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A Carnivore in a Maria Baja’s Seafood Haven

At the beginning of my scouting trip to Mexico, I stayed at a hotel which was absolutely amazing.  But I am going to be selfish this once and not share that information because I don’t want the rates to go up and it become so popular I can never book it again.  Sorry.  But… I will share the story of a delicious restaurant that I serendipitously came upon.

It all started at a dead end street,  Or at least I thought it was.  But I watched people dissappear in and out of a certain bushed area to the left.  At first I assumed something illicit was going on and was prepared to look in another direction, when I noticed an older woman appearing. By the looks of her, I didn’t think she was involved in anything bad, so the nosy part of me walked over to where this magic vanishing corner was.  To my surprise, it was a series of steps, very steep and narrow steps, completely hidden by palm trees and greenery, that climbed up a hill.  I decided to go see where it led me.

It let to a Kiosko.  Which is a convenience store.  “Well, I didn’t have to lug two 10 L jugs of water across town after all” I thought.  Coming down these stairs would have been so much easier.  Nonetheless, to the right of the Kisoko was a sign “Maria Baja”, so I walked around the parked cars, that were partially obstructing the sign, to investigate.

I asked the waiter for the menu and he pointed to the wall where a printed chalkboard-looking menu hung with worn prices written in chalk.
I looked around, it looked clean, cute covered outdoor seating and it really won me over with a hand sink that you are forced to pass upon entry.  Above it in black lettering painted on wood “#fuckcoronavirus”.  “No subtlety here” I thought to myself, as I walked over to wash my hands.

I explained to Angel my waiter, who spoke much better English than I do Spanish, that I am from a landlocked city (St. Louis) and I need his recommendations on seafood as most seafood that makes it to the center of the country was most likely frozen.  “What’s fresh?” I asked.  “It all is.  Fresh seafood is our specialty!”  I chose a marlin taco, after which he interjects “may I suggest some things?”   “Absolutely!” I said.  I ended up ordering in addition to my marlin taco (38 MXN), his suggested raw tuna and mango tostada (48 MXN), and rock shrimp tostada (also 48 MXN).  I ordered there Agua Fresca of the Day (25 MXN) to wash it all down with.

As I sat there he came over and set a beautiful box of housemade salsas and began to name them from left to right.  I had to take notes as I knew I wouldn’t remember them all.

mezcal | hibiscus | tamarind | peanuts | passion fruit | habanero | serrano | pineapple/mango

Then my Agua Fresca arrived.  Today’s mix was pineapple, cucumber with Chia Seed.

The marlin Taco was the first to arrive. It was good.   But the winners by far were the two that Angel suggested.

I used the marlin as my test subject as I used the “alchemist box” to try the various salsas and taste how they did or did not complement the dish.

This Tuna and mango toastada was outstanding.  Big taste in a small package.  This was my favorite item of the three.  Very fresh, with a crunchy bottom and sesame seed for texture.  I paired it with the pineapple salsa and then the passion fruit salsa.  The pineapple was the winner as is had a wonderful underlying spicy heat that added a little pizzaz.  The passion fruit salsa ended up making it taste almost like a dessert.  ew.

Then the rock shrimp tostada arrived.  Delicious lightly breaded rock shrimp on a crunch tostada with large lightly breaded and fried rock shrimp on a bed of bean sprouts with sweet potato and carrot shavings on top.  For this dish, I tried the mezcal salsa which was recommended by the house and the tamarind which was suggested by Angel.  Both were delicious, with the mezcal adding an earthy element to the sea and the tamarind winning out as it complemented the shrimp dish overall.

Then I ordered this dulce de leche volcano cake served warm and topped with ice cream.  It was delicious.

Everything was delicious.

I loved this dinner experience overall, because I am a lover of different flavors and flavor profiles.  The alchemist box of salsas really allowed me to take dishes that were already unique and add another taste layer by selecting different salsas.  I took my time and savored each pairing.  It was like an artist being given a paint by numbers kit without the numbers.  The only limit was my imagination.  So not only was the food great, but it was entertainment for me!

If you are in Puerto Vallarta, and find yourself in Zona Romantica, you need to stop by this little gem and say hello to Angel!  Bring Cash as it is a Cash Only establishment and get there before closing time at 6pm.

Maria Baja.

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