Food & Drink
Camaron Pelado reintroduces us to the magic of ceviche
Published: June 27, 2012
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.