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Fish a la Plancha

Great Gulf seafood in a mom-and-pop Mexican joint is a combination that's hard to beat

In fairness, I have to say that running the oysters under tap water is the unfortunate practice of every single Mexican seafood restaurant I visited, including Tampico. Is this because the shuckers were trained in oyster shucking plants?

Seafood plants that sell shucked oysters always wash the oysters before they put them in the bottle. Washing raw oysters does remove any grit from the broken shell. And it may even help to remove vibrio bacteria. But people who love oysters on the half shell expect to taste some brine and smell the sea. Tap water-washed oysters smell and taste like chlorine.

At Seven Seas, also on the East Freeway, they didn't have a fish counter either. I ordered mojarra al diablo, which turned out to be a small fried fish covered in a nasty red sauce that tasted like ketchup. At Mambo, I stuck to the fried shrimp. But I had to ask myself: "Why go to a Mexican seafood joint to eat fried shrimp when you can get it almost anywhere in Houston?" Eventually, I gave up on finding another Mexican seafood joint. Then several people suggested Connie's on Airline, right up the street from Tampico.

It's a joy to eat real red snapper, especially from a 
comal at Tampico.
Troy Fields
It's a joy to eat real red snapper, especially from a comal at Tampico.

Location Info

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Tampico Seafood and Cocina Mexicana

2115 Airline
Houston, TX 77009

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 10:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

Vuelva a la vida: $7.95
Shrimp cocktail: $6.95
Octopus cocktail: $6.95
Red snapper a la plancha (per pound): $10.99
Add shrimp (per pound): $14.99
Add frog's legs (per pound): $10.25

2115 Airline Drive, 713-862-8425.

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Connie's has their fish out on display too, and they have some interesting stuff you don't see everywhere -- like gar. The first time I went, I tried to duplicate the huachinango platter I'd learned to love at Tampico, and I was disappointed. The whole fish tasted like it had been fried, and there weren't any grilled onions or peppers with it. Rather than a sizzling comal, it came on a red-and-yellow plastic Chinese platter. And the shrimp I ordered with it were battered and fried separately, not cooked a la plancha with the fish like they do at Tampico. The restaurant was garishly decorated in dark blue and yellow, and the fluorescent lights gave me a headache. The whole experience was a far cry from good old Tampico.

I gave Connie's another try at lunchtime one weekday afternoon, and I think I figured out the appeal. Connie's has a lunch special with six fried shrimp and a huge pile of shrimp fried rice on the side, all for $3.99. The shrimp are a nice size too. So I guess there is a good time to eat fried shrimp at a Mexican seafood joint after all -- when it's on a lunch special for under $4.

Meanwhile, down the street at Tampico, I didn't see anything for lunch under $7.95. But Tampico isn't really a place to go if you are looking to eat cheap. Your dinner tab for four or five people with cócteles, a fish platter, and a couple of drinks apiece is going to be well over a hundred dollars.

It's what you get for your money that makes it worth it. For skillfully cooked, quality seafood presented with a bang, Tampico is a whale of a value.

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