Mi Lindo Nayarit in Salinas
Mi Lindo Nayarit on the eastside of Salinas specializes in the seafood stylings of, you guessed it, the Mexican state of Nayarit.
A cup of soupy ceviche bright with tomato water and cucumbers served with chips makes a complimentary start.
My shrimp soup was packed with bay shrimp, fresh head-on shrimp in the shell, and then three even more gigantic ones. The delectable broth was sweet, deeply flavored and frothy from scads of boiled-down fatty shrimp heads, yet managed to be clean, light and invigorating at the same time.
Here’s one huge shrimp, as presented, hooked over the side of the soup bowl to display all its juice-spurting crustacean glory.
My friend tried the daily special: Pescado a la plancha. Two big filets of tilapia gently griddled on the flat top were accompanied by yellow rice flecked with vegetables, pureed beans, and fresh salad-y garnishes. Rolling them in the warm tortillas with a dab of incendiary green salsa, she was a happy camper.
Mi Lindo Nayarit is located in a newish shopping center not far from Alisal High School. The staff are more genial here and the interior fresher than mid-town Nayarit specialist, El Kora. I’m switching allegiance.
Mi Lindo Nayarit
638 Williams Road
Salinas, CA 93905
It also has a second location at 10624 Merritt Street, Castroville. I've not been to either one.
I have been to Coni Seafood (nee Mariscos Chente) in August of last year and had a ceviche and the pescado zarandeado. Fabulous, and inspired me to work on perfecting my own zarandeado prep.
I'd had shrimp and fish zarandeado up here before Coni. Chef Sergio has the advantage of more exotic fish selection in LA, and his use of the grill is perfection.
A lunch date with a visiting chowhound was an occasion to return to Mi Lindo Nayarit on Tuesday. We tried to order the Pescado Zarandeado ($8 per pound), but the answer back from the kitchen was that the proper type of fish was not on hand. Our sweet server suggested that we try again on a weekend.
We started with a big bowl of Caldo de Oso (bear soup). The red-hued chile broth was milder than appearances. Under the surface, sweet tender shrimp, octopus, squid, cubes of ham, and bacon made a salty, briny contribution. Perked up with a squeeze of key lime, the hearty mix came to life. Large enough for three of us to share, quite frankly, I was mostly full after my portion of just this.
Then my favorite dish, a huge platter of Camarones Cucarachas (shrimp cockroachs), head-on shrimp pan-fried in the shell and bathed in chile de arbol sauce. "mielemaiale" posed a rhetorical question, "Wonder if we eat the shells or not?" The crackle of the crispy shells softened just enough in the medium-picante saucing gave us our answer on first bite. A lovely botana, but perhaps best shared among more than three people.
And our last dish was Piña Rellena, half a fresh pineapple stuffed and heaped high with shrimp, octopus, pineapple bits, cheese and mumia. Mumias (mummies) are larger shrimp wrapped in bacon and grilled. This was served with hot tortillas. Made with a variety of chile peppers, this was both more complex and hotter than the cucarachas, yet balanced nicely by the sweetness of the pineapple and smoothed over by the cheese. Perhaps this dish got short shrift because we were so full by the time it arrived.
To quench our thirst, some good housemade aguas frescas, horchata and naranja, this day. Total tab was tax and tip was $60, and we had nearly half our food leftover to take home with us. With this meal, I like this spot even more than before.
Mi Lindo Nayarit is fast becoming the restaurant of choice for chowhounds visiting Salinas. Last week, PolarBear and his buddy joined Mom and me here for lunch.
And they brought us some good fortune too. On previous visits, I’ve asked for Pescado Zarandeado only to learn that the special fish was sold out. But not this time. The smallest size whole Robalo (snook) on hand was five pounds (@ $8/lb), too big for our party, but we jumped on it anyway.
We started off with the Aguachile Especial, $18, that goes one better on the raw shrimp marinated in chile-lime by including pulpo (octopus), almejas (tiny clams), abulon, and crowning with oysters on the half shell. Asked to choose between red or green chile, we went with the green especially after our server said it was better. Ordered medium-spicy, this still packed quite a wallop. Not just hot but bursting with flavor from the lime, fresh green chile pepper puree, cilantro, red onion, minced cucumber, and other secrets. The plate was garnished with slices of cucumber and some tomatoes that were better than usual for this time of year. All enjoyed on tostadas.
Then, an entrée plate of Langostinos a la plancha. Four big crayfish, split, and then grilled in butter and garlicky seasonings. This came with some delicious refritos, yellow rice flecked with vegetables and a crispy side salad. PB’s friend commented on how tasty the rice and beans were. Yes, even the commodities rise to a different level here. The crayfish were slightly overdone for my taste, but still worth sucking every bit of flavor from them.
Finally, the crowning glory after a 30-minute cooking time (we were warned in advance), the five-pound Pescado Zarandeado, $40. Split from head to tail, the whole shebang was served on a giant platter adorned with cucumbers, avocado, sweet red onions, and tomato slices and served with a spicy red chile salsa. Robalo’s an oily fish, well-suited to the marinade and grilling technique.
When asked which kinds of tortillas we wanted, we opted for flour. The flour tortillas were very thin and chewy, easy to wrap, just great. Interestingly, bread was also a choice, so we went with half-and-half. The bread turned out to be Texas toast brushed with garlic butter. Mmmm, is right for piling high with the grilled fish and veggies.
Normally, a five-pound pescado would be enough to feed six people. But the guys had missed breakfast, and we were eating late . . . we surprised ourselves with how much headway we made on this grand meal. I took the remains of the fish home and still managed to pull about a cup and a half more flesh off the rack.
With beers, aguas frescas, tax and tip, our bill came to $105. Worth every penny.
re: Melanie Wong
No, they're not homemade, part of the reason we went with flour over corn. In any case, the outside tortilla maker does a great job on these. I think I'll have to ask where they're from next time I'm there.
Here's another view of the aguachile with a thick piece of pulpo and semi-cured shrimp in the foreground.