On a recent late Sunday afternoon visit to the new-ish Mexican seafood eatery La Marea, we discovered children –– everywhere. Sitting in chairs and strollers or playing quietly (or loudly) between tables, tykes seemed to outnumber the adults. To call La Marea “family-friendly” (on weekends, at least) would be an understatement. There were hints of more grown-up distractions –– a live mariachi quartet playing in one corner, an internet jukebox across the restaurant –– but the best diversion of all, thankfully, turned out to be the food, which was fresh, smartly seasoned, and plentiful.
We started our meal with a dozen seasoned raw oysters, served in their craggy half-shells on large platters with ice chips. Consuming raw sea flesh is always a bit of a gamble, especially for folks with compromised immune systems, but if raw oysters are your thing, these plump, firm pearls were delicious: studded with little salad shrimps, cubes of a salty white cheese, cilantro sprigs, and brightly colored pieces of tomato and avocado that were as catch-of-the-day fresh as the rich, meaty oysters.
The caldo de camaron, or shrimp soup, was also marvelous. The steaming hot broth was light brown and bore flavorful traces of tomato and avocado. The shrimps –– we counted eight of them in the bowl –– were large tail-on creatures boiled to a firm consistency by the broth. Thick, still-crisp slices of carrot and celery gave the soup a hearty, throw-everything-in-the-pot homemade vibe that was soothing.
Many of the entrées on La Marea’s large menu are served with the standard sides: thick-cut fries; hot, fluffy (instead of sticky) Spanish rice; smooth refried beans with melted white cheese; or a “salad” of iceberg lettuce, large rings of eye-watering red onion, and carrot slices. As with many Mexican eateries, La Marea isn’t likely to become famous for its sides, but they certainly don’t detract from the main items.
Carne Tampiquena was a combination of marinated, mildly chewy skirt steak that was wonderful –– sort of like juicy, spicy jerky –– and two enchiladas overflowing with gooey yellow cheese and ladled with a mild reddish brown ancho chile sauce.
The garlic-style fish fillet was a large, thin piece of white fish that fell apart in moist chunks with one poke of the fork. It was baked in a light brown sauce that had strong but not overpowering hints of garlic and chile pepper.
The real standout entrée was the guiso de calamar, or calamari stew. Rather than the big bowl of wet rubber bands you might expect from squid, the dish was a plate of hot, silky, non-fishy calamari rings apparently stir-fried with something called “La Marea sauce,” which turned out to be a sort of pesto with flecks of pepper, garlic, onion, chile seeds, and a lightly salty and thin dark sauce. Who knew squid stew –– a dish for decidedly mature palates –– would turn out to be the masterpiece at a restaurant so popular with children? La Marea, it seems, wants to cover everyone.
Mariscos la Marea
601 W Northside Dr, FW. 817-378-8571. 8am-10pm Sun, 10am-10pm Mon-Thu, 10am-2am Fri, 8am-2am Sat.
Beef chili enchiladas w/cheese . $7.99
Caldo de Camaron ……………….. $10.99
Carne Tampiquena ………………… $9.99
Garlic-style fish fillet ……………. $10.99
Guiso de Calamar ………………… $10.99
Dozen seasoned oysters …….. $11.99