Being from Massachusetts I have given up looking for the perfect fried clam in So Cal. Nothing here will ever compare to the places of my childhood like the Mattapoisett Chowder House on the south coast of MA or the Red Wing Diner about a mile north of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. First, most places don't believe in bellies. Clams have them so why not fry them along with the strips. However almost all of the places that do use the bellies, fancy up the batter so much you can hardly taste the clam. My thought on this was they want to give the clam some reverence to justify charging $20 for five clams. [Menemsha, where Beechwood is now, was one such place] Second, you can't get a New England style Clam/Lobster/Hot Dog Bun here. This is a bun which has no crust on the sides allowing you to slather butter and herbs on the side and toast on the grill to perfection.
Knowing all this, I'm still looking for the best of what LA has to offer. So when a fellow Massite suggested Neptune's Net I jumped. Sunday my GF and I headed up the PCH to Zuma Beach for the prerequisite playing the sand and surf, then headed another 10 miles north on the PCH to Neptune's Net. The place looks like a seafood place should; couple of shacks hastily put together with a large front porch with commanding views of the Pacific across the PCH with nothing but picnic tables to sit at. You start at the coolers to pick a drink with an interesting selection of beverages in nothing smaller than quart bottles. They are a Pepsi house so GF had Sierra Mist since she was driving and I was a little overwhelmed with the selection, everything from New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale to Bud light but was disappointed they only had something like Bud light on tap. I chose an Anchor Steam to go with the meal. Getting to the first counter to order I find the menu says they only have clam strips and no rolls. My heart sinks, but we push forward. I order the strips and shrimp plate with a side of slaw and GF has fish and chips plate and tries to order a dozen peel and eat shrimp and is told to go to the other building to order the fresh seafood. She does and 2 minutes later her shrimp are done and we look for a place to sit and wait for the rest of our order. Well there isn't one. It is so crowded all seats in the shack and on the porch were taken. We decide to go across the parking lot to the picnic area they have set up which has better views of the pacific and a gaggle of surfers in the water but less protection from the elements. There we wait for the rest of the order and wait some more. 25 minutes later it's ready. To their credit, it was all freshly cooked a moment before serving. I bring it across the lot where GF is waiting with peel and eat shrimp untouched, now cold, and we dig in.
The thing about clam strips is they are small, overcook easily and can quickly turn to the texture and flavor of a pencil eraser. [If you want proof checkout Quality Seafood's fried clams in Redondo Beach] But these were the biggest strips I'd ever seen and they weren't overcooked and might have gone very well in a roll with a little tarter sauce and lemon. Also the shrimp were cooked nicely and had more of a breaded coating than the clams making them crispy. The cocktail sauce didn't have enough Horseradish but it was decent enough. the cole slaw was crispy without too much mayo but not enough vinegar and the fries were nothing to write home about but were ok. GF's Fish was lightly battered and fine [I prefer english style though] and the peel and eat shrimp were good. They had hot sauce and Malt vinegar, but bottles had to be pilfered from other peoples tables which can be awkward
One thing I discovered is climate makes a big difference. In New England, the evenings are hot an humid helping to preserve fried food's properties. Here right on the beach, the food got very cold very fast. I do want to go back to try the scallops, steamers and when the mood strikes Lobster. Also next time we will know to time the fresh seafood order better with the fired order.
Total damage around $45 [beware prices on the website are old and do not resemble current prices]
42505 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu, CA 90265 (County Line)
Phone: (310) 457-3095