Mexican seafood (La Cazuela Review)
- A Okrent
There was an inquiry a while back about the seafood place next to Dona Loli's on Clark. I finally got a chance to try it last night.
The place is called La Cazuela, but they don't seem to want you to know that. The sign above the restaurant only says "Mexican food","Mariscos", and suchlike; the neon sign in the window says "Osteoneria" (Spanish for Osteria?) and there is no name printed on the menu. I learned that it goes by "La Cazuela" from the complimentary new year's calendars given to our table.
I decided on my order as I walked to my table when I eyed the huge steaming bowls of red broth overflowing with mollusks and other fruits of the sea. This was the "Calda de siete mares". An irresistible remedy for the chilly night, the comforting red broth held 'siete' kinds of seafood. A huge clam, mussels, octopus, squid rings, fish chunks, shrimp, and a crab claw and leg. The menu said there was supposed to be snail in there too, but that would have made it eight kinds of seafood. Perhaps one of my table-mates managed to scoop it up. The crab leg was your basic flavorless frozen variety, and there was some fake crab meat thrown in there for good measure too, but the squid was really tender, the fish was infused with broth flavor. The dish as a whole provided so many textures and shell cracking/opening activities that it felt like an adventure. I'd gladly take it again. At $11 it's one of the more expensive options, but call it 'bouilliabase' and serve it in Lincoln Park and it would definitely be in the $30 range.
In ordering appetizers, we were sad to be told there was no more seviche, but the selection of 4 or 5 other seviche-like cold seafood salads heartened us to try something new. We could not resist the intriguing "blood clams" (pata de mula). A shrimp cocktail glass full of meaty clams in a worchestershire type marinade to be eaten on a saltine bed. I'm not sure if 'blood clams' refers to the type of clam or the style of preparation. The salad of octopus and shrimp chopped with onion and cilantro was served on a soft tortilla. This was a great way to start the meal, and I hope to someday catch the seviche before it runs out.
We also had a whole red snapper 'Veracruzana' and shrimp with garlic sauce. The shrimp were butterflied and grilled crisp enough to render the shells deliciously crunchy, and they were crusted with chunks of garlic. Standard rice, beans, and lettuce on the side along with warm flour tortillas, a selection of bottled hot sauces and the red and green salsa which came with the introductory chips--oh yeah. The snapper made for particularly good folding into tortilla with condiment experiences.
The shrimp was offered with a few different preparations, as was the snapper (I'd like to try it with the garlic crust sometime) and they were also $11 or $12. Other fish fillet, shrimp soup, and chicken soup prices were in the $6 range. There's also a whole meat tacos/burritos side of the menu which looks worth exploring. The tacos al pastor at the table next to ours looked especially inviting.
6922 N. Clark
Open Mon-Sun, 10am-10pm
re: Vital Information
I haven't solved the osteoneria mystery yet. I don't think it means oyster bar; that would be something like ostraria. A google search reveals that it is usually spelled 'ostioneria', it's a Mexican spanish word, and it attaches itself to seafood restaurants. This should be easy enough to figure out, as soon as I ask the right person.
And no excuses, VI. If you can make it to Devon you can make it to north Clark.
Didn't see the empanadas de camaron, Zim. In fact, I can't remember what was on the specials board outside the door, because as soon as I walked in, visions of seafood soup wiped out my short term memory.