El Caracol Cafe
5190 Victoria Drive
Despite it has been barely a month or so after I came back from Panama, I started to long for Latin American food. Fried fish, tamales, fried plantain, ah… So, one night, I knew I wanted something Latin-American (but NOT Mexican). Sure, I could have gone to El Rinconcito Salvadoreño or El Inka Deli but that wouldn’t have made an interesting post, right? I almost resigned myself to go to Doña Cata when suddenly… Hey, does that place have a Spanish name? OK, let’s give it a try!
So I walk in and… I have written about this once and will mention about it again: When out of all people, a Chinese walk into a dive like this, everybody looks at me in a fashion similar to that of Western movies (i.e., when a “stranger” walks into the bar). Everything looks odd until I start to talk to them in Spanish, that is… Anyway, I think I have over-abused this story…
Cash only! No Public Restroom!
After I was seated and given the menu, the debate starts. What to order? Sure, they had some Mexican items (see note at the end of this post) but I was not interested in those. As I kept flipping the pages (only three items per page, as they have pictures of each dish), I could not really make up my mind until… Well, keep on reading to find out what, hehehehe.
After ordering, I end up striking a conversation with two Guatemalans (if I am not mistaken). Of course, the topic ends up being where I learned Spanish and differences between the food in the different nearby countries. But soon their food arrived, as well as my drink.
This is horchata. Long time ago, I found out the hard way that, although the basic of this drink is the same, i.e., water/milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and other spices (usually nutmeg), the “distinct” part is that it can be made with oats (usually grounded, almost like flour) or rice (also grounded). The end result can be different (i.e., different texture and taste). I myself haven’t had this in a long while, that’s why I ordered it, despite I knew it wouldn’t really match my main. And what is that?
Yes, that is a whole fish! According to the menu, it is called mojarra frita; however, to make it easy to everybody, the fish itself is tilapia. I know that a lot of people won’t eat it this way, i.e., they are used to filets. But, reality is, until you have eaten fish like this, believe me, you are missing the real thing… Sure, you will have to fight with the bones, just that bones results in flavour. In this case, they over-fried it a bit (the meat was starting to be dry); otherwise, it is something I can be eating every other day – if not EVERY day… As for the sides, well, I would rather not “talk” about it, as the key part is the fish.
Overall, that fried fish managed to put that Latin-American food craving aside. But, I am sure it will be a matter of time. Would I come back? It suddenly seems I am on the quest of the best whole, single-serving fried fish and this place made the grade despite its shortcomings.
(Sidenote: a couple of doors north, there is also El Caracolito, which focuses more on Mexican food. There is a reason why the name similarity: the owner is the same…)