February 2, 2016 – The name LionFish SupperClub has a nice ring to it. But until last year I had no idea what a lionfish was. Turns out, it’s an invasive species that is known for its ability to devour other fish and successfully populate open marine systems. So it only seems fitting that LionFish is the name of a pop up restaurant and dinner club that bravely takes on all types of cuisine, near and far, while adding its own signature and taking root in the community. Small difference—they’re actually bolstering their ecosystem by sourcing organic, locally grown and foraged ingredients.
Now that LionFish SupperClub has traveled the culinary world through pop-ups and events, they’re prepared to make themselves at home in a place where others have gone before. Think of a familiar, quaint alley in downtown Santa Cruz. The back entrance opens to a narrow wooden staircase leading up and around the corner to a beautifully lit, sleek bar serving artisan cocktails, beer, wine—and once again, fresh upscale bistro food: this time with the signature global influence that LionFish has become known for.
On First Friday, February 5 LionFish will be hosting a pop-up in the upstairs kitchen of MOTIV, formerly known and loved as Pearl Alley Bistro. Regular dinner service by LionFish at MOTIV will begin Friday, March 4th from 4-10pm, with a possibility of late night bites on weekends. The First Friday dishes will be a sneak preview of the rotating seasonal menu. (see below for full menu)
LionFish SupperClub started out with owner Tighe Melville and executive chef Zachary Mazi teaming up to cook delicious sit-down meals from fresh, local ingredients, serving them to friends and club members in Melville’s back yard. This supper club, which is still a part of LionFish, is simply about enjoying “good food in good company,” says Mazi.
MOTIV owner Mike Pitt had been kicking around the idea of resurrecting an upstairs bistro for a long time. He wanted to better utilize the space during happy hour and dinnertime. He says 90 percent of his business happens after 10 at night, and he already knew the LionFish guys.
“Between the two of them, they’re a great, creative, lively team and it made sense to work with someone who’s up and coming,” says Pitt.
Tighe Melville worked for Pitt for three years at another location Pitt breathed new life into: Süda in the Pleasure Point neighborhood. There, Melville started out as a server and worked his way up to general manager, and Pitt says he always had an affinity for the kitchen. His charm, style and grace are sure to keep people coming back for more.
“This has been in the works for over a year,” Melville says, “Mike approached us in December of 2014, and at the time we were only doing monthly supper clubs. In that year, LionFish has really matured and grown quite a following, so it doesn’t feel as much a take over as the natural next step for us.”
Chef Zachary Mazi says, “We’re really thrilled by the expansion that has taken place since our humble beginnings as a monthly supper club. We still have our supper club memberships, and we now have multiple events and weddings on the books this summer, as well as this bistro project. 2016 is looking to be quite the exciting year.”
Mazi derives deep satisfaction from watching people’s faces light up as they take their first bite of a dish that he has poured his heart into. He sees food as medicine and believes that healing happens in the kitchen. Mazi looks forward to expanding to regular service and being able to further support local farmers, such as Fogline Farms, with the MOTIV kitchen. He also has a penchant for foraging in his spare time, so keep an eye out for fungi and other locally foraged items on the menu.
This dynamic duo, along with their team including Jonathan Parvis and Kimberly White, can cook up some mean cuisine and have fun doing it. The kitchen of upstairs MOTIV is the prime environment for an invasion of LionFish proportions. Expect a return of tasty, creative bistro food with heart to Pearl Alley.
First Friday Menu:
Red Winter Salad $8
radicchio | blood orange | chevre | persimmon | radish
Buffalo-Style Karaage $8
organic Fogline chicken thigh | GF crispy breading | ITSO Hot Buffalo Sauce | Point Reyes Blue Cheese
Chili-Caramel Brussels Sprouts $7
crispy brussels sprouts | chili-caramel sauce | peanuts | cilantro
Tempura Pickled Onion $6
Pickled onion | jalepeño | crimini | GF tempura batter
The New Blue Ribbon MOTIV Burger $12
house ground grass-fed beef | black trumpet aioli | arugula | LionFish mustard | pickled red onion | brie cheese
Substitute Portobello Mushroom FREE
Add Tempura Veggies $3
Candy Cap Bread Pudding $6
fresh candy cap mushrooms | cream | yolk | whiskey caramel sauce | whipped cinnamon custard
LionFish events in February:
February 5th: MOTIV Pop-up (1st Friday)
February 9th: Food Lounge (Tuesday)
February 16th: Food Lounge (Tuesday)
February 19th: MOTIV Pop-up (Friday)
February 23rd: Food Lounge (Tuesday)
February 26th: MOTIV Pop-up (Friday)
Beginning March 4th: MOTIV every Wednesday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.
Elizabeth Hodges is a freelance writer and owner of Verdant California, based in South Santa Cruz County. During her free time, she enjoys keeping chickens, gardening and connecting with the local food community as communications chair for Slow Food Santa Cruz.