Daily Press (Sunday) - - Good Life -

coast, Del­gado spent years as a lum­ber­jack in Ore­gon be­fore the pair came to Suf­folk three years ago with the idea of start­ing a restau­rant de­voted to the food of their home re­gion. Some­how, Del­gado also runs a con­tract­ing busi­ness on the side. But from four or five in the morn­ing un­til late in the evening, the two are at the restau­rant, pre­par­ing ev­ery dish from scratch.

So the agua fres­cas are fresh and im­pos­si­bly fla­vor­ful, whether pulped from pineap­ple or a sweet and pun­gent south­west­Mex­i­can berry called a nanche that looks like a yel­low cherry but tastes like no other thing. The sal­sas in­clude a po­tent milk-based white salsa. The re­fried beans are cooked down daily from ac­tual beans, and the strips of carne asada are ten­der and cut from grilled steak. The corn tor­tillas — a bit softer and grainier than most — are also made daily in-house.

The restau­rant’s se­lec­tion of four ce­viches are pre­pared fresh to or­der the way the Peru­vians do it — and so they are bright and cit­ric. Aguachile ($14.99), a shrimp ce­viche na­tive to Na­yarit, is a vividly green dish of sear­ing jalapeno heat leav­ened by fatty av­o­cado and a healthy pro­fu­sion of cu­cum­bers, along with ten­der curls of shrimp cooked by cit­rus only to the edge of soft­ness. The dish is a brac­ing alarm call to the senses — and though at least one other restau­rant in Tide­wa­ter serves the dish, no ce­viche I’ve tried nearby ap­proaches the vi­brancy of the aguachile at El Korita.

The “mol­ca­jetes” sec­tion of the menu de­scribes the great stone mor­tar in which the food is served, the meat still cook­ing against the heat of the stone — these dishes, a cousin of the siz­zling fa­jita plat­ter, are showy $30 af­fairs meant to be shared as a meal by two.

But among the mol­ca­jetes, the Pina Nay­eri ($17.99) is an equally flashy pineap­ple bowl filled with mixed fa­jita in­gre­di­ents: shrimp, chicken, grilled steak, onions and green pep­pers in a sauce made us­ing the pulp of the pineap­ple shell they’re served in. Each pineap­ple used for the dish is a lit­tle un­der­ripe to keep the dish from be­ing too sweet. The dish is in­stead an in­tox­i­cat­ingly aro­matic stew of earthy spice and pineap­ple fla­vor, with a hint of grill char.

An­other high­light is a caldo mixto seafood stew, a cloudy seafood-and­veg­etable broth of dis­arm­ing pu­rity, spiked with snow crab legs and whole prawns and brim­ming with a near-hi­lar­i­ous pro­fu­sion of clam and oc­to­pus and tiny scal­lop — as if it were a myth­i­cal Ja­panese paint­ing, with sea life so abun­dant the ocean can hardly con­tain it.

A Sayulita Fa­jita plate ($19.99), mean­while, is lux­u­ri­ant re­sort food of the sort Lady Gaga or

Matt Da­mon might have when they take their Na­yarit va­ca­tions: scal­lop and shrimp and oc­to­pus roil­ing to­gether with pep­per and onion and Hui­chol spice.

Whole fried tilapia ($15.99) is pre­pared sim­ply — crisp skin, ten­der meat, light pep­per — and even sides like corn-cobbed elotes are prepped with care, rich mayo and white cheese glob­bing into heart­en­ing lit­tle curds.

It is per­haps an en­dorse­ment that on mul­ti­ple ex­pan­sive vis­its to El Korita, I have yet to eat a sim­ple street taco ($3) or bur­rito, though they ex­ist in abun­dance — from cabeza to carne asada to grilled fish to a week­end goat stew pre­pared with the char­ac­ter­is­tic earthy spice of Na­yarit. There is sim­ply too much to try, from an en­tire menu of shrimp prepa­ra­tions to the myr­iad ways to cook a whole fish.

But there is rea­son to re­turn, again and again. So far, no dish at El Korita has dis­ap­pointed.

Even af­ter less than a year the reg­u­lars are so reg­u­lar that the own­ers’ daugh­ter, Linda, takes note in early Jan­uary when she hasn’t seen one of their loyal po­lice of­fi­cer cus­tomers since be­fore the hol­i­days. Con­sider it a jalapeno-spiced Penny Lane at the edge of down­town Suf­folk, where the fire­men rush in from the pour­ing rain to eat glo­ri­ous shrimp ce­viche. Matthew Korfhage, 757-446-2318, [email protected] pi­lo­ton­


Owner/chef Rudy Del­gado and his wife, Mid­ian Pena, came to Suf­folk three years ago with the idea of start­ing a restau­rant de­voted to the food of their home re­gion.

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