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Ceviche at El Sinaloense

On the southwest side of Baytown, sandwiched between the giant ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery and the City Hall, is a neighborhood I call "old Baytown." It's an area of older shops and houses, with what appears to be a largely Hispanic population. Market Street runs through the middle of it. I came here one Saturday morning to visit a Mexican seafood restaurant I had heard about called El Sinaloense (3002 Market St.).

Patronized by local Mexican Americans as well as blue- and white-collar workers from the surrounding refineries, El Sinaloense is known for its seafood dishes inspired by its namesake, the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Seafood cocktails -- the spicy, blood-red concoctions filled with octopus or shrimp -- are king here. Fried and grilled (a la plancha) fish is available too. But I came for the ceviche. El Sinaloense makes my favorite ceviche in the greater Houston area.

I sat in a corner of the dining room at a table by myself and ordered the tostadas de ceviche de pescado. I was surrounded by at least five other singly occupied tables, all with young Mexican American men plowing through their seafood cocktails as we watched a Mexican version of MTV.

The ceviche arrived -- finely chopped pieces of tilapia, tomatoes, onions and cilantro swimming in a lime marinade. Wedges of avocado topped it off. I grabbed an accompanying tostada, spooned on the avocado and ceviche, and took a bite. For me, the key to a great ceviche is balance. You've got the two big flavors, seafood and citrus, vying for attention, with the other ingredients offering breadth and depth flavor. Too much fish or citrus, and the balance is lost.

The flavor balance of the ceviche at El Sinaloense is spot-on. The fish and citrus commingle perfectly, while the onions, tomato and cilantro add zing. Textures run the gamut; there's crispy tostada, creamy avocado, crunchy onion and firm fish. The fish was perfectly fresh. The heat level is almost non-existent, but there are bottles of hot sauce on the tables. After finishing the generous portion of ceviche, I was satisfied. The cost for this refreshing and flavorful lunch? $2.99, plus tax and tip.

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J.C. Reid
Contact: J.C. Reid