Chef Chat, Part 3: Aquiles Chavez of La Fisheria - The Tasting

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The last two days, Latin TV personality Aquiles Chavez, chef and owner of the new restaurant La Fisheria, shared stories about his mustache, his French training, his TV shows and how he hopes to show Houstonians real food from Mexico.

From what he's shown me, Mexican food is vibrant, complex, flavorful and utterly delicious. I loved it wholeheartedly.

Take, for example, the Acapulco golden coctel de camarón. A cross between a shrimp cocktail and a campechana, the slightly sweet, tomato sauce-based pastel was created to taste like those you would find in Acapulco. Presentationwise, it came in a big margarita glass topped with some avocado, and the visually striking presentation was not only gorgeous but scrumptious as well.

Tortilla soup, presented in a vibrant blue tin cup, was filled with a generous helping of bright-orange tortilla strips and topped with fresh avocado. The soup was poured at the table, and after taking one sip, I knew for a fact that this was the best-tasting tortilla soup I'd ever had. The secret? A stock made of chicken and duck bones gave the broth a bold, rich flavor that tasted homemade.

A vuelve a la vida seafood soup was also a knockout. Filled with fish, shrimp, octopus and mussels, the hearty, rich, spicy seafood soup translates as "come back to life." The spice is supposed to induce sweating, which in the Mexican tradition helps with a hangover. I didn't need to have a hangover to feel revived and alive after eating this. The mixed-seafood broth reminded me of bouillabaisse without the saffron; it was fantastic.

For about the same price that you'd pay at a taco truck, the taco de camaron was beautiful inside and out. With deep-fried shrimp, vividly colored red cabbage and a special sauce on top of a corn tortilla, it reminded me of a gourmet Baja fish taco, only with shrimp. Another definite hit.

A tostada with tuna, avocado, a special sauce and fried leeks had a wonderfully crispy yet soft and creamy texture to each bite. The fried leeks added a compelling aroma, the pinks and greens of the ingredients lighting up the plate. You could crack the tostada with the fork, but I found it easier to just pick it up and take a big bite. So yummy.

The signature pulpo con patatas, or grilled octopus with roasted potatoes, was yet another revelation. The octopus had been cooked to the perfect degree of tenderness. A slight char added a smoky aroma to the octopus that just takes it over the top. Chavez imports Mediterranean octopus, which is why it tasted just like octopus I'd had in Spain. Yes, oh yes.

And finally, for the dessert, fresh churros, made to order, come piping hot out of the kitchen. The crispy, chewy, long, hollow shells of dough dusted in sugar and cinnamon are crave-worthy by themselves, but add a side portion of mousse-like chocolate dipping sauce and it's an out-and-out winner. I would say it's a must-order, but then, everything I tasted was a must-order.

The meal was so fabulous, I couldn't wait to spread the good food news. "I'm having an absolutely STUNNING meal," I tweeted that afternoon. A return visit just reinforced the first experience, and I've already made plans to go back again.

Aquiles Chavez brings Houston a fun splash of color with La Fisheria, but more than that, he's given us a place where you can hang out with a great cocktail at the bar, snack on Mexican street food and indulge in an excellent meal. It's a place where you can come as you are, and if you enjoy it, you can even take off your shoes if you want.

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