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Hooked on La Fisheria

Celebrity chef Aquiles Chavez introduces Houston to the modern Mexican food he left behind in his home country.

For a while, I was convinced that the yellowfin tuna was one of the best dishes in the city. The first time I had it, the fish parted a rosy-pink over a bed of nopales and lentils that was both earthy and tangy at once — the cactus providing a particular sharp sweetness that caught my tongue like a fishing lure — all finished off with soft butterbeans and carrots.

My dining companion's pasta dish that night was very good — angel hair pasta coated with a smoky chipotle cream sauce and topped with fat flakes of coral-colored salmon — but it was my tuna that stopped the show. I talked about it for days afterward, and when a friend suggested ordering it again on a return visit a month later, I jumped at the chance. I was shocked to receive a mildly overcooked piece of fish this time, with no nopales anywhere to be found. The vegetable mixture that remained was flabby and bland.

On another visit, the otherwise excellent achiote-rubbed red snapper on a bed of sweet potato puree that bore a rich, almost caramel-like flavor was marred by a jarring mishmash of scattered vegetables underneath that confusingly included corn, peas, green peppers and dried cherries.

It's easier to get a table for tacos and ceviche at lunch than at dinner.
Troy Fields
It's easier to get a table for tacos and ceviche at lunch than at dinner.

Location Info

Map

La Fisheria

4705 Inker St.
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Heights

Details

11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Grilled octopus $9.50
Shrimp cocktail $12.90
Taco de camarón $4.50
Pato mariscal $25
Yellowfin tuna $25
Pibil-style red snapper $25
Churros $8

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: We're Hooked on La Fisheria
BLOG POST: Aquiles en Houston in Real Life at La Fisheria

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Rocky dishes like this are liable to scare away brand-new customers who are just sniffing out La Fisheria, trying to figure out its complex cuisine for themselves. Service can also be wildly inconsistent, swinging from happy and helpful one day to rushed and harried the next night. Three times now, I've been seated, asked what I wanted to drink — and then had to prompt the guayabera-shirted servers to bring me a drink menu. And although the long bar is welcoming in its moddish tropical vibe, it can be nearly impossible to get a drink there on busy nights, so overwhelmed are the bartenders.

On the other hand, La Fisheria's management seems to have listened to the early criticisms of the restaurant. Namely, the once-confusing menu has now been streamlined into more understandable sections: appetizers here, entrées there, soups and salads here, desserts there. It's still a little dicier at lunch, however, when the menu splits into bizarre categories such as "the fresh thing," "the ones from heaven and earth" and "the unforgettable ones." But if you can manage to parse through the sections, you'll actually find far better deals at La Fisheria during lunch than at dinner, which makes it worth the extra bit of effort.
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At lunch, you'll find a greater array of ceviches and cocktails (not just shrimp, but also oyster and vuelve a la vida) than at dinner. And the prices are lower, too, enabling you to enjoy some simple tacos de camarón with battered shrimp in a creamy chipotle-tamarind dressing or a vibrant bowl of tortilla soup for less than $10. The only problem with eating at La Fisheria is the sad feeling of having to tear yourself away from the relaxing, vacation-like dining room and shuffle off back to work, ignoring the siren call of comfortable Acapulco chairs on the broad front porch as you go.

Lunch also makes it more difficult to enjoy La Fisheria's excellent wine and cocktail program, which should be commended for incorporating Mexican products into even the most unexpected areas: Chavez's ongoing tribute to his home country means that the entire wine list is Mexican. Stop and consider that for a second. Did you even realize that Mexico made wine? Let alone good wine? La Fisheria works with local importer Baja Wines to bring in some of the best from the 1.5 million cases of wine the country produces each year, including a hearty but fresh Xikbal Tempranillo-Grenache blend that's served wonderfully cool (another point on which La Fisheria should be complimented) and an MX Sauvignon Blanc that's a steal for $32.

Traditional Mexican liquor like that xtabentún is incorporated into cheeky drinks like the Mayan Sacrifice, blended with blanco tequila and topped with a fat red cherry. And festive orange shreds of habanero brighten up already well-made margaritas with a pop of heat on the end of each sip.

Then again, it's certainly easier to get a table at lunch than it is at dinner, when arriving past 7:30 p.m. — especially on weekend nights — almost guarantees a wait. Which, of course, is best spent at the bar. And with the premiere of Chavez's third reality show taking place this past Sunday on Utilisima (an HGTV-style station that broadcasts in every Latin American country), it's only going to get busier.

This past Wednesday evening, Chavez and his family held a viewing party for the show, and I got my first look at how difficult it was for them to pick up and leave behind everything they'd known — the homesickness of their children, the adjustments to a mostly foreign culture and the struggle to open a business in a completely different world — and felt more strongly about La Fisheria than ever.

