Almejas chocolatas, in any other case often known as chocolate clams: obtainable weekends solely at El Viejon
What do yakitori, dim sum, delicate tofu stew, and mariscos have in frequent? Generally, not quite a bit. However when you end up hungry in San Diego, they’ve all turned out to be effective causes to dine on Convoy.
4619 Convoy Avenue, San Diego
With regard to the primary three, this needs to be apparent to everybody by now. However mariscos are the apparent outlier. In a county completely loaded with Mexican eating places, why go to town’s designated pan-Asian cultural district seeking ceviche or aguachile?
The reply is a little bit counter store referred to as El Viejon Seafood. It opened final fall inside the identical procuring strip as Convoy establishments Dumpling Inn, simply throughout the car parking zone from fashionable newcomer Mochinut Donuts.
“La oriental,” an ahi tuna tostada dressed with oyster sauce
I’d had my eye on the place for a while, imagining that, in a pinch, it might present me a simple, fish-out-of-water narrative for this column. “Oh look,” I’d write, “somebody determined to open a mariscos joint on Convoy. How fascinating.” Besides, the story thought developed a bit as soon as I lastly bought round to attempting it. As a result of El Viejon’s meals turned out to be excellent.
Most likely in deference to the fame of its neighborhood, El Viejon (which implies “outdated man”) payments its delicacies as a kind of Asian-inflected Mexican seafood. And infrequently, we do see Japanese affect, whether or not it’s the inclusion of oyster sauce on the La Oriental ahi tuna tostada, or a extra liberal use of sesame seeds than most mariscos outfits make use of.
A mariscos counter store doing brisk enterprise on Convoy
However there’s little doubt many of the inspiration attracts a direct line to the seafood traditions of Mexico’s west coast, particularly the state of Sinaloa, and our neighbor to the south, Baja California.
The menu options ceviches of fish, shrimp, or mixed-seafood ($6-7 tostadas, $12-15 bowls); shrimp or mixed-seafood cocktails ($15); seafood towers ($25-35); and a selection of purple, inexperienced, or black-spiced aguachile, served in a stone molcajete and billed as a hangover remedy ($15/half, $23/full).
A inexperienced aguachile, served in a stone molcajete
As a result of it’s 2022, the place provides a birria menu, which incorporates the abruptly prevalent dish, birria ramen ($13.50). As a result of El Viejon embraces