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Nov 15, 2009 12:30 PM

Cabo-Mazatlan-Puerto Vallarta - my eats

Ship's 1st stop was Cabo, arrived 'bout 11:30am, walked to NICK-SAN. Guess it's mainly a night time eatery as I was the only customer both on arrival and departure.

Started with hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi - it was unadorned, and served with sliced cucumber and shredded carrot. I believe there were 8 large slices that were refreshingly sweet. Next, I had Sashimi Serranito - My choice of fish, I asked for scallops. They were thinly sliced, each had a tiny slice of serrano chili atop. Chili pepper sauce (probably with lime juice) was sprinkled over. Oyster Ponzu (oysters from Todos Santos), had two, served in the shell with ponzu sauce over them. One of the best soft-shell crabs came next, large and delicious. Ended with Tuna Tostada, a 4x4 tostada (never broke apart while eating) topped with thinly sliced tuna and avocado with habanero onion sauce and sesame seeds. Cost - $75.

Left there and walked to Medano Beach, was going to seat on a beach chair at THE OFFICE, but they don't have them, so I sat and sipped two pina coladas right next door at BAJA CANTINA.

The next day was Mazatlan. Many thanks to diglidden for the recommendation of LETY'S on Stone Island, It was a short walk from the cruise terminal to the shack where you buy your ticket ($2.) for the quick motorboat ride across the water to Stone Island. Walked down the beach, it was about 9:30am and high tide was going out. I believe I saw 3 other people at that hour. (More people arrived later.) Put my bag down on a front row wooden sun bed, and was immediately brought a comfortable pad for it.

Asked for a menu when lunchtime arrived, saw many camarones listed, but to my disappointment no aqua chili, guess it's not a tourist item. Ask and you shall receive. White shrimp drizzled with lime juice, with a heavenly amount of sliced serrano chili amid a small amount of red onion. Sliced cucumbers ringed the plate, which were sprinkled with chili pepper. Aaaaah!

Ordered the pescado zarandeado. It was enough for 2 people and unbeliveably good. I shared a tiny bit with the cat who became my friend. Total cost including beach chair with pad, and 2 bottles of water: $18.

Discovered, but haven't been, there's a restaurant in Los Angeles, Mariscos Chente in the Mar Vista area that serves aqua chili and pescado zarandeado

Puerto Vallarta was the next day, I took a taxi to LA PALAPA, arriving about 10am. Was at the water's edge with 2 fully set tables (cloth, napkins, water glass, knife and fork), 2 chairs, each with a towel, and a sun bed in front of them.

Lunch consisted of aqua chili (Lety's spoiled me), a spinach salad, and a lamb dish that had melted cheese over it with chorizos. All that and a large bottle of water set me back $46.

Back to ship to shower and change, then back into town for an early dinner at EL ARRAYAN. Started with aqua chili (oh, Lety, none will ever equal yours!), then a half order of sopa mixteca (squash blossoms and...) The duck carnita's came next, basically a deep fried leg and thigh, very meaty and tender. Passion fruit sorbet, cafe, aqua mineral, a dacquiri when I sat down, and a bottle of Malbec to drink with dinner. Total cost: $48.

They served a Salsa Negra that was so good, I asked if they sold it, sure enough, I bought 2 jars for approximately $9.

Quick, get me back to LETY'S!

Again thanks, digledden for your advice.

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  1. You're welcome Toitoi, glad you enjoyed Isla de la Piedra and the food. But I do have one question. You say:

    "Asked for a menu when lunchtime arrived, saw many camarones listed, but to my disappointment no aqua chili, guess it's not a tourist item. Ask and you shall receive. White shrimp drizzled with lime juice, with a heavenly amount of sliced serrano chili amid a small amount of red onion. Sliced cucumbers ringed the plate, which were sprinkled with chili pepper. Aaaaah!"

    Does that mean it wasn't on the menu but you asked for it anyway and they made some especially for you?

    FYI: The best aquachile I ever had in Mazatlán was at the now defunct Pacifico Bar on Plazuela Machado. Their recipe was simple but delicious. I've got it filed away if you'd like it. But the only real trick is the amount of time the shrimp marinates in the lime juice. Too little time and the shrimp doesn't get "cooked" and tastes raw and not "limey"; too much time and the shrimp turns to mush and has no texture or taste, etc.


    Derald Glidden

    9 Replies
    1. re: dlglidden


      It appeared to me that Lety's is run by an older woman (she sat at a table next to the kitchen), and older man (her husband?) who took my order, and a 30ish man (son?) who brought the food, water, and chair pad. I also paid him when he was sitting, reading the paper at the table with the woman. I saw two young women in the kitchen.

      Aqua chili was not on the menu, but since I had read they served it, I asked. Of course, I got the usual warning of it's hot or spicy, don't remember which, but I'm a gringo and they don't want to hear "Oh, it's too hot to eat!" from their unsuspecting clients. Pity, those folks will never know what a treat they're missing.

