Pete Gallanis and his dad stand outside the famous restaurant on Colorado Boulevard.
Photo by Terry Miller
Cameron’s Seafood Restaurant
By Victor Buell
Cameron’s Seafood’s big red fish-shaped sign has been an icon in Pasadena since the doors first opened in 1984. Then proprietor John Cameron ran the place for only two years before the current owner and general manager Pete Gallanis took over. For 24 of its 26 year history, Gallanis has made Cameron’s the place to go if you want great seafood in Pasadena.
Can you tell we liked it? Well we did.
Before we talk food, let me mention the service. Of course everyone knew we were there to review the place, so you’d expect them to be on their toes. But that aside, we were very impressed with the casual confident way our server and her supporting cast handled everything. The staff is attentive, prepared, professional, courteous, and appropriately playful. We were left alone to eat, but never felt neglected or forgotten.
We sampled several options, including 3 chowders, 3 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 desserts.
First course, Clam Chowder 3 ways: New England, Manhattan, and for a new twist, the two mixed together. Each was thick and filled with clams (my pet peeve about some chowders is there just aren’t enough clams!) I grew up in New England-which makes me kind of a chowder snob-and was very happy. The Manhattan was nice and tangy, and the blended style was surprisingly successful (snob that I am I didn’t expect to like it.)
Then we dove into appetizers: Maryland Style Dungeness Crab Cakes with Pesto Aoli topped the list, with Garlic Shrimp and Sea Scallops a close second (both are available as entrées). We also like the Pan-Fried Calamari which was a different presentation, and mixed with mild banana peppers added a nice touch of acidity. The crab cakes were perfect, almost 100% crabmeat and no filler, and the pesto aoli was flavorful without overpowering the crab.
Entrees! Cedar Plank Wild Salmon with Raspberry Puree, and Petrale Sole with Lemon Picatta, one with nicely balanced Garlic Mashed Potatoes, the other with Au Gratin. (We learned btw, that there is no such thing as “Wild Atlantic Salmon.” Anyone claiming to serve it must have caught it personally.) The salmon was terrific, just smoky enough thanks to the cedar plank, moist and perfectly medium-rare. I could have lived without the raspberry puree-nothing wrong with it, but I would prefer something more savory. (A friend recently raved about the puree-so it’s a personal taste thing.) The sole was a big fillet that managed to stay hot for a good long time after being served. Great flavor, and the picatta was a nice touch.
Chef Luis Diaz (who spent several years with Ruth’s Chris and before that McCormick and Schmick’s) can really cook. You can count on fresh fish at Cameron’s unless otherwise described. Owner and GM Gallanis makes certain of that. Enjoy!