Restaurant Review Mariscos La Playa
Mariscos La Playa is a fun spot to have in your rotation if you’re craving something different.
Years ago, I was on a charter fishing boat off the coast of Venezuela, and somebody on board caught a big, beautiful mahi-mahi. Later that day, cooks on shore filleted it into strips that they battered, fried, and served with lime, hearts of palm, rice, and salad. It was so good that I stared into space, thinking, “Oh, so this is how fish is supposed to be.”
Many people have had a similar experience, which can be a blessing and a curse. You go forth knowing what fresh fish really looks like and tastes like — and that, in most restaurants, you won’t get anything that comes close to it. Mariscos La Playa, the popular Mexican seafood restaurant on Cordova Road, offers a very briny menu, featuring (among other things) trout, tilapia, red snapper, shrimp, scallops, crab, and octopus. How does it stack up?
I’d say not bad, but not outstanding, either — that is, about what you’d expect from a family-style seafood restaurant in a land-locked town, where obtaining fresh fish is a difficult logistical challenge. There are good offerings here along with average ones, but it’s a fun spot to have in your rotation if you’re craving something different.
Mariscos La Playa sits on the western edge of a commercial center at the junction of Cordova Road and Don Diego Avenue, which houses a CVS and numerous small businesses and restaurants. It’s hard to miss Mariscos La Playa, because the space is so vibrant — a burst of bright colors, coastal imagery (like a huge wall-mounted marlin), and cheerful furniture, including carved painted chairs decorated with toucans and solar faces. As is typical in many of Santa Fe’s Mexican restaurants, the menu is long. One page alone — devoted to appetizers, salads, seafood cocktails, and soups — contains more than two dozen selections. The entree list features some interesting and unusual dishes, including filete
marinero (tilapia fillet stuffed with scallops, shrimp, octopus, and cheese and wrapped in foil) and lonja de pescado (grilled red snapper fillet with a mustard sauce).
We started with a good, ample serving of guacamole and chips, a beer, and an agave-wine margarita. These wine-based margaritas turn up often at Mexican restaurants that don’t have a license to serve hard liquor, and they can be excellent. This one, though, was below par: It was cloyingly sweet. If you decide not to order guac or some other appetizer, you’ll still be well served at Mariscos. The restaurant provides a complimentary basket of chips and three dips: bean, salsa, and a creamy blend of salsa, avocado, and half and half. This is a very tasty bonus.
I ordered the trout in garlic sauce, a head-on fish that’s butterflied and pan-fried, flesh side down. It’s served skin side up, and the skin is a mottled gray, which isn’t particularly appetizing. Flip it, though, and you’ll see two chunky portions of trout meat that flakes easily with a fork. Though it didn’t match the mahi-mahi gold standard, it seemed reasonably fresh and had a nice texture. It was served with heaping portions of rice, a corn-and-carrot mix, and potato wedges that were too dry.
My dining companion wasn’t hungry enough for a heavy meal, so she snacked on a cheese quesadilla jazzed up with side orders of avocado and a roasted vegetable medley consisting of zucchini, bell peppers, and onions. This combination was only so-so: She asked for a corn tortilla and got flour instead, and there was very little zucchini in the vegetables.
On a second trip, for lunch, I tried what the restaurant bills as “fresh lemonade.” It tasted generic, and there was no pulp, so I’m doubtful. We shared a trio of tostadas de ceviche — three crisp corn tortillas smeared with mayo and topped with citrus-marinated chunks of shrimp. This was the best thing we had on that visit, and my guest said he’ll go back to get it again. I ordered fish tacos, which were on the bland side. You get four soft corn-tortilla tacos, which is nice, but the filling inside is mild, partly because there’s a lot of watery-tasting lettuce and tomato in there. My dining companion ordered the rib-eye steak, a plate-covering piece of meat that was about a half-inch thick and somewhat tough. The steak came with very good mashed potatoes and very blah steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
None of these things were very expensive — for example, the steak only cost $15.95, and there are restaurants in Santa Fe that would bill you twice that for a similar piece of beef. Mariscos La Playa is a friendly, welcoming place, and I’d also give it a thumbs-up for affordability.