258 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
After a brief hiatus, the Palisadian-Post is picking up its Reviewing from Home series, and to kick off the return, we dined at The Albright, a seafood spot with decades of history on the Santa Monica Pier.
“My wife, Yunnie Kim’s, family started the restaurant, which was originally called SM Pier Seafood, in 1977,” owner Greg Morena shared with the Palisadian-Post. “We renamed it as The Albright when we took over as owners in 2013 and worked diligently to modernize the restaurant’s operations while maintaining the original atmosphere and character.”
In June of this year, the restaurant went under a remodel to add a new takeout counter, adapting to social distancing recommendations. Morena explained that this is only the second remodel in the restaurant’s 43-year history, but he explained that he felt it was an important one.
The Albright was shut down from mid-March until June 25, when the city of Santa Monica did a soft opening of the pier, at which point the restaurant offered orders for takeout or delivery, as well as socially distant dining.
Morena shared that keeping a restaurant open during the pandemic has “been a struggle”—but he has done all he can to support employees and their families.
In fact, Morena was an active councilmember for the city of Santa Monica at the beginning of the pandemic, a seat he resigned from when it came time to renegotiate The Albright’s lease to avoid, in his words, “negotiating with myself.”
While we opted to take our food to go (which, conveniently, the pier parking lot allowed us to park for a few minutes while picking the food up), The Albright is open for outdoor dining if that’s your preference, with a decent-sized patio under the Santa Monica sun.
The Albright boasts two menus: One for to-go orders and one for dining in. The dine-in menu has live crab and lobster, wine, and beer—but other than those offerings, both menus are largely the same.
For our to-go order, we started off with New England Clam Chowder, which came served in a bread bowl. I am overall a fan of clam chowders, but this iteration was particularly memorable: The soup was filled with chunks of clam, something that many other places skimp on. Not the case here: The soup, along with the bread, which was hearty and tasty, would make a meal on its own.
Actually, as we worked our way down our selections, one thing that came to mind was just how generous the portions at The Albright are. Everything was filled to the brim, giving each dish more bang for its buck.
Next up was a Poke bowl, with ahi tuna, avocado, sesame oil, red onion, scallions, sesame seed and a chili garlic sauce. We opted to have the poke served over rice.
Everything about this dish was fresh, the tuna truly melted in our mouths. The chili garlic sauce comes packed with a slight punch, but nothing over the top or uncomfortable. And the balance of fish to avocado to rice here was perfect.
Our main course was a trio of rolls: When you get the rolls to go and The Albright knows you’re heading home to eat (instead of taking food for something like a picnic), everything comes deconstructed so that nothing gets soggy in transit. We received simple instructions—heat up a skillet, melt butter and toast the bun—but it made all of the difference in terms of texture.
I would go back just for the bread, which was both dense and buttery, but when balanced with the seafood, not at all too heavy.
“Seafood rolls are the star of the show at The Albright,” Morena explained. “There’s a choice of lobster, shrimp or crab, and everyone loves them. In the winter, the clam chowder is always a go-to as well.”
We first dove into the Shrimp Roll, crafted with shrimp, celery, paprika, scallion, shallots, mayo and red wine vinegar. This was my least favorite of the three rolls, but still tasty. And I think that’s only because I compare it with the next two.
The Crab Roll—crab meat, lemon juice, lime zest, scallions, fresh celery, Tabasco, shallots, mayo, salt and pepper—was my personal favorite. The sauce here was light, the citrus flavors of lemon and lime balanced out the crab well, which was shredded to perfection.
Last roll was the Lobster Roll New England Style: knuckle and claw meat, mayo, celery, chives, lemon and Old Bay. This was a close second. Again, the balance of toppings to lobster was just right—and the portions so generous. Each roll was overflowing with seafood, it’s a lot of food.
The Albright also offers a Lobster Roll Connecticut Style, with knuckle and claw lobster meat, melted better, chives and Old Bay seasoning. Though we did not get to try this, it gives us a good reason to go back.
Each roll is served with a side of Chips, the perfect crunch to balance out the texture of the seafood. They were well-flavored and well-seasoned, a slightly oily comfort food that was reminiscent of a bag of Lay’s, but a step above.
We ended the meal with two Chocolate Chip Cookies, which honestly were very good. Again with the big portions, they were huge, but on top of that, they were soft in the middle, making for the perfect end of the meal.
Dining in the midst of a pandemic has been interesting, but the food from The Albright allowed us to bring a summer day dining experience back home with us. I am looking forward to a time when I can return and eat inside what has been a fixture at the pier for many years.
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