After blowing $100 last weekend on a thoroughly disappointing meal at Mochica, I was very happy to accept a Saturday night inviation to Fresca on Fillmore Street. I had also dined at the new Limón in December so this provided a good opportunity to compare the three.
The halibut ceviche was fansastic. The fish came in tender, fresh, half-raw chunks in a brightly acidic marinade with just a bit of chile and cilantro. The flavors were not as complex as those covering the sinewy bits at Mochica, but the texture and simplicity made this a fantastic dish. We also tried the mixed shellfish ceviche, which apart from the tough bay scallops contained tender shellfish in a much spicier marinade. The tuna "sashimi" was covered in a powerful ponzu-like sauce that was good but completely obliterated any flavor of the fish itself. The other appetizer we tried was the fried calamari, which was a delicious plate of tender squid in a rustic cornmeal crust.
For the main courses I tried both the lomo saltado and the seafood stew (called "parihuela" elsewhere, but something different and now-forgotten at Fresca). Both were excellent. The lomo saltado was far better than the version at Mochica and even the one at the new Limón. In fact it was the best lomo saltado I have ever had, besting the one I had at the original Limón in November 2003. The pieces of meat were toothsome but not chewy, the onions well-cooked and sweet, the potatoes still had a core of rich potato flavor (though they could have been fried a bit longer to produce more crust), and the sauce intense and well integrated. The flavorless "snapper" (not true red snapper but one of the bland species often passed off as such) and the slightly ripe scallops were dark spots on an otherwise beautiful stew. The broth was rich with seafood and chile flavor, and the rest of the seafood fresh and tender. In my opinion, this was better than Limón's because the liquid was still essentially a seafood broth, whereas Limon added a generous dose of dairy that made it more of a creamed soup. She said: I'm torn between which style I like better. ;)
They were out of flan so we all shared a mango cheesecake. I did not care for it, though I'm not fond of most cheesecakes.
Our waitress offered to let me try tastes of three white wines before buying a bottle. I tried a fizzy Basque wine (which I disliked greatly) and the two Albariños on the list. We ended up drinking two bottles of 2003 Don Pedro de Soutomaior Albariño. It was a bit richer and lusher than the tangy and zesty Pazo San Mauro from a week before. I liked the San Mauro better with the ceviche and the Don Pedro better with the main courses.
The cost this time was $120, a bit more than the $100 at Mochica. But Fresca Fillmore was all around a better meal, and now firmly holds the title of Best Modern Peruvian Restaurant in San Francisco in my book.
Dinner at Mochica: