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Mexican-Style Seafood At Los Arcos

Culichi-style shrimp.
Courtesy photo

Venturing south of downtown for cuisine is a rarity, but temptation, and a friend’s recommendation, sent us on a mission. From the 8 freeway, a quick and painless 10-minute drive down the 805 had us on our destination’s doorstep. Exiting the freeway, Los Arcos Restaurant was not hard to spot, as it was the only building on the corner that wasn’t a gas station. (Be sure to turn right into the first driveway at the light, as you cannot get in once you pass without some effort. There is a church parking lot on the opposite side that is apparently “unforgiving” to trespassers judging from the abundance of towing notices. Sinners beware.)

The odd location notwithstanding, the building itself looks a bit like a fast food joint without a drive-thru. The first word we can think of to describe Los Arcosis “white.” Overwhelming, blaring white paint coated the entire venue, inside and out. No traditional brick or adobe detail, just white walls and a few pieces of oceanic art. Some were ceramic fish, some plant-holders, some bowls with a beautiful curved glass fixture on the ceiling. Tables and chairs were colorful hues of red, blue and green, creating a dramatic contrast with a little too much of a sense of openness.

Beyond that, friendly faces and quick service are the norm here. We were quickly and comfortably seated with crisp, house-made tortilla chips and some dang good roasted chili peppers and onions on a platter. Not sure that these are delivered to everyone, but if they don’t magically appear, ask for them.

Glance at the menu and a sense of uniqueness settles in. This is not your usual Mexican restaurant assortment of enchilada and taco combos. Almost everything on the menu is seafood (there are two steak offerings and the obligatory chicken nuggets for the kiddies). Shrimp, octopus, salmon, lobster andoysters all play a part in unusual compositions and creations.

A house favorite, the taco gobernador (buttered corn tortillas filled with shredded shrimp machaca, cheese, diced poblano peppers and onions,$3.60) had an awesome consistency, balanced with creamy flavorful sauce. Not knowing quite what to expect, the dish really made our taste buds tango. The smoked tuna taco (tuna machaca in a toasted charbroiled tortilla, $3.45) also stood ou--and this bad boy was all tuna. No lettuce, cheese and other accoutrement to fill the shell, just seafood. Both were presented very simply, literally a taco on a white plate (there’s thatcolor again). Maybe being in so many restaurants where presentation is as important as the food jaded us a bit, but a small amount of garnishment wouldn’t hurt. Blame Iron Chef.

The Torres fillet.
Courtesy photo

Distinct entrees hit the table with Culichi-style shrimp (tender shrimp sautéed in butter, smothered in green chili cream, baked au gratin, $18.95) and the Torres fillet (wrapped fish fillet, seasoned with brasas marinade filled with shrimp, calamari, octopus, tomatoes and onions, $17.95). The Culichi shrimp in its smoking green chili cream sauce is a family recipe 30 years in the making, creating a zesty, but tolerably fiery finish with the perfectly prepared shrimp. We’re not quite sure what’s in this sauce, but a gallon or two in the fridge would make for some very happy foodies. The Torres fillet was unbelievable and bursting with abundant flavor. The dish is basically stuffed white fish finished with a unique and piquant marinade.

Dessert was not in the stars until banana cream pie ($5) was mentioned. Not overwhelmed by a cream topping, this decadent feast was laden with walnuts, caramel and a perfect graham cracker crust. Simply perfecto!

Prices are mostly under $20 for entrees, with generous portions. You will not walk away hungry. Kids are welcome and live music is available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Los Arcos family of restaurants consists of 17 eateries, 16 of which are in Mexico, reaching back over 30 years. Los Arcos San Diego is a first venture north of the border. The room was respectably busy during our visit so word is clearly getting around. Los Arcos is anything but your typical Mexican dining experience. It is an adventure into unique, creative and time-tested ways of serving seafood that you will not find anything place in town. Take your time and try a little of everything. You’ll find yourself right at home, and with a big smile to boot.

The Good: uniquely prepared seafood with Mexican flavors.

The Bad: location is off the beaten path.

Details »
  • City: Chula Vista
  • Phone: 619-934-4063
  • Name: Los Arcos Restaurant
  • Address: 89 Bonita Road