"I'm just a regular Mexican guy who wanted to open a restaurant in America," Chavez told the partygoers from underneath the Astros ballcap that's a constant presence on his head these days. He didn't speak of wanting profits or fame, but of wanting only to share the Mexico he knows and loves with a brand-new audience. With La Fisheria, he's already succeeded.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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13 comments
Raúl Ruiz
Raúl Ruiz

LEYENDO, AHORA QUE NO TENGO NADA QUE HACER, UN COMENTARIO DE LOS MUCHOS QUE NO SE HACEN ESPERAR, CREO QUE SI EN EL MENÚ DE LA FISHERIA NO ESTÁN INCLUIDAS LAS DELICIOSAS ENCHILADAS O LOS RIQUÍSIMOS CHILES RELLENOS, ES PORQUE EN MÉXICO TENEMOS TANTA VARIEDAD DE COMIDA QUE HASTA LOS MISMOS DIOSES DEL OLIMPO HAN LLEGADO A BAJAR A NUESTRO PAIS A COMER (SIN OFENDER A NINGÚN CHEF). AUILES, ERES UNO DE LOS TANTOS ORGULLOS QUE TIENE MEXICO, TE INVITO A QUE PONGAS TU MAYOR ESFUERZO POR PONER MUY EN ALTO, POR ALLÁ, NUESTRA BANDERA. READING, WHILE I AM TAKING A BREAK I WANT TO COMMENT SOMETHING ABOBUT THE COMMENT "WHY NO ENCHILADAS IN THE MENU" AND THAT IS BECAUSE HERE IN MEXICO WE HAVE A HUGE VARIETY OF FOOD SO EVEN THE OLIMPUS GODS HAVE COME SOMETIME TO OUR COUNTRY TO HAVE A MEAL (POLITELY TO ALL CHEFFS) AQUILES YOU ARE ONE OF THE PROUDS WE HAVE IN MEXICO, SO I ENCOURAGE YOU TO MAKE YOUR BEST AND RISE AT THE TOP OF THE HIGHEST TOWER THERE OUR FLAG.

Raúl Ruiz
Raúl Ruiz

AQUILES. SIEMPRE VEMOS TUS PROGRAMAS POR UTILISIMA Y NOS PARECEN BASTANTE BUENOS. FELICIDADES POR LA FISHERIA, QUE AUNQUE LO VEO DEMASIADO LEJANO LLEGAR A IR POR ALLA; ESTOY SEGURO QUE SERÁ UNA MUY BUENA OPCIÓN PARA LOS MORADORES DE HUSTON. AQUI, DESDE TLAXCALA, TLAX., MEXICO YO, RAUL RUIZ, EL CENTO CULTURAL LINGÜÍSTICO Y MI FAMILIA TE FELICITAMOS Y TE DESEAMOS EL MEJOR DE LOS MEJORES EXITOS EN HUSTON.

Si1200
Si1200

why no enchiladas on the menu if that is part of authentic mexican cuisine?

Del Martinis
Del Martinis

I want him to succeed, especially after all he went through to get his family here. But as you know, food is subjective as is the heart. Best way to know is to eat there, and your review made me want to go!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I can see how you'd think that, but let me assure you -- it's no mercy review if I honestly can't wait for my next meal there. Which I hope will be sooner rather than later...

TrixieMix
TrixieMix

Agreed. Nailed it. Was reading the piece in the Chron and noticed the critic identified Aquiles' partner as Mirna Roy. LOL, was she thinking of Myrna Loy, the actress from long ago?

Migas22
Migas22

Best written review of La Fisheria that I've read; captures the essence and the challenges. Really love the place; just waiting for an ocean and beach volleyball court to appear behind the patio.

Del Martinis
Del Martinis

Great review and it makes me want to eat there, especially after some spotty write-ups! I still somehow get the feeling that this is a mercy review.

StephanieD
StephanieD

Happiness is: Habanero margarita, Mexican martini, frozen Mojito.... shrimp tempura taco, octopus taco---about $2.50. Shrimp cocktail that puts others to shame. Duck, chorizo & mussel stew. All the soups.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Such a great writeup! The churros and chocolate dip are truly divine (I have to have them every time). So are the mussels with beets, the ceviche, the coctel de camaron, the pulpo (octopus) and so much more. I could go on, but truly, the food is as vibrant as the chef!

Jamie Dabbs
Jamie Dabbs

LOVE this place. Jalapeno margarita and ceviche with saltines on that back patio blooming with jasmine - that's what life is all about!

Jeff
Jeff

The beet risotto with lobster tail is insane. I don't even really like beets and I can't get enough of it.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

That place totally rocks. So need to revisit…

 
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