Portside Fish Co – Portside Tacos
Portside Fish Co.
2222 Michelson Dr · Irvine, CA 92612
Tacos are everywhere. A tortilla wrapped around a filling defining what a taco is lends itself to endless possibilities. From inconspicuous taquerias dishing out authentic bites to casual eateries jumping on the fusion train by taking things up a notch with more premium fillings to fast food joints cranking out American style hard shell classics, this traditionally Mexican dish can be found in infinite variations at practically every block in Southern California. So any food court in the area is incomplete without a stand peddling this handheld favorite.
Portside Fish Co offers a choice of swai fish or shrimp for their tacos, with the option of each being grilled or fried. A mix is also available. Swai is the common white fish seeing increasing usage, popularly utilized at places like California Fish Grill. With its mild flavor and lightly flaky texture, it’s a versatile protein that works well for a taco especially given the various toppings and salsas.
A single corn tortilla starts as the foundation for each taco. Finely shredded cabbage provides a mattress for the protein before being topped with fresh pico de gallo. The tacos are garnished with chopped chives and finished with pink pickled cabbage on top. Each one gets a squeeze of their house-made sauce and gets paired up with a lime wedge.
Choosing the swai yields a sizeable fish filet, nicely battered and golden, with succulent and sweet white flesh that successfully joins forces with the fresh elements to deliver an gratifying taste experience. The pop from the batter really jumps out in conjunction with the flavorful sauce weaving across the surface. Fish stretches the length of the tortilla, ensuring each inch gets covered. The pickled component, along with a pinch of lime, perks up the flavors even more with excellent acidity. All in all, the swai is a refined fish taco with a proportionate amount of sauce and balanced ingredients.
The shrimp version pales in comparison to the gill-bearing brothers. Three medium-sized crustaceans fill the tortilla, huddled over the cabbage cushion and topped with diced ripe tomatoes. Jalapeno crema zig zags across the surface. Battered well, there is plenty of crunch to go around. However, the shrimp are fried a brown shade darker than necessary. The end result is a rather tough piece of shrimp, devoid of much moisture. Crema rescues the taco, delivering the majority of the flavor and much needed creaminess to round up everything.
Three is not really enough as some bites are full of veggies and corn tortilla. Compared to the single strip of fish, the shrimp has a difficult time staying within the tortilla confines, easily falling out the rear upon biting into one end.
Two tacos for 9.95 teeters on the edge of ludicrousness. Granted, the Trade food hall location is super trendy with plenty of foot traffic. And no other stall features fish tacos, though Dos Chinos does serve up shrimp but with an Asian flair. At this price point, you’d expect to be sitting in a restaurant with table service, drinking a cold cerveza. These tacos are good, but they are nothing out of the ordinary to warrant the nearly ten dollar tag for the pair. Had the tortilla been handmade, the fish larger, or the shrimp more numerous, maybe it would be easier to swallow. But as is, Portside tacos amounting to a Lincoln bill per is a hard sell for any food stand regardless of setting. Especially when there are plenty of fish (tacos) in the greater sea.