt a herd of tiny pink princesses giggling and shrieking with birthday balloons. And the line for McClownburger was, sadly, wrapped around several crowd control cones. That’s not “sadly” as in I actually wanted to eat there (only for their fries!). No, “sadly,” as in how pathetically sad that the most popular place to eat in an OC mall is McClownburger. We waited in the much shorter Wahoo’s line, and I ordered some sort of salad because yes, we were shopping, which meant we were trying on clothes, which meant I had to eat…a salad. Hold the cheese. Light on the dressing, please. And that’s a big, fat-no-more *sigh* from me as we sat down with our numbered plastic tent card.

The salad came out, and just as I was about to dig in with as much feigned enthusiasm I could muster for a salad, I noticed the lettuce. It was bad. I’m not talking bad as in the edges of the lettuce were a little brown and wilted. No, the lettuce was rotting black and slimy. Now that’s just wrong. What I don’t understand is, the person who made the salad must have seen the rotting edges of the lettuce. I mean they were right out there, stinking up my salad in all their decaying glory. So if he saw it, he should have at least pulled the rotten pieces out, or my gawd, I would have thought he’d be smart enought to hide the decay with dressing. Stupid.

I took the salad back up to the counter, showed it to the register person, who turned to the woman who must have been the manager. She looked very irritated that I was bringing something back. She just hissed “What?” and I showed it to her. She wasn’t embarassed. She didn’t apologize. She actually made me feel like it was my fault that her perfect staff had given me a compost heap for food. In a totally exasperated tone, she barked “Do you want another one?” Um, no dip-shiitake, I don’t want another salad made from the same batch of chopped lettuce that’s rotting back there in your kitchen! I asked for the tortilla soup instead. After thinking about what they could put into my bowl of soup without my noticing it…well, who’s the dip-shiitake now? (In case you’re confused, it’s me – didn’t you see Fight Club?!) I kept the soup at the table, but didn’t touch it. Oh well. LOL! All for the better anyway. How else am I going to fit into size *cough cough* jeans?!?!

Rotting lettuce leaves in my salad. And not two weeks later, I will be back in to Wahoo’s for a Banzai Burrito. Can’t help it. At Wahoo’s, you can order your burritos wet ;)

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  • Xericx

    Their fish tacos are exponentially better (as is the rice) when you pour the Teriyaki sauce on them.

  • Kirk

    Hi Sarah – Hey wait a minute, I’m from the land of Kalua Pig, though it does not look like Wahoo’s at all!!! And don’t forget the headband along with those leg warmers. The lettuce was a mistake, it was actually food for the pig that was to be the Kalua Pork for Tomorrow. Let’s get Physical, Physical…..

  • sarah

    what is “kalua?” kirk? i guess it’s not “kahlua” like the coffee liquer? lol!

    and only dorks wore headbands. ;)

    lol!

  • Kirk

    Hi Sarah – Kalua Pork or Pig is the Hawaiian pit-roasted (imu) pig – the stuff you see in luaus. So a pit is dug, and rocks are heated to a red hot state, Ti leaves are placed on top, an entire gutted pig is placed on top(and some rocks are placed in the pigs cavity), covered with banana leaf, than burlap, covered with dirt, hosed down and left to cook for a half to whole day. The pig is then removed and served. It’s like the ultimate pulled pork, soft, sweet, and smokey.
    So no headbands, huh? I thought Olivia Newton John and Pat Benatar looked good in them!

  • Anonymous

    Aw, too bad, no picture of your rotting salad? :)

  • Anonymous

    Wahoo’s is awful. The worst fish tacos I have ever had.

  • Kirk

    Yeah, I guess I am getting old(er)! I make “bogus” Kalua Pork here once or twice a year – the people at work love it! Even the Ex-pat Hawaii people like it. Probably because many of them haven’t had the real thing, even in Hawaii! BTW, I hate “fake” pidgeon – you know da’ kine’ da’ touriss try ack’ la’ dat….
    I’m surprised you noticed the leg warmers…confirms my theory, everything comes back into style sooner or later – I’m justing waiting for Angel Flights Pants to be hip again!

  • sarah

    Really? Worse than….Rubio’s?

    LOL!

  • Kirk

    Nothing is worse than Rubio’s…

  • elmomonster

    That sambal is actually pretty darned good. I slather it on their “maui” onion rings. Sometimes I fear that I am going to get wretched food poisoining from it because it seems that no one uses it but me. How old is it? I don’t wanna know.

  • elmomonster

    That sambal is actually pretty darned good. I slather it on their “maui” onion rings. Sometimes I fear that I am going to get wretched food poisoining from it because it seems that no one uses it but me. How old is it? I don’t wanna know.

  • sarah

    the thing is, i don’t think it’s sambal, which is liquidy. wahoos’ hot chili sauce looks a bit of drier and thicker. oooh, wait a sec…then maybe it is sambal and it is 8 years old. LOL!

  • MEalCentric

    If it helps justify your inexplicable liking of Wahoo’s, I actually met Wing (or might have been Ed) at a charity event. Really nice guy. Made me want to show support by running out and buying a fish taco…but I didnt.

  • sarah

    well, not quite inexplicable – i do like it because it tastes pretty good, as compared to taco bell, rubio’s, and la salsa and (baja fresh is a different story – i loooove the roasted tomato salsa at baja fresh)

    and i just got back from dinner at wahoo’s (wow, fancy for a saturday night) and ate the rice with teriyaki sauce and the hot chile sauce. and i don’t even like rice. LOL!

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