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Report on a La Paz, Mexico find: La Mar y Pena

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Report on a La Paz, Mexico find: La Mar y Pena

susancinsf | Oct 13, 2004 12:50 AM

I had posted earlier asking for places to go in La Paz, Baja CA Sur, Mexico...hadn't got a whole lot of responses...and actually, while I appreciated the suggestions from Mad, I DID in fact want something a bit more upscale, and definitely did not want taco stands, tacos being the one decent type of Mexican food that is easy to come by here at home in SF in the Mission...

what I was really looking for was a Mexico City type Mexican restaurant: sort of La Paz's answer to Izote, on a much less ambitious scale...

well, I was dreaming. This was my first visit to Baja, and I guess I didn't realize how different (read more laid back) it is from the rest of Mexico (I have travelled extensively on the Mexico 'mainland' and lived for a time in DF)...

but one of the divemasters on our boat grew up in Mexico City..and when I explained our request, he suggested we forget 'real' Mexican food and concentrate instead on what La Paz does best, which is seafood,so he and steered us for our one night in town to La Mar Y Pena.

It was an excellent choice. It was a quick $4 taxi ride from the Malecon, up into the heart of town on a quiet street. We arrived around seven p.m. on a Saturday night, to find out we were the only ones there. Hopefully it filled up later! (Mexicans eat late).

The decor is casual, but pleasing: tile floors, wooden chairs and tables with white table cloths, much needed cieling fans and AC (it was HOT in Baja last week!) with two rooms. We sat in the back room, against an (unused) huge stone fireplace, across from a very large decorative fish tank. Lots of wrought iron, candles on the tables. However, this being La Paz, we didn't feel underdressed in shorts and T's...

The menu is very long, and indeed is almost exclusively seafood based, with perhaps one steak dish and a few vegie choices (mostly salads). We had come from a margarita party hosted by the boat we had been living on, so ordered two more house margaritas to keep the theme going. These were the real thing, with fresh lime juice, not a mix in sight. They also brought us fresh chips with two salsas (one tomatillo and jalapeno, one chipotle mayonaise)along with lots of fresh corn tortillas. I am not a fan of chipotle, but both salsas were outstanding: both flavorful AND picante (Spicy)....

For starters, hubby ordered a ceviche de pescado. We probaby would have split it, but then I noticed that they had albondigas soup on the menu. Granted it was albondigas de camerones (shrimp, not meat balls), but since I am obsessed with albondigas and had never seen them made with camerones....had to get that also. Both servings were huge! The Ceviche was very good, though the pieces of white fish were cut smaller than I prefer, with avocado slices on top. It was waayy too much to finish, at about 85 pesos ($7.50). Good, but not outstanding.

The albondigas, otoh, were a memory in the making. Imagine some of the best gefilte fish you ever ate (only made with shrimp and thus not quite imaginable), in a subtle but rich fish broth scented with cilantro and tomato....hard to describe, impossible to leave a single bite. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was also a huge, meal-size serving, and so I was stuffed before the mains even arrived...

So what to do but order two more margaritas? :-)

So on to the mains: hubby had camarones al mojo de ajo, served with tasty Mexican rice and some vegetables on the side. Perhaps six large prawns, very garlicky, grilled just right. yummn.

I had pulpo de Jaiba ranchero (crab meat ranchero style), served in sauce with tomatos, onions, peppers, chilis, capers, olives and more. Same good rice and veges on the side. The crab was somewhat overwhelmed by the other ingredients, though it was very tasty scooped up with tortillas, and I was mostly overwhemed with the amount of food. I was chagrined that I couldn't even eat half of it. I recommend that all but the very biggest eaters split an entree or main dish to keep the portions within reason.

Options we didn't try included mantarrey (no way I am eating that, and indeed I am skeptical that it really is Manta they would serve us), scallops, lobster, huachinango ala Veracruza, fish tacos, oysters, and much, much more..

We couldn't even think about dessert after all of that, so can't comment on the selection.Service was friendly and accomodating..It was a happy cab ride back to our boat.

Total bill for all of that food and four margaritas, plus two large bottled waters, and generous tip, was 603 pesos, or about $53. That might be pricy by local standards, but for two San Franciscans it was a real deal, and one we will remember fondly. Highly recommended

Restaurant La Mar y Pena
16 de Septiembre Entre
1 La Catolica y Meliton Albanez
Telefono 122-99-49

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