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Nov 30, 2010 01:24 AM

Ensenada...The good...the average...and the questions

3 trips to ensenada in the last month gives lots to report. I am a chef myself so i am particular. Here goes...My trips were all sunday monday so unfortunatly I could not hit my fav manzanilla...So... I'll start with the good...i did finally got to bara azul which was quite excellant and very reasonable albeit off the main areas most tourists go (calle once @ mar), i will go back here for sure. I also went to the same chefs little bar/seafood snack place (ultramarinoo) every time i is on ruiz just off lopes mateo...the tempura oyster tacos are not to be missed, yum...great mojitos tambien...Also had a really good meal at punto morro....kind of pricey for mexico but i enjoyed dinner...ambiance is killer too...Waves are crashing right up to the windows... La Guerrerense is a revalation...amazingly good and amazingly cheap..if the was a zagat guide it would def be in the best bang for your buck category...Now for the average but remember i am particular. Covelli clay oven pizza 637 miramar. Many rave about this place...i enjoyed it but if you have had pizza at spago or chez pannisse or in the south of france...well...its not that good but its better than most chain places and i think it's good ensenada has "decent Pizza". Ditto for Hogaz Hogaz in the same shopping is european bakery and its good and i"m glad it"s there but if you frequent La Brea bakery or spent time in the south of france...well...its ok. Now for the questions and comments...I was going to eat at the cocedora de langosta but the lobster dishes are $40 to $50...and i'm pretty sure it's pacific lobster. I think live main lobster is far superior to pacific and I can usually find that here at those prices so unless someone can convince me i am really missing something here...i am tempted to pass. Also...I have heard there is a really good place called Haliotis but i spent over an hour trying to find it to no avail. And...some information to pass along. I tried to go to caprichos and that place is now a sports bar called papi's...Then...the next day while i was leaving covellis...I saw a couple of chefs across the street in what was La embotelladora which i know has closed so i went over to ask if there was a new rest going in and much to my surprise...Caprichos will be going in at that location (666miramar) but it will be at least 2 months before they open. Ciou

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  1. I cross-posted your report to the Baja Nomad board, but that didn't bring up much useful new information from the people who live there.

    Coincidentally, I traveled to Ensenada last Friday to buy a supply of yucca powder and drops for the family, and the CEO of the company asked me if I had been to Mahi Mahi; it is one of his favorites. The restaurant is located near Hussongs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gypsy Jan

      i went to mahi mahi last september after the rosarito ensenada bike ride...i found it very average...not anywhere near the quality of manzanilla...bara azul...caprichos (Temporarily closed) or punto morro

      1. re: Gypsy Jan

        Mahi Mahi is a big succes among some of the local croud specially for the size of the portions and the cheap prices. The quality of the food is very average if not below I've been there 3 times and each time was worst . The fish was old and frozen the shrimp had amonia taste service was nice wine was good . I'll give any place three strikes so Mahi Mahi is out for me

      2. I was in Valle de Guadaulpe over Thanksgiving weekend and went to dinner in Ensenada on Saturday. Our friends had never been to Muelle Tres but we arrived at closing time (about 7PM) so we walked about five minutes to Manzanilla. None of us had been to its current location (not for lack of trying: one time it was closed for a private party, another time it was the wrong day [Monday]) so we were pleased to walk in without a reservation. Unfortunately, aside from a great abalone appetizer, our meals were otherwise not the greatest. Too much salt, overcooked, oddly spiced... Next time we'll go back to Muelle Tres or visit Sylvestre in summer. At least Friday's dinner at Laja was great. If you visit Laja several times, as we have over the past several years, you will find the menu varies little.

        On a prior visit in September, we went to La Cocedora de Langosta, not to eat a meal but to buy fish to cook. At the suggestion of wine maker Pau Pijoan, of Viñas Pijoan, we skipped the larger Mercado Negro as he assured us the quality of fish at La Cocedora de Langosta would be superior. While the selection was tiny compared to the nearby Mercado Negro, we purchased over one kilo of fresh Yellowtail and had it filleted into six steaks, all for the amazing price of $5.50 US. I think the charge for cleaning and cutting the steaks was $2.00 making over two pounds of fresh Yellowtail almost free. We had a great barbecue.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Ringo Gato

          Wow, surprised to hear your meal at manzanilla was not great. i've only been twice (my trips down recently have been nights they are closed) but i had really good meals both times. Muelle Tres is the same owner actually and i have not gotten there yet.. where is Laja and is fish the specialty there also?

