Chowdown Report, Don Pepe's in Fresno--Shrimptabulous!!
Today, a few Fresno hounds invaded Don Pepe's for a fabulous shrimp feast. There were 8 of us who fought our way into the crowded taqueria and managed to score some seating. After securing our spots we ordered every shrimp plate in the joint and sampled a shrimp cocktail. Here is a list of the damage:
shrimp mojo de ajo
Of course we made quick work of all the above, empty shrimp shells and dirty napkins were left scattered all over the table. I for one enjoyed the company of other like minded hounds and finally being able to attach a face to a name. I hope everyone else had a great time as well and that we will have more chowdowns in the future.
I will give a quick description of the dishes and list my favorites and hope that other hounds will pitch in with their impressions as well.
Shrimp zarandeado: anyone who has read my postings knows I absolutely love this dish. The shrimp are quick fried with chiles, tomatoes, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and onion. This dish is served with shells on, which is a drawback for some. I think that of all the shrimp dishes, this dish is the most complex and flavorful. My favorite.
Shrimp diabla: served without shells, this dish is a fiery combination of tomato and chiles. It is hot, hot, hot! I think the heat is great, especially when paired with the sweet, plump shrimp. My second favorite.
Shrimp veracruzana: shrimp served sans shell in an onion, olive, tomato, and caper sauce. I thought this dish was good, but not spectacular. Anywhere else this dish would be a standout, but at Don Pepe's there are so many great dishes that this one just seems to be a little less great.
Shrimp mojo de ajo: quick fried shrimp served in a toasted garlic sauce and served with shells on. I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did. The oil and garlic was a great combo and really helped bring out the sweet succulence of the shrimp. Not very hot at all and very flavorful. Probably my third favorite.
Shrimp botana: cold shrimp salad served with a lemon jalapeno dressing. This was very mild and served as a pleasant refresher between blistering bites of shrimp diabla. All in all, though, I probably would prefer to order the hot shrimp dishes.
Shrimp cocktail: this huge glass came jam packed with shrimp and loaded with avocado. I thought that the cocktail sauce was quite good, but even better when some heat from the shrimp diabla was applied. The shrimp were firm and sweet, not rubbery like you find in some places. I would defintely order again.
I think we really got a chance to sample the shrimp deliciousness that can be found at Don Pepe's. I know it will be a lot easier for me to make an educated choice there when it comes time to order. I hope other hounds find this true as well. I am looking forward to the next chowdown!
4582 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, CA 93726
Many thanks to gbg for putting this one together. I also found the Zarandeado to have the most interesting flavors and a balanced level of heat. The Diablo had a good heat level but I thought the sauce had a sweet note to it and was a little too "tomatoey" for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, while I still prefer the version El Mariachi puts out for the flavor and a little more fire, the quality of the shrimp at DP is going to be hard to beat here in the valley.
I liked the Veracruzana and it's subdued flavors as well, but as gbg stated, any other place it would be the star but here was relegated to a suppporting role.
I'd had the Botana previously and really love the dressing, but probably wouldn't order it again unless it was to share and have as a side dish to balance out other spicy dishes. I was also surprised at how good the Mojo de Ajod was, probably never would have tried it since it sounds rather tame compared to everything else, but it allowed the flavor of the shrimp to shine while providing a garlic buttery richness.
Should also note that if you order any of these dishes as your single entree (i.e. not sharing) you can experiment as you work your way through, trying a few bites straight up, putting a few in a flour or corn tortilla fajita style, adding cilantro, onion, guacamole, and their various salsas as you like.
This was a great time, putting faces with the email addresses, great food, and finally standing around outside afterwards talking about what else but chow. Came home with some great tips to follow up on.