Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tijuana: Six places you must go now
When a dozen or more food writers descend on a town for the same event, there's sure to be plenty of write-ups on the highlights. Dave Lieberman pointed out 5 Products You Didn't Know Came from Baja in the OC Weekly, while Javier, aka The Glutster, took readers course by course through the special Mision 19 Baja Culinary Fest dinner with Javier Plascencia and John Sedlar. So EatingLA highlights a quick list of places to hit when you go to Tijuana, whether as a day trip or part of a drive to Ensenada or beyond. And yes, you must go, because the seafood is a wonder of impossible-to-find ocean beasts, while the tacos and other local specialties (from cheese to venison) are different than anything you will taste in L.A. (Addresses are on the linked blogs.)
Caesar's Restaurant: You can't miss this Tijuana landmark on the Avenue Revolucion. While the avenue has seen better days, the restaurant has been lovingly restored under the ownership of local restaurant magnate and chef Plascencia. Get a Caesar salad prepared tableside (yes, they were invented here), some tapas like fried sardines, and a classic cocktail or a margarita, and pretend you're Julia Child enjoying the prohibition-era atmosphere in Tijuana.
Cebicheria Erizo: Plascencia's latest creation is his most modern and stylish -- Erizo is a casual seafood restaurant and market specializing in the things that can't readily be found north of the border: Chocolate and Pismo clams, farmed abalone, Geoduck clams (above), oysters, local shrimp, squid and tuna and much more.
We sampled scallop ceviche decadently topped with a hefty shard of chicharron (here's FoodGPS's Dose of Vitamin P), tempura salicornia (sea asparagus, above), a simple but artfully-flavored tuna tostada, octopus tacos and a shooter of the restaurant's namesake erizo or sea urchin.
Asadero Baja Sonora: Thanks to StreetgourmetLA, we've tried several excellent places for carne asada tacos, which I've only truly come to obsess over in the last 10 years since I've been eating beef more frequently. Sonoran-style beef dishes are some of the best, and we tried the a slick new outpost of one of these fine taco spots. Located on the large Agua Caliente Blvd., Asadero Baja Sonora looked more like a Pollo Loco inside, but the large menu of parrilladas (full meals of grilled meats) and tacos shows how seriously this places takes its cow. Try the tacos with cactus or chiles, and the arrachera, a higher quality cut than the basic beef. The above link to StreetGourmet's blog also describes a trip to the highly-recommended Sonora Mia, a steakhouse with some other fine regional dishes.
Tacos Salceados: While it's true that Tacos Salceados is now under new management, and the new management has an awfully heavy hand with the mayo sauce, this innovative taqueria (also known as Tacos La Ermita, for the street where it's located), is still a must for the quesotaco made from a cheese crisp enfolding shrimp, a sweet and savory pineapple taco with strawberry sauce; and salsas like almond and tamarind.
El Matazeno: We had tried the signature spicy shrimp enchilado and smoked marlin tacos before, so this time in Tijuana we branched out to try the octopus, chicharron (fried fish skin), simple shrimp in butter sauce and the enormous Perron or "badass" taco with shrimp enchilado, chicharron and cheese. But don't stop at seafood tacos -- the bustling restaurant also serves seafood soups, coctels and tostadas. It's not in the most central neighborhood, but a cab driver or GPS should be able to find it.
Tepoznieves Ice Cream: This gourmet ice cream shop has two Tijuana locations, and I got to sample their nieves again at the first Baja Culinary Fest. What it lacks in rich creaminess, this ice cream makes up for in imaginative flavors and sheer variety. I ordered a combo of chile tamarind sorbet and "Beso de Cencienta," (Cinderella Kiss) which combined cream, cheese, honey and marmalade. I topped it with a fiery red homemade chile lime sauce similar to chamoy that turned the ice cream into a salty, spicy, sour, frozen, cheesy bowl of surprises. It's the perfect way to end a day of taco sampling before starting on the cocktails of the evening or heading back across the border.
See more photos from Baja on Flickr.