          1. re: tridogg

            I have been to Muelle Tres a few times and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Its hours are rather limited (I believe Tues-Sat, noon to about 7...I think). Prices are moderate, it is very casual and it is certainly oriented towards seafood. In the summer, the same owner operates a remarkable outdoor restaurant overlooking the vineyards east of Ensenada in the Guadaulpe Valley. Despite its location about 40 minutes away from the coast, it too is focused on seafood, often raw or minimally cooked, as well as fresh local ingredients. From Ensenada the Guadalupe Valley is reached by Hwy 3 which runs towards Tecate.

            Laja is east of Ensenada, also in the Guadalupe Valley. It has a limited, fixed-price menu that typically offers soup or salad, an appetizer, main dish of meat and vegetables (usually a selection of fish or lamb or maybe beef) and dessert. Portions are not large but the quality is high. Vegetables are likely from the land surrounding the restaurant. Meats and cheeses are from local producers (probably Rancho Cortéz) and the seafood is probably from Ensenada although maybe sometimes it is from the Gulf / Sea of Cortez. The wines are all local. Corkage is about $15.

            1. re: Ringo Gato

              I've heard very good things about a couple places in the guadalupe valley (probly the places you are mentioning) but have not been as of yet. I think at least one of them also has lodging and many people who are going there for dining also stay there (not sure which one(s).I'll have to plan a trip to do this myself. Laja is one and what is the name of the place which is the sama owner as Muelle Tres?

              1. re: tridogg

                The lodging you're probably thinking about is Adobe Guadalupe - - they do wines and horses along with their inn.

                Laja is owned by Jair Tellez.
                Muelle Tres, Manzanita and Silvestre are all owned by Benito Molina

                Jair is also cooking in Mexico City at Merotoro to outstanding reviews. He is a Baja native with a cooking degree from FCI in NYC. I would eat his cooking anywhere anytime, he has an incredible feel for the purity and integrity of ingredients.

                Benito is originally from Mexico City and also a culinary school graduate and also equally talented.

                And to that duo you also really need to add Javier Plasencia of the Plasecia Group, which includes Villa Saverios, Romesco (in Bonita), the recently reopened Hotel Cesar and several others. The 3 chefs are awesomely talented and all are doing a great job of raising awareness of the Baja cooking style. Not easy when you've got to get your voice and your products heard over the problems caused by the narcotrafficantes.

                1. re: DiningDiva

         sounds like if i was looking to have a great meal in the guadalupe valley...My choices are 1 Laja (which sounds like may be open all year) or 2 Sylvestre (which is only open in the summer...i"ll have to get concrete info on when that is) or 3 Villa Saverios (which i need to ascertain if its open all year or not). The link to laja has a link to menu but its under construction. Def will make sure i research and make reservations before heading out there.

                  1. re: tridogg

                    Laja is usually excellent and is usually open mostly year round. Their web site is perpetually under construction. If you root around a bit you might be able to find an old menu. I believe the other 2 are usually only open during the Spring/Summer months or vindimia during August. Ringo Gato and StreetGourmetLA are both pretty plugg-in to this information. It's been a couple of years since I've been to the Valle de Guadalupe. Just go, eat and enjoy. It's not hard there. Also, check out the organic farmers market at Mogan Bodan (sp?).

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Thanx, I'll make Laja my 1st experiance for my trip when i get to that area. And...i am getting some great leads and comments from streetgourmetla. Love that guy and I've never even met him but every lead he has highly recommended have been right on target. The next thing I'm dying to try after reading his review will be El agave Gastro bar for the fried grasshopper tacos with green salsa. Never tried grasshoppers but...I'm game

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Laja is closed for most of December and early January, annually. You should call to confirm when. (Last year they began their annual closure in late November.)

                        1. re: dlglidden

                          Thanx, i will do that fo sho. I would not go all the way up to wine country without calling and reserving.

                  2. re: tridogg

                    The lodging with a restaurant you have heard of is most likely La Villa del Valle, which, in addition to having six guest rooms, offers dinner to non-guests, space permitting. The inn has a new chef but I have not dined there, I have only had appetizers and wine.

                    I have stayed at Adobe Guadalupe a few times and while dinners are fine, they are, as I recall, only served to guests.

                    Both inns are near Laja and Sylvestre, the latter being a summer restaurant.

                    Also in the summer, some of the wineries have temporary restaurants. Two years ago, Villa Saverios operated an elegant restaurant at Viña de Liceaga while Laja offered lunch at Monte Xanic Winery. I had a wonderful lunch at Monte Xanic this past September, on the grass, beneath the shade of large oak trees next to the winery's reservoir. The wine must have gone to my head as I cannot recall which restaurant was operating there this year.

                    There are other hotels in the valley with restaurants (Hacienda Guadalupe and Posada Maria Teresa come to mind) but the dining is not distinct.