      So yes, I believe the shrimp were made especially for me. My first shrimp (there were many) was a bit raw, so it probably hadn't cooked long enough in the lime juice, but as I proceeded to chow them down, the taste changed. I eat raw shrimp at Thai restaurants and at sushi places, where they're known as sweet shrimp, so didn't mind the first bite.

      The other places didn't have enough chili in them (asked for additional at El Arrayan, since the La Palapa experience was too 'gringo' oriented. Both places, the shrimp tasted a little bland.and even after my request for add'l chili's at Arrayan, it wasn't tasteless, merely blah - but then I'm a lover of hot.

      Appreciate your recipe offer. I'll attempt it on my own, and then get back to you.

      1. re: toitoi


        Here's the Pacifico Bar's "recipe" for aguachile: (note: it's one word, not two, and it's "chile," not "chili." Chili is the Tex-Mex word for "hot pepper" as in "chili pepper" and "chili con carne." In Spanish the word is "chile.")

        Clean, devein, and butterfly the shrimp. Marinate them in lime juice, salt, and pepper (preferably white—it looks better). The marinating time is (depending on the number of shrimp and amount of marinade liquid) 3–5 minutes. I find 4½ to be about right. And it's crucial to use Mexican limes, not the limes one finds at the local supermarket (very different type of lime). I live in the San Francisco Bay Area (don't you as well?) and "real" Mexican limes are readily available.

        Finely chop (or even puree) some chiles serranos and slice part of a white onion into rings (red onion doesn't have the pleasant slightly hot bite that only white onions provide). Add the chopped serranos and the onion slices (to taste) to the shrimp and its marinade. Surround the plate with thin slices of cucumber (peeled or unpeeled). Eat.

        When you get back home and make your own aguachile, I'd appreciate your offer to get back to me and "tell me all about it."


        1. re: dlglidden


          Appreciate the recipe. I live in LA, therefore, I'm able to secure the small limes that are sold at Latin grocers. Interesting that you chose white over red onion; I'm not at all endeared to the white, I think it's too mild.

          As to my spelling: when I read about the dish, it was on CruiseCritic, the spelling came from there. I'm now looking at the chowhound review by exilekiss for Mariscos Chente, and, lo and behold, it's spelled AQUACHILE! my bad.

          4-1/2 minutes okay, it's a deal !

          1. re: toitoi

            "Interesting that you chose white over red onion; I'm not at all endeared to the white, I think it's too mild."


            1. The use of a white onion comes from the Pacifico Bar's recipe, not me.

            2. However, I always use white onions when I make Mexican food. (Two words: DIANA KENNEDY).

            3. DK cooks almost exclusively with white onions because she thinks yellow onions are not nearly as flavorful and don't have the bite and tear-inducing power of the white. And she generally uses red onions only for the color or for their mellowness/sweetness. On the other hand Marcella Hazan, the Italian cookbook writer (whom I also slavishly follow), uses only yellow onions in all her recipes because of the better flavor of the yellow onion. Go figure.

            PS My wife looked over my shoulder to read this thread and said that 4 minutes max was her preferred "cooking" time for marinating the shrimp. Ah, well, de gustibus non disputandum est.

            1. re: dlglidden

              We should be extremely careful about our posts here, Derald. as The Chowhound Team will probably come along and tell us to move our remarks to HOME COOKING.

              But before they do that. I intend to make 3 bowls of aquachile, one for each color onion. I'm also going to try a bowl with Thai bird chilies, AND I'll do a 4 minute one for your wife, and two at 4-1/2 minutes for you, or vice versa.

              Now, I'm confused, how many bowls am I going to make?

              1. re: dlglidden

                Oddly enough, I find that the white onions here in the Pátzcuaro, Michoacán area to be milder and sweeter than yellow onions. (The latter are hard to find.)

                At our favorite (admittedly non-coastal) marisquería here, Mariscos La Güera, the camarones en aguachile are garnished with red onion, no serranos, but a light sprinkling of dried red chile flakes.
                (In fact, in all the many, countless meals we've had at that restaurant, I've never seen any fresh chiles in use. Odd.)

                EDIT: Sorry, I'd decided not to upload that photo, as it's not really relevant, but I couldn't seem to cancel or delete it.

            2. re: dlglidden

              Derald thankyou for correcting the OP's spelling, etc. It's so frustrating when things are misspelled - I couldn't make head or tail out of aqua chili but remember eating aquachile, it is very good.

            3. re: toitoi


              Lety is a very nice woman, and my family has been friends with her family for many years. It doesn't surprise me one bit that she indulged your desire for aquachile. To answer your question, her daughter and son both help out on a regular basis and her grandchildren also help once they are back from school.

              If in the future you decide that you want to forgo the port-hopping, there is also a lovely new hotel on the street behind her restaurant that provided rustic hospitality. You could just walk across the street in the morning and set up camp in a hammock by the beach...

              ps: I don't work for any of these businesses, I'm just putting in my two cents.

