My quest for healthy menu items led me to the west end of Long Beach. Off the beaten path, and among many burger joints, is Lost & Found, a neighborhood culinary gem. This place is informal and rustic with only 30 or so seats; a chef’s table with four bar stools overlooks the open kitchen.
The music is pumping; his crew is prepping for the night, and I feel right at home watching chef and owner, Alexis Trolf, prepare his local fluke crudo and striped bass dish. He entices me with smells and tastes of every ingredient. “Taste this,” Trolf says. “This is pistou which is a Provencal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh herbs, Dijon, capers and olive oil. It’s somewhat similar to pesto, although it lacks pine nuts.” He offers me a taste of his pickled shallots. “Try this,” he says as he shaves radishes for the crudo.
While he scales and scores the striped bass, he shows how to slice it, and what to look for. He sears the bass and entertains me with a story about his ingredients.
“I love the interplay between the land and sea. In this dish the leeks mimic the fish; they are what I consider a seaside vegetable, grown in sandy soil with a briny undertone. I then pair them with carrots grown in rich soil; they are braised in a vegetable broth with thyme, then puréed with a bit of the carrot broth.” He has intense focus as he plates his food.
He opens a delicious, crisp white wine to go with our fish, and we eat together. The fluke has layers of flavors that tickle my palate. It melts in my mouth. I get a tang and acidity from the slaw, a bit of heat from the chili oil, and lastly a crunch of radish. As the menu says: It does tastes like it has a touch of “Buddha’s hand”!
The bass has depth and balance between earth and sea, as the chef said. The brininess of the fish counters the heartiness of the carrots; the leeks add interest and a touch of mystery.
Both dishes are rich in nutrients and low in calories, but the fish is the star here. Fish is classified as a high-quality, complete protein because it contains all essential amino acids. Although our bodies can make some amino acids, they can’t synthesize the essential amino acids; therefore, we must get them from our diets. Fluke and striped bass are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that can help manage arthritis and maintain healthy skin; vitamin B 12 has been shown to slow memory decline and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another B vitamin, niacin, may aid in cataract prevention. Vitamin D maintains our bones, the muscles needed to move, the nerves needed to carry messages, and the immune system necessary to fight off bacteria and viruses.
“I have great suppliers. I use MRJ produce for my vegetables and Graybar for my fish,” says Trolf. “The ingredients are incredibly fresh.” As he speaks, MRJ drops off one of the biggest truffles I have ever seen. Trolf continues, “I like the small space here and wouldn’t want to go bigger. It allows everyone to share, which stirs up great conversation.” The open kitchen lets him to get to know his customers.
Trolf opened Lost & Found in 2015, across the street from where his Italian restaurant was before it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fast forward a little over one year, and tables must be reserved many weeks in advance. “I lost everything in Sandy and when I found this spot I knew everything had come full circle,” he says. “I found what I have been after all along.”
1 fluke filet, fresh as can be, no skin, pin bones removed and sliced thin on a bias.
1 radish, sliced thin
1 pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon chili oil
1/2 bunch parsley
1/4 bunch cilantro
2 basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon capers
Extra virgin olive oil
Pickled shallots (recipe to follow)
Colatura di alici, Italian fermented fish sauce
1 med shallot
2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Prepare the shallots:
Bring liquid ingredients to boil. Slice the shallots very thin and put in a bowl. Pour the boiled liquid over the shallots and let rest until cool.
Arrange the fish and radish on a chilled plate and dress with chili oil and salt. Chop the parsley, cilantro, basil, garlic clove and anchovy. Mix in the mustard, capers, lime juice, salt and pepper and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over the fish and splash a bit of colatura di alici on top. Top with pickled shallots.