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Food & Drink

Camaron Pelado reintroduces us to the magic of ceviche

Photo: Steven Gilmore, License: N/A

Steven Gilmore

Camaron Pelado's shrimp aguachile, ceviche, and Taco Gobernador.


The influx of moneyed MexPats to the safety of Sonterra (now called Sonterrey by many) and other upscale enclaves has brought with it a rash of new restaurants — many of them, for reasons that are not immediately clear, focusing on seafood. Costa Pacifica is one, Bahia Azul another, and then there's the cutsey-coastal, in geographic origin if not in culinary theme, Si Señor Grill & Cantina.

All of this is fine; maybe entrenched locals will one day realize that there's a world beyond breakfast tacos and Number 2 Dinners. But if we have been blind to the subtleties of many of Mexico's regional dishes, we have nevertheless had one such non-Tex-Mex subset in front of us all the time: yes, coastal cuisine.

Camaron Pelado and El Siete Mares are two examples. Acapulco on West Commerce was an early one. And now the old Acapulco beachhead has been reclaimed by a second iteration of CP. Menu graphics are much the same as the Pleasanton Road original; execution is as good if not better.

It's almost obligatory to begin a trip to the beach with a cocktel fresco or a ceviche, and here there are as many choices as seashells after a storm. Though it's served cocktel-fashion in a sundae glass, the ceviche de pulpo turns out to be a good test of the kitchen's non-cooking prowess: the octopus is remarkably tender, the sweetish "broth" does smack of ketchup but isn't cloying, and there's a good mix of avocado, celery, tomato, and onion, with just enough limey tartness. But for a more direct experience the clear choice is the camarones aguachile, shrimp in a smart and tart green sauce (there's also a red version). The shrimp, halved lengthwise, float in the sauce given punch by jalapeño and pulled from the brink with cucumber. Order a Pacifico, please; the beer's buoyant crispness is perfect here.

Should you be hesitating before plunging into the surf of a full entrée, let me suggest a Taco Gobernador; a good corn tortilla will jacket a filling featuring poblano chile (not a lot) and cheese (also mercifully scant) along with your choice of shrimp, crab, or marlin. Marlin's your man here; it's smoky/meaty and almost a meal in itself.

The obvious approach to a menu featuring seafood (or "seaffod", as it says in a couple places on the take-out menu) is to, well, order seafood. But the appearance of an old favorite under the Mexican column made ordering mancha manteles too compelling. I've made this stew-like dish at home and have had it at one of its spiritual homes, Mexico City's La Fonda del Refugio. Normally, it's a heady blend of fruits such as fresh pineapple and plátanos with cubes of pork and chicken breast, all in a mild ancho sauce given heft with cinnamon and cloves. As the name suggests, it can literally stain one's tablecloth. CP labels theirs "mole mancha mantel" and mentions only chicken breast — which is exactly what you get: a thin and dense breast mantled with a perfectly decent, but not at all hot and fruity, mole sauce. Stick to seaffod — though the tacos del mercado with chopped steak do sound enticing.

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