Bread and Tostada Basket
Limes, Tomatillo Salsa, Poblano Salsa, Jalapeno Onions
Shrimp Aguachiles with Green Chili, Radish, Red Onions and Cucumber
Pulpo Tostada with Black Beans, Avocado and Chipotle Mayonnaise
Charal Tacos with Black Beans, Onion and Cilantro
3/4 Kilogram Red Snapper Contramar with Red Chili Adobo and Parsley Rubs
Double Espresso on Ice
Pastel Strawberry Meringue
Perhaps Mexico City’s most famous casual restaurant, and certainly one that springs to the lips of both locals and tourists whenever the word Seafood comes up, Contramar has been nothing short an institution ever since its 1998 opening brought the Mexican Coastline to the Nation’s Capital, an early era of no-reservations – save for rumors of persons of wealth or power able to circumvent the line – now replaced by a more egalitarian phone ahead system as Gabriela Camara and partner Pablo Bueno have expanded their portfolio to Entremar in Polanco and MeroToro not far away in Condessa.
Renowned for simple and smart preparations of fresh ingredients, the unfussy approach in the kitchen juxtaposed by suited waiters that are not only bilingual but also exceedingly efficient and often seen hustling in a way that would make many American General Managers shed a tear of pride, it was precisely at noon that a party of two approached the hostess podium where a short line of walk-ins stood patiently as the wait-list had already reached thirty minutes, warnings by phone that reservations would be given away after five minutes tardiness more than enough to ensure a packed but smoothly flowing restaurant throughout service.
Decorated in abstract marine murals and featuring an open kitchen, the noise level muted despite tightly packed tables by a ceiling of woven rope, it was quickly after taking a seat near the front-window overlooking diners seated al fresco that water was poured and menus were offered, the online version proving accurate as the selections rarely change, an occasional special or two offered to augment classics frequently imitated elsewhere in town.
Famously known for Tostadas, Aguachile and Fish Carnitas, all of them present and accounted for with a variety of ingredients offered solo or as a mix, it was with a rather bland Bread Basket including Hard Rolls and Whole Wheat that the meal was soon underway after two Salsas, Limes and a jumble of Jalapenos and Onions were presented, the Shrimp Aguachiles with Radish, Red Onions and Cucumber served in a refreshing green Broth that was deemed “not spicy enough” by one at the table while a quartet of Tostadas topped in a smear of Black Beans and Avocado proved exceptional when topped in generous slices of Octopus tossed in smoky Chipotle Mayonnaise.
Attempting not to over-order early as Contramar’s signature dish is most certainly not a ‘small plate,’ one could not help but be intrigued by the idea of crispy Charal Tacos featuring piles of whole Fish liberally spread across fresh Tortillas topped in Black Beans, Onion and Cilantro, the ‘fishy’ taste unapologetically aggressive while the texture is not for everyone, though those with a taste for the sea will be happy to have indulged.
Quoting the daily whole fish at 299 Pesos per half-kilogram, the smallest Red Snapper delivered that day just a bit over 3/4, it was after presenting the specimen tableside that the rosy-fleshed Fish was returned to the kitchen and grilled “Contramar” style, the half seasoned with Red Chili a bit like Texas Barbeque in its flavor while the Green side was bright and fresh beneath a Parsley Rub.
Presenting a tray of desserts tableside for visual inspection, choices ranging approximately $6-7USD, it was with a bitter Double Espresso poured Ice that three choices were tasted, the Cheese Flan a thick and savory Custard with a lot of heft while sliced Figs embedded in Cream Cheese atop a buttery crust was prettier than it was flavorful, the Pastel Strawberry Meringue easily the best of the lot as the base consisted Whipped Cream and Strawberries between two layers of soft Meringue and Cake crumble with crispy bits lining the top.