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Restaurants & Bars 7

El Delfin report

pane | Feb 4, 2007 12:12 PM

Last month I posted a query asking for help locating a restaurant that would excite my palate but take it easy on the palate. One recommendation, for El Delfin, seemed particularly intriguing because it's in my neighborhood.

The restaurant is on 24th Street, a quick three or four block walk from the BART station, a quick and pleasant stroll past innumerable taquerias. In the past three weeks, I've been three times. Each time my server has been the co-owner, with her husband working his magic behind the stove. The walls are painted with colorful (if somewhat disturbing) murals of conquistadors invading Mexico.

The menu is heavy on fish, with offerings that include prawns, salmon and red snapper. There are also meat options as well as enchiladas and tamales. So far I've had the caldo de pollo, volcan en molcajete, and camarones al chile chipotle.

The caldo de pollo, chicken soup, was stunning. At heart, I love simple food done really, really well. The broth was rich, savory and nicely fatty without being oily. My small soup included a chicken breast and thigh, meat falling from the bone, as well as corn still on the cob, zucchini, and other chopped vegetables. Rice, tortillas, and a little plate of diced onion, jalapeno and cilantro were served alongside.

Next up: volcan en molcajete. On my first visit, I noticed that most of the other diners had ordered this dish, which is served in a distinctive lava-black bowl. Tender meat is piled in a bowl with red sauce, a whole chunk of cactus, and a split sausage, sprinkled with crumbles of soft, mild white cheese. I really enjoyed this, but my boyfriend found the sour tang overwhelming.

Finally: camarones al chile chipotle, prawns in a chipotle cream sauce. This was a show-stopper, with a rich, complex sauce and perfectly cooked prawns. You have a choice of fries or beans on the side. We chose fries, which were not particularly crisp, but served a purpose in soaking up some of the delicious sauce.

Also of note--I particularly like the chips here, which are served free of charge while you peruse the menu. Fried on site and sometimes served fresh out of the hopper, they're a great platform for the tastes that follow. I look forward to trying the guacamole appetizer in a future visit.

The service is warm and helpful. Each time I've been, the owner has been really lovely--making recommendations, greeting frequent diners, visiting some tables to admire babies and ask after relatives. If this woman is not already running for mayor, I suggest that she get on the ticket. I can't wait to return and I thank you, Maya, for recommending this fabulous restaurant.

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