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Meet Mark White of Tangaroa Fish Market & Raw Bar in West Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark White.

Mark, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The start has several evolutions, all as important as another. Growing up in New Zealand and being around and in the water most of my life; Tangaroa being the god of my oceans/seas in the Maori culture of which I am (Native New Zealander) My dad saying to me as a boy while we were out picking mussels off the rocks in Pukerua Bay back home in New Zealand “Boy don’t ever turn you back on Tangaroa,” being invited to a bbq in Marina Del Rey in the middle of summer 5 years ago and taking 2 1/2 hours to do a round trip from the Marina to Santa Monica seafood’s in Santa Monica (it’s only 3.25 miles!!) for a piece of fish. When we got to the bbq with the fish we had no interest in the fish just the wine!! Being asked to open a fish market 15 years earlier by a bloody good mate who was a major supplier in North America and who has since passed on; that would have been fun and one of the regrets in my life. But choose a reason to how it started they are all reasons, most of all seafood is a passion and something I love doing.

That’s the why.

The how rolls through many directions and decisions on who to be involved with, how many cooks in the kitchen (meaning can decisions be made without congressional hearings if you involve partners) or do you go it alone. Along with the help of another dear mate, Amanda Stone, my wife and I decided to go it alone. 3 years ago we started the process and 2 years ago Amanda and I traveled the country looking at various fish/seafood markets, seafood restaurants, trying their menus, taking in their ambiance, design, food presentation etc.

We brought all that back and sat down with another mate, Larry Scarpa of Scarpa Brookes architects here in Los Angeles. During the time we were working with Larry he was inducted into the Architects hall of fame; believe me if he wasn’t a mate we couldn’t afford him. Most everything we did in building and opening Tangaroa Fish Market had something to do with mates helping out. Even after being open for 18 months my regular customers, who have now become mates just recently spent a Sunday rebuilding my outdoor patio, cost me a beer and oysters!!

So we’ve been open 18 months now, prior to this I was in investment banking, financial advising, stockbroker, contractor, crane driver, bouncer, mine worker, cook and an axe man in the outback in Australia, Worked the gold mines in the western desert driving the biggest trucks in the world at the time, so taking on something new and something I love was a piece of piss mate. Making it work, well that’s been bloody hard but incredibly rewarding. You better love what you’re doing or get out.

So that’s the Kiwi way of telling a story. I’ll attach an op-ed done for a couple of the local rags here on the west side and then you guys can edit/cut/paste away and do your thing.

Tangaroa Fish Market & Raw Bar

“People love oysters,” says Mark White, co-owner of Tangaroa Fish Market & Raw Bar. It’s a statement he stands by after watching the popularity of his happy hour soar. And, while most people like horseradish, cocktail sauce or Tabasco, his dipping sauce of choice is malt vinegar. “Oysters are like wine,” White says. “They each have their own flavor. I say eat them raw, leave them alone.”

White, who grew up in New Zealand, opened Tangaroa about a year ago with his wife Suzy and the help of friend Amanda Stone, on a strip that’s quickly becoming a mini-Restaurant Row with the additions of Sunny Blue, Hatchet Hall, Gravalox, Corner Door, Detour and Humble Potato. His motto is fresh seafood, fresh shellfish — and that’s what’s front-and-center showcased in a big glass ice display case full of local and international fish and seafood as soon as you walk into the market.
Tangaroa has a huge radius bar made from Fijian native wood, there is nothing like it in LA. They serve their full menu at the bar or you can grab a table in the dining area or patio.

Tangaroa has an extensive raw bar offering of Uni, clams, sashimi scallops, sashimi, mussels, live lobsters, and of course Oysters. Tangaroa has one of, if not the widest selection of oysters on the Westside bringing in regularly oysters from New Zealand, Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Happy Hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, we are closed Mondays. Oysters & clams are just $2 along with additional happy hour treats and drink specials. The oyster shooters are always fun and popular with the after work crowd. On any given night, you can catch Mark or Maximino, Tangaroa’s fish master and their team shucking six to 11 different types of oysters.

Best of all is the fish market within the restaurant where you can buy fresh seafood to go. Here you can find all sorts of fish depending on the season and local catch. But what’s just as exciting is the international fresh fish that they bring in on a regular basis. Tangaroa almost exclusively works with sashimi grade fish. The fish n chips alone are made with sashimi grade Tai Snapper which we fly in from New Zealand 3 times a week. This same quality is used in all dishes served to Tangaroa customers, whether it’s the fish taco’s or seared Salmon.

If you’re a Salmon lover then you have to try the Saikou Salmon which is farmed at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Aoraki. Here the water is so pure and pristine you can drink the water right before the gates where the Salmon is raised and at the final gate where the water exits the farm. The Salmon flesh itself is marbled like a prime ribeye steak and as buttery as one of Napa’s finest chardonnays.

Take the time to visit this hidden seafood treasure, there’s nothing like it on the westside.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Nothing smooth about it. Staffing, finances, city permits, building codes, Chefs with attitude. I now have cooks who work with me on my tastes. A lot of the recipes are from back home and real simple. We don’t screw with the seafood much. If you start with a quality product just enhance it don’t change it.

Tangaroa Fish Market & raw bar – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Seafood, quality, ambiance and friendliness.

We sell quality seafood.
We specialize in quality seafood.
We’re known for quality seafood.

Proud of most, my wife and kids for hanging in there with dads crazy passion, my key staff, Amanda, Ashley, Max, Felix, Eduardo, Mario

What sets us apart, quality and staff – and we’re the best raw bar for miles.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Financial is too easy to say and if it were true I never would have done this. Taking on a passion and sharing that passion as you build it and watch those involved take ownership.

The success is in seeing your systems come into place and work and then watching those involved embrace and improve upon them. If they embrace them, they’re happy and challenged and want to be a part of it all, not just the pay check.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 12604 Washington Blvd, west Culver City CA 90066
  • Website: www.tfmraw.com
  • Phone: 424-289-8144
  • Email: tangaroafishmarket@gmail.com
  • Instagram: tangaroafishmkt
  • Facebook: @TangaroaFishMarket

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