              1. re: asteriskgoddess

                Please tell me the name of the hotel, I had never been to Mazatlan before and I've fallen in love with it. It's so unlike the Cabo of today & PV is just another Miami Beach. Although I didn't hit the Golden Zone, I did go to the Centro Historico, and walked through the large covered market wishing I had a kitchen. I was looking for where the art was as described in the below article, but missed it, and I hadn't taken a printout of it. Need to return.


                Thanks for checking in here,

          2. Thanks for your report as I am heading down for this same circuit in a few weeks myself, only the opposite direction. Stone Island and Lety's has come in with strong recommendations for Mazatlan so it was great hearing it again validated with your first hand report. Which ship were you on and how was their food?

            2 Replies
            1. re: glbtrtr


              I was on the Norwegian Star. I only ate lunch in the regular dining room - it was merely food, nothing special. I ate dinner in Cagney's (steakhouse) 3 times ($25 cover charge) T-bone delicious, filet mignon powdery - prime rib, tough. Le Bistro (French - $15 cover charge), had bouillabaisse, overcooked fish. Ginza ($15 cover charge) had a sashimi appetizer, excellent fish, and 2 Chinese dishes - the Norwegian Star needs to hire a Chinese chef - 'nuf said about that.

              I only eat oatmeal for breakfast, and most mornings it was watery, but the fresh fruit was okay until they ran out of bananas on the last two days. Don't think I'll ever sail on their line again.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                My bad too, I mean aguachile not aquachile!

              2. We ate aguachile every day during a 7-day trip to Mazatlan last year.

                10 Replies
                1. re: JamesSanders

                  Where is a good place in the old centro of Mazatlan for aguachile? Thanks.
                  PS - we will be on Holland America and the food is fairly good, creative and well-portioned and presented even in the main dining room which on their ships is a very spectacular two floor setting with grand full length windows.

                  Good chain food is the best one can expect when cruising, even on luxury lines because someone has to get 1000 meals out at the same time under very demanding conditions. I am surprised the food is as good as it is on cruise lines and why a lot of it is buffet and snacks.

                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    "Good chain food is the best one can expect when cruising, even on luxury lines because someone has to get 1000 meals out at the same time under very demanding conditions. I am surprised the food is as good as it is on cruise lines and why a lot of it is buffet and snacks."

                    On the NCL Star, in the specialty restaurants, Cagney's and Le Bistro, which had a cover charge, the kitchens were visible and separate from the one for the main dining room.. They weren't serving 1000 eaters, only individual orders placed when ordered. There was no excuse for the quality of their food. Perhaps, poor management and inexperienced cooks, not yet in the chef category, made for my disappointments. I don't eat at chain restaurants, that's why I chose the specialty over the dining room, after experiencing their lunch. I've never sailed on Regent or Crystal so I can't comment on their food.

                    The sushi/sashimi counter at the Ginza also stood alone. And the kitchen for the Chinese food was far from the main dining room.

                    I believe NCL was the first to start dining outside of the main room - they call it free-style. It certainly makes sense to me, you're not assigned a time or a table, you merely make a reservation. Terrific idea, if only the food was more than serviceable. AND, there isn't ever any defense for watery oatmeal.

                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      'Where is a good place in the old centro of Mazatlan for aguachile?"


                      Sorry, I can't answer your question, but here is a recent NYTimes article about Mazatlan's Centro Historico


                      Also, here's an informative website about the town.

                      Enjoy your time there.


                      1. re: toitoi

                        Bahia is in old town. Great aquachile there. The other place we had it in old town was Puerto Viejo. Good there, too. In fact, I liked it everywhere we had it.

                        1. re: JamesSanders

                          Those are exactly the 2 places I was going to mention in Centro!

                          1. re: MazDee

                            James and/or Dee:

                            Is Bahía Mariscos open for lunch or happy hour/drinks before dinner? I like aguachile as a stand alone appetizer: mid-afternoon snack with beer or tequila or with drinks during happy hour or before ordering a meal in the evening.

                            1. re: dlglidden

                              I'll defer to MazDee as the local, but pass along our info. Bahia was open for lunch when we were there last January. Without knowing for certain, I'd be surprised if they are open for drinks between comida and cena. Definitely not a tourist place. We were the only norteamericanos there during our meal.

                        2. re: toitoi

                          Loved finding Te Amo Lucy in the old town of Mazatlan, Av Constitution two blocks off the main plaza. Wonderful menu, bi-lingual and a celebration of layere, complex Mexian cookery. Casual place, a real gem in a gem of a historic restoration of a town. By all means if you don't want to go out to Stone Island, spend a few hours wandering around and savoring Mazatlan's Centro Historico and look up Te Amo Lucy's website for more info about location and hours. Save room for two meals there during your one stop -- and leave room for two helpings of their delicious rich and dense home made ice cream. A real find.

                          1. re: glbtrtr


                            Te Amo Lucy is a very nice restaurant and Lucy is an excellent cook, but I wasn't aware that Tony spoke much Spanish beyond some choice curse words. ;-)

                            1. re: dlglidden

                              The was a bi-lingual menu; no comments on the owner but it was nice to get recognized in English as we were wandering around for the day as tourists. Such good food there, and easy access for the daytripper tourist on a cruise port stop.