Levanta muertos (awaken the dead). The spicy hot seafood soup at Cabuche hooked the Mister simply with its name, and it lived up to it. Two years ago it seemed as though Cabuche was a cloned offspring of La Biznaga, but now the restaurant has asserted its own distinctive character. Cabuche’s offerings are more diverse than its menu might indicate at first glance because of the ability to customize tacos, tostadas and tlayudas with selections from a long list of house guisados. Oh, almost forgot to mention: great margaritas and generous pours of wine are offered in the small cozy interior or patio.
We know the photo of El Olivo Gastrobar‘s arroz negro is unappealing, but look closely. Cloaked in the inky black sauce is a rich array of seafood. Wearing black definitely is recommended for consumers of this dish. Lazier than the Mister, I much prefer the plump, pre-peeled shrimp topped with jamon in a flavorful Pernod bath. These dishes are ample enough for sharing and pairing with a shared salad or tapas.
Mezquite seafood pasta
Zandunga guacamole with peanuts and watercress
Oaxaca Airport shrimp with garlic and chiles
Mezquite tlayuda with cecina
Casa Taviche tamal
La Popular cochinta pibil sandwich
Las Quince Letras pescado en papelote
Cabuche tostada with rajas con queso
El Olivo shrimp with jamon and pernod
La Popular tostada con camarones
El Morocco vegetable mousaka
Boulenc affogato with rosemary ice cream
Cabuche fried fish taco
Mezquite shrimp taco and tuna tostada
Boulenc spinach focaccia
Zandunga mezcal margarita and la llorona
Casa Taviche chile mulato stuffed with fideo
Mezquite guacamole with berros
Boulenc three-cheese pizza with caramalized onions
Boulenc vegetable bahn mi
El Olivo arroz negro
Las Quince Letras meat platter
Zandunga fish meal amuse bouche
Cabuche tostada with pescado (cazon) en escabeche
El Morocco couscous
Boulenc seedy bread and crunchy peanut butter
El Olivo paella
Cabuche small salad
An unusual amuse bouche of what they call “fish meal” gets dropping into Zandunga Sabor Istmeno off to a good start, particularly if accompanied by a hibiscus mezcal cocktail called La Llorona. Watercress and roasted peanuts add interesting textural dimensions to Zandunga’s guacamole. The ceviche is fresh, and the pork falling-off-the-bone tender. The vegetable-starved can find a mountainous platter of simply prepared vegetables on the menu.
We had resisted the call of a French-style bakery, Boulenc, in prior years but now find ourselves huge fans. We first stopped by for loaves of incredibly good breads, and I was particularly pleased to find “chunky” peanut butter for my apples at breakfast – particularly as the ingredient list for the peanut butter reads simply “peanuts.” The pizza oven beckoned us next, but the spinach focaccia and vegetable bahn mi are among the best sandwiches anywhere. Never walk out of Boulenc without treating yourself to an affogato made with espresso poured over savory rosemary gelato.
We had trouble locating the new home of El Morocco but were rewarded with the same wonderful caramelized onions topping the couscous. The stacked eggplant, roasted sweet potato and herbed goat cheese that arrived under the title of moussaka was unexpected, but a lighter innovative approach.
The main reason to visit Mezquite is the pleasant rooftop patio. The food presentation is attractive, and I wonder if anyone has ever been able to consume the entire enormous tlayuda with cecina unassisted. Staff seemed to struggle with the logistics of the two-floor set-up, and delivering a spoonful of salsa at a time to a table of Texans meant a multitude of extra trips.
The patio is beautiful and service old-school-formal perfect at Las Quince Letras. The Mister loved his meat platter there and would gladly have returned. The pescado en papelote (foil?) left me disappointed though. Maybe next trip we will return, and I will switch my order to their famed chile en nogada.
Other featured photos are from Casa Taviche and La Popular.
Oh, and the surprise bonus on the trip: a bowl full of unexpectedly good plump shrimp with garlic and chiles snagged at the airport restaurant just prior to our always-too-soon departure from Oaxaca.