Fresh seafood prepared simplyEat This!, Latest Issue Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood is tucked away in the corner of an unremarkable strip mall. If you didn’t know it was there you would drive right past. But then you’d miss out on exceptional fresh seafood. Oscar’s has been on my radar for years because there is usually a line of people inside which indicates good food can be found. “Becky”, a dear friend and confidant, told me to check it out, and I’m glad he did.
I visited the cozy restaurant one recent Tuesday afternoon. Sunlight flooding through large windows filled the space, illuminating the wooden benches and tables. Industrial-style “Edison” lights hang from the low ceiling. Oscar’s is a “self-serve” establishment; orders are placed and picked up at the front counter. Since it was my first visit, I asked Unitas, the friendly guy behind the counter, which dishes were most popular, and he recommended the Especial Taco ($4.90). I also ordered the Bluefin Tuna Ceviche ($8.75), the ever-present Fish Taco ($0.99) and a bottle of Mexican Coke ($2.39).
Ceviche, a popular seafood dish from coastal Latin America and the Caribbean, typically includes raw fish marinated in citrus juice. So imagine my surprise when the dominant flavor was soy sauce. There was a hint of lime juice in the background, but as Unitas explained, the Bluefin Ceviche is a “Poke bowl in a cup”; tender bites of bluefin tuna cured with soy sauce and lime juice, mixed with minced cilantro and diced onions and tomatoes, topped by slices of smooth nutty avocado and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Very tasty.
The fish taco, arguably San Diego’s greatest contribution to the world of gastronomy, is a small portion of fish lightly battered and fried to a delicate golden crunch, wrapped in a warm tortilla filled with shredded cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and crumbled cheese. I only wish the fish portion was larger; my first bite was all cabbage. But they are delicious. And addicting, apparently; the gentleman sitting next to me ate three of them and then ordered three more.
The Especial Taco is a combination of pan seared scallops, butterflied shrimp and shredded smoked fish topped with cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro, avocado slices and cheese. The sear imbues the snack with an awesome buttery smokiness. Not to be missed.
Oscar’s offers three homemade sauces as condiments. The red sauce, made with crushed red peppers, has a unique woodsy almost astringent flavor, but lacks depth and pizzazz. The mayonnaise-based chipotle sauce is smokey splendor, while the most popular sauce, a mayonnaise-based jalapeño chili sauce, is sublime and packs a healthy but not overpowering wallop of heat. Seriously, it’s so good they should bottle it and sell it.
The menu also features a variety of sandwiches, aka tortas, made with smoked fish, spicy shrimp and skirt steak. Oscar’s also offers grilled fish plates at market price with sides of pinto beans and rice.
There’s a reason why there is usually a line of people crowding the small space. Oscar’s success is based on the freshest seafood prepared simply. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.
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