Corazon del Mar -July 2009

A Taste of Baja on South Water Street

by: Marianne R. Stanton

photography by: Terry Pommett

The bright orange walls, Mexican folk art and Frida Kahlo-inspired decor of Corazon del Mar are a far cry from the subtle sophistication that was Water Street, the restaurant that occupied this space until last winter. Angela and Seth Raynor have pulled out all the stops in creating their third restaurant that probably speaks loudest to their playful side and what they like to do in the off-season.

“This is who we are,” said Seth one evening before dinner shortly after they opened. “It’s what we like to do in the off-season. It’s not a surf bar, but sort of has that feel a bit.”

Seth is an avid surfer and has followed his passion around the world, combining recreation with vocation by exploring the regional cuisines of Southeast Asia and now Mexico and Latin America.

It is telling that Seth, who also oversees the flagship Boarding House and the coolly-elegant Pearl, has chosen to situate himself this summer behind the ceviche bar at Corazon del Mar. Dressed in a short chef’s jacket and a cap, he is happily slicing, dicing, seasoning and arranging the ceviche plates as they leave the bar for the dining room.

Last winter the Raynors spent some time in Baja with friends in the culinary world and ended up at rocker Sammy Hagar’s house. Take a look at the menu of Corazon del Mar and you’ll see a hint of that friendship in the tequilas listed. Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina produces its own tequila label, marketed as Cabo Wabo, and if you are a tequila lover, then Corazon del Mar is your kind of place, with over a dozen premium tequilas on hand. Hello, Jimmy Buffett.

The menu at Corazon del Mar is inspired and fun. There is the ceviche, of course, shellfish and finfish “cooked” in the citrus juice it is marinated in, along with chiles, fruits and other seasonings. Containers of fresh fish and shellfish, vibrant limes and lemons, colorful condiments, oysters lined up in crushed ice and bowls of beautiful, ripe avocados are ready for the ceviche-bar chefs. We were bowled over by the Tostada de Langosta (lobster ceviche) where lobster is tossed with lettuce, avocado, red onion and crema and served on a crispy tortilla. The Camarones Escalfado, poached shrimp with cucumber, red onion, aji panca and cilantro was also quite good.

The Entradas are akin to appetizers, like Roasted Littlenecks with an Almond Romesco, Sopa de Tortilla, and an outstanding Guacamole with warm, crisp tortilla chips top the list. It is best to order several of these to split – but do get the guacamole. You won’t be sorry.

Another section on the menu are Masa, larger appetizers that feature dishes such as Arepas de Nora, small, puffed corn tortillas, two to a plate, topped with braised beef and plantains. The Taquitos de Papas with Poblano are three tightly-rolled corn tortillas, stuffed with chiles and potatoes and fried. The favorite here, however, were the Tacos de Pescado, crispy codfish tacos served with jicama cabbage and chipotle slaw. There is truly something for everyone here, meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

The large assortment of ceviche, entradas and masa mean that a group of friends can come here for drinks and appetizers and be quite satisfied with the wide range of choices and the ability to order half a dozen plates or so and sample a bit of everything. While there are a variety of flavors featured, there is no one dish that stands out as “better” than the rest. The night we visited, with a party of five, everything was cooked to perfection. There were some dishes that suited individual tastes more than others, but everything was terrific.

If you have sampled the ceviche, masas and entradas, you might be too full to go for a main course because these main dish plates are BIG. The Pollo a la Brasa, or split, grilled “roadside” chicken we tried was crispy on the outside and extremely moist inside. The Pork Carnitas were two large pork shanks, with meat so tender it fell off the bone. Served with plantains and corn flan it was a meal we couldn’t finish.

Desserts are memorable: flan, a banana bread sundae and the ubiquitous tres leches cake (the tiramisu of the new century).

Finish off with coffee or one of the premium tequilas and you’ve had an evening to remember.

Marianne R. Stanton is the editor and publisher of Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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