A Seafood Feast: La Veracruzana
Our great metropolis, land-locked as it is, is only eight hours from the east coast and five from the west, so some of Mexico’s best seafood restaurants can be found right here in the Big Taco. Walking by La Veracruzana – Fonda de Mariscos, tucked into a corner of an old house in colonia Roma, I was intrigued by the simple but charming retro décor, the sunny patio, and lots of happy looking diners, so I had to try it (several times). I wasn’t disappointed. Francisco Almaguer, who also owns the gay-friendly La Cortesana around the corner, has created a comfortable but unpretentious place, whose menu concentrates on specialties from Vera Cruz. The seafood-rich cuisine of this gulf state, influenced by Afro-Cuban and Spanish kitchens, is poorly represented in our city. La Veracruzana sets out to remedy the situation.
The menu is divided into various categories. Entradas, which include tostadas and quesadillas (all of fish or seafood), are deep-fried but not greasy and seasoned with enough chile and garlic so as not to overwhelm the fish. The quesadillas de cazón(a small shark) were especially good. Several versions of ceviche are listed; the standard de pescado was one of the best I’ve eaten anywhere, full of fresh, firm huachinango (red snapper), lightly marinated in lime juice and olive oil, with just a touch of garlic, onion, cilantro and chili to jazz it up.Under Sopas y Caldos there are several intriguing rice dishes. Arroz a la tumbada, a soupy rice with seafood and tomatoes served in an individual clay cazuela, is a puerto classic and is done here to perfection, the simple, fresh ingredients well balanced, and the rice cooked to just the right firmness. Other rice dishes are prepared with shrimp, octopus, or simply with plátanos machos, as a side dish.You may have trouble choosing among mojarras, salmón and camarones, all menu categories unto themselves, and all tempting. The large whole mojarra (a medium-sized, somewhat oily fish) is offered in several ways: fried, al mojo de ajo (with garlic and chile), a la diabla (with tomato-chile sauce), empapelado (wrapped and steamed with tomato onion and chile). Shrimp and salmon can also be prepared in these ways.Other Veracruzana specialties include filete a la talla (fish grilled with chili sauce), chile relleno de pescado (poblano chile stuffed with ground mixed seafood), and of course, the classic huachinango a la Veracruzana, whose fragrant Spanish-influenced sauce of sautéed tomatoes, onions, capers and olives is expertly prepared here.That said, the sugerencias del chef, seasonal specials, should not be missed.
Manager Sergio Bravo explained that he and his staff comb the Mercado de la Viga, Mexico City’s massive central seafood market, for whatever looks best each day.Caldo de acamayas is a current seasonal offering – plump freshwater shrimp from the waters of Veracruz, known as acamaya , have a sweet, lobster- like taste and luxuriate in a light chile-tomato bisque.A rather ambitious special is shrimp cooked in jamaica and white wine sauce. This is done with a subtle hand, the tart hibiscus flowers and simple wine sauce marrying well with the sweet sautéed shrimp. Desserts, cakes and pies, are artfully presented and well made.La Vercruzana offers full bar service. The torito (a cocktail of aguardiente, fruit and milk) is popular, and there is are small but reasonably priced wine, tequila and rum lists.Speaking of prices, almost everything on the menu is 100 pesos or less, and three changing menus del día are offered, all featuring fish and seafood, for only 60 pesos.With so many flashy, overpriced restaurants opening these days, it’s nice to find a simple, inexpensive place, with friendly service, serving fresh, well-prepared food. La Veracruzana has quickly become one of my favorite choices for seafood in the city.
La Veracruzana – Fonda de Mariscos
Medellín 198-B, corner of Chiapas (behind Plaza Insurgentes), Colonia Roma
Tel. 5574 0474
Open daily 12:30 to 8 PM
All credit cards accepted
READER'S COMMENTS:Davemx January 27, 2009
Great recommendation! Ultra fresh and simply yet very, very, tastefully cooked food. Went there for a second time a couple of days ago and everything that the 8 of us ate was excellent.
One of my top seafood places in Mexico!
Don Cuevas August 26, 2011
Terrific. Thanks, Nick. I'd passed this place a couple of times and wondered about it.
Don Cuevas September 3, 2011
We went to La Veracruzana on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. It exceeded our expectations.
We loved the atmosphere, but that was exceeded by the food. My wife had a filete de mero en hoja santa empapelado. It was generous, perfectly cooked and delicious. That was one of the several ptions on the 3 menues del día. Hers was only $80 pesos, and there was a choice of caldo de camarones or arroz con plátano for starters. It included a small dessert of plátano con crema. I had a generous order of Camarones Gigantes Al Mojo de Ajo. Definitely, the best I've had anywhere. It was so good, we are returning today with a friend.
Anonymous July 9, 2012
I recently had lunch at La Fonda (late June 2012). I enjoyed it very much!! I love ceviche and the one I had there was very good. Also had the "taquitos de camarón" which were also nice. Various types of salsa on the table.