Thanks to the wonder that is modern air freight, we desert dwellers can enjoy something previous generations of Arizonans never imagined: fresh seafood from every corner of the world. Since October is National Seafood Month, here are five restaurants that offer some of the best seafood dishes in the Southeast Valley:
Latitude Eight Thai Grill: This downtown Chandler eatery makes a wonderful seafood green curry with King crab, mussels, fish, shrimp, scallops and squid ($18), but my favorite seafood entrée is the simply grilled halibut in a sweet-sour-spicy reduction. The halibut, a fish that literally can melt in your mouth when fresh, comes with grilled asparagus and jasmine rice ($19, pictured above). 11 W. Boston St., Chandler, (480) 722-0560.
Cork: It’s hard to find good oysters in the Southeast Valley, but this Chandler restaurant serves seasonal varieties — usually the lusted-after Kumamoto — raw on the half shell (five for $12) with a horseradish puree, a spicy cocktail sauce and three different salts. Tip: Get the oysters for half-price during happy hour 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. 4991 S. Alma School Road, Chandler, (480) 883-3773.
Kai: Are scallops the culinary world’s most tired appetizer? Not at the Wild Horse Pass Resort’s signature restaurant — arguably the state’s finest — where Baja-born bivalves ($22, pictured at right) are seared and perched on a pillow of sea urchin, separated by wilted Swiss chard and accompanied by a piquillo pepper and smoked pepper fondue and porcini mushrooms. 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler, (602) 385-5726.
Liberty Market: Did you know this popular Gilbert eatery recently added mussels to its dinner menu? They’re only available on Fridays and Saturdays, when they’re served by the bowl ($10) in a “chef’s broth of the day.” The mussels come with a side of grilled Sicilian bread to soak up all the sauce. For a classic pairing, wash ‘em down with a pint of Guinness stout. 230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, (480) 892-1900.
Talk of the Town Asian Diner: This fast-casual eatery, simply referred to by the acronym “Tott’s” by its regulars, specializes in inexpensive stir-fry dishes, the richest-tasting of which is the walnut shrimp ($9.50), Lightly breaded shrimp and whole walnuts are smothered in a thick, creamy white sauce and served on a bed of crispy rice noodles. 1817 E. Guadalupe Road, Tempe, (480) 897-7928.