All aboard for drunken fiesta fish
Ahoy, mateys! There’s Corona in them thar fishes! My recent trip to Los Equipales made those fake butter-laden Long John Silver’s lobster bites that I wolfed in the car last week simply pale in comparison. The idea of authentic Mexican seafood has always intrigued me, but until recently, I’ve had no real experience with the good stuff. Gumbo, chowder, the occasional shrimp paella have all passed through my lips, but none of them come close to the hot, rich, totally succulent bowl of soup I enjoyed at 4500 Silver SE.
Its off-the-beaten-street location is likely a handicap--at least for now, while the restaurant is still fairly new--but by doing so they've managed to transform a defunct bank building into a fine dining establishment that closely resembles some of the ritzier places in Old Town.
The atmosphere oozes class. Custom-made chairs, imported from Mexico, add a nice cosmopolitan touch to an already refined look. The white tablecloths and fresh flowers say “take me seriously,” while the huge glass jars of house-made horchata and their own pepper blend on the front counter are saying, “We got roots, man: Love us for it.”
There are some requisite meat and poultry items on the menu for the land lubbers, but that would be missing the boat entirely. I ordered the fish tacos ($6.95) and a bowl of the "siete mares,” or "seven seas," soup ($9.95) expecting the tacos to be a large portion, and the soup to be a tasty accompaniment. As it turned out, the soup was frickin’ grande, and the tacos were a dainty treat.
These tacos came on a medium-sized oval platter with a doily and a ramekin of smooth, cold tomatillo sauce—for the four people out there that don’t know, a tomatillo is a small, Mexican tomato that grows in a husk—that was absolutely delicious. I had to physically restrain myself from eating the sauce with a spoon, so I did the respectable thing and doused my tacos with it, nice and legit. The Corona-battered fish was fragrant and flaky, and the marinated cabbage and tomatoes were proportionate. They were small, but, as I discovered, that was only the opening salvo to my real entrée: the soup.
How can I describe it? The broth was steaming hot, and the combination of dried shrimp, tomato and spices was like sticking your big toe in the ocean for the first time, while the fresh shrimp, jumbo roasted scallops, shell-on clams, purple baby squid and melting oysters were like jumping into the surf head-first. It was served with a small dish of savory poblano-cooked rice and two lime wedges, which, as it turns out, was perfect because my soup needed exactly two big squeezes to take it from perfection to I’d-
Then I remembered scary pirates and scurvy, so I came around to the fine, milky-sweet glass of iced horchata to my right. The barest hint of cinnamon was refreshing, and it was a beautiful bone-white color; just like a glass of 1 percent milk.
I regrettably had to pass up some truly enchanting entrées in order to take my seven seas voyage, like the "robalo borracho," a lime-marinated, grilled sea bass filet topped with ranchera sauce and Tecate, and the "salmon al tequila,' which needs no further description.
“Our fish are drunk,” laughed General Manager Erika Price.
There are a lot of pie-eyed fish here, but if you’ve seen The Perfect Storm, you understand how bad they have it. Nobody blames them.
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Los Equipales, 4500 Silver SE, 265-1300; Hours: Mon thru Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sundays. Price range: Moderate. No smoking. Booze, credit cards accepted. Large parties, tours, catering. Website at www.losequipales.com
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