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Fabulosos serves quality marine cuisine

Pina rellena, empanadas de camaron, ceviche pescado, cantarito and a margarita at Fabulosos Mariscos.

Greg Bollinger

When a friend mentioned that Fabulosos Mariscos a la Antigua (2115 S. Garnett Rd.) was worth wading out to, I turned full-on Pavlov’s dog. Word of a quality Mexican seafood joint in a landlocked state—one that’s better known for steak and BBQ than barbacoa or cochinita pibil—was all the convincing J. and I needed to pull anchor and set sail.

While I can eat meat in tortillas for days, and would surely develop the gastro equivalent of phantom limb should I ever suffer the slings and arrows of a diet sans taco, Mexican seafood has enamored me since I first tasted ceviche de camaròn in my teens. In the following years I’ve seen citrus-cured shrimp on the menu at sushi bars, American eateries, and even food trucks; but I’ve always found the best ceviches at authentic marisquerias.

And for good reason. No aspect of Mexican food deserves more recognition than the catch of the day. With 5,800 miles of coastline—four times the combined coastlines of California and Florida—Mexico has access to stunning seafood. If you can part ways with coldwater fish like halibut and cod for an evening and satisfy yourself with shrimp, octopus, and scallops, a restaurant like Fabulosos can both fill your gullet and broaden your understanding of Mexican cuisine’s vastness.

Despite its brick-and-mortar facade, Fabulosos’ interior is all beachfront, fashioned to look like a tropical haunt where snorkeling and sunbathing locals can seek refuge from sear and sand through beer and bivalve. A capacious, L-shaped room decked in wood, tile, and corrugated metal greets you upon entering, and a stage near the entrance regularly hosts live music. The vibe is relaxed, though this leisurely atmosphere had a tendency to cross over into pace of service during our visit. Once we placed our order, however, the food came swiftly.

Tostadas arrived with three salsas: a fish ceviche with cilantro, cucumber, and carrots; a green salsa that seemed little more than diced Serrano chiles, onions, and lime (deliciously minimalistic); and a hiccup-inducing orange salsa that seemed little more than habanero, onion, and lime (deliciously sadistic).

For starters, J. and I selected the tostada de ceviche de camaròn ($4), aguacate fabuloso ($10), and shrimp empanadas ($8 for four or $15 for eight).

The empanadas arrived with a sliver of avocado on top of the cheesy, shrimp-stuffed pastry. (I dare anyone who tells you seafood and cheese don’t belong together to try Fabulosos’ empanadas. And if they’re still not convinced? Throw ‘em overboard!) The pillowy masa sandwiched between the crisped exterior and the unctuous filling was light and airy without being air filled. Too often a plump empanada—like a bag of potato chips—has more puff than stuff. Not here.

When the aguacate fabuloso arrived, J. and I were somewhat confused. The menu description (“avocado stuffed with cooked shrimp”) conjured images of a peeled avocado, magically hollowed and stuffed with pinkish prawns. What arrived were two avocado half-shells, filled with a green mash and flanked by saltine crackers. Though not what we expected, the hybrid guacamole/shrimp salad served as a cooling counterpart to the warm empanadas. A tad heavy on the mayonnaise, which helped keep the dish light and fluffy, I’d take aguacate fabuloso over a spinach artichoke dip any day of the week.

Unfortunately, the ceviche was a bit of a seesawing dish, which is to say it had its ups and downs. At first glance, the generous mound of chopped shrimp piled on top of a tostada looked dressed to impress. Sadly, the “cook” of the shrimp was under—the shrimp interior was squishier than the exterior; ideally, the cure should be uniform throughout. I also noticed a distinct lack of lime flavor. I surmised that either the ceviche had not cured long enough, or it had not cured in a bath acidic enough to penetrate the shrimp’s interior. More bland than bad, the dish remained untouched until the following day, when the leftovers enriched a clam and crab chowder I was brewing.

Fortunately, the entrees ticked upward. Both were delicious and nutritionally balanced. The piña la hacienda ($23) was a glorious stew of seafood and fruit served with white rice, garlic bread, a hefty garden salad, and house-made chips that were a touch too brown. But the slight, burnt taste disappeared when you ran the chips through the signature Nayarit sauce, a mild, buttery, red pepper glaze hailing from Mexico’s Pacific coast. Served in a hollowed out pineapple and filled with shrimp, chopped octopus, mussels, snow crab legs, krab stick, and scallops, the dish was both an aesthetic and culinary triumph—sweet and mildly spicy.

The second entrée—filetes de pescado ($16)—came with identical sides, only instead of a pineapple treasure chest, the focus was a breaded whitefish filet topped with shrimp, onions, and Nayarit red sauce. The fish was clean-tasting, the breading light, and the shrimp supple and plentiful.

As the meal ended, the only thing leaving a sour taste in our mouths was the lack of a sour taste in our mouths. As luck would have it, Fabulosos ran out of original margaritas the night of our visit. The fruit margaritas J. and I selected as replacements were boozy and sweet, but—like the ceviche—they lacked the necessary punch of acid. Upon reflection, a pearl of wisdom revealed itself to me: Next time, we’ll skip the drinks altogether and order the oyster cocktail instead.

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