If you are a fan of ceviche and minimally cooked seafood, La Fisheria should be your new go-to place. You can wander from a mini tostada topped with raw yellowfin tuna, avocado and fried frizzles of leek to traditional red snapper ceviche cured with lime juice and served with long skinny threads of radish, from salmon carpaccio to barely grilled octopus. Given the six-weeks-old restaurant’s name, you should not be surprised that seafood is the centerpiece the menu, though fish is not its only strong suit (more on that below).

We first visited La Fisheria for lunch, anonymously, in late February, and we liked the shrimp tacos just fine. But this week we returned as dinner guests of chef/owner Aquiles Chavez and enjoyed a much deeper sampling of the menu. Chavez, who is a well-known reality TV chef in Mexico, is as remarkable looking with his handlebar moustache and dreadlocks as the bright blue bungalow itself, and he makes it a point to circulate in the dining room chatting up customers.

 He was eager for us to try as many seafood preparations as we could eat. In addition to the tart tuna and snapper ceviches, you can also order tomato-based campechana-style shrimp cocktail and Peruvian-style salmon and red snapper tiradito, not to mention good ol’ raw Gulf oysters on the half-shell with a soy sauce-based vinaigrette. We did not try the mussels cooked in red wine and red beet coulis, so I’m curious how red the mussels might cook up and how they taste.

We also saved the red snapper croquettes with piquin pepper aioli for a future visit. One of the two highlights among the entrees we did try was pibil-style red snapper that, as our friend Tom Williams posted on Facebook, “is a piece of perfectly prepared fish. No butter sauce. No crabmeat. No gumbo foam or other silliness. It was great.” I can’t put it any better.

Served on the side in a tiny dish was a thin innocuous-looking sauce, perhaps the hottest thing I’ve consumed since visiting Bangkok several years ago. Chavez explained that it is made by burning (not simply roasting) habanero chiles and combining the pulp with salt, vinegar and olive oil. How hot was it? Everyone at the table had a sweaty face after just a small spoonful drizzled over the fish. Proceed with caution, chileheads! As noted above, there are some meat options on the menu, too, because, let’s be honest, not everyone loves seafood (thinking of my sister here).

The sous-vide ribeye is finished on the grill and makes for a super-tender piece of beef. Interestingly, the same technique was used by chef Grant Gordon of Tony’s at our Houston Culinary Awards dinner last October. Here the steak is served with truffled mashed potatoes and ratatouille. Other meaty options include duck stew with chorizo and lamp chops.

There are many little touches at La Fisheria that will amuse you, such as the soup served in a miniature blue-speckled enameled pan and the Texas historic “facts” that are stenciled on the dining room wall in a neat block of encyclopedic information. Hot-from-the-kettle churros – not to be missed – are served in a brown paper bag with a demitasse of house-made liqueur-laced chocolate. The wine list includes several Mexican vintages. And we loved the waiters’ uniforms of white short-sleeved guayaberas and straw fedoras.

La Fisheria’s street address (4705 Inker) is probably not familiar, but the restaurant is easy to find. Traveling north on Shepherd from Washington Avenue toward I-10, just before Cadillac Bar & Grill, look right. You can’t miss the bright blue and orange house with the wood shutters and big front porch.

LA FISHERIA, 4705 Inker just off Shepherd, 713-802-1712, lafisheriahouston.com

 by Teresa Byrne-Dodge, photos courtesy of La Fisheria | SideDish | Date April 6, 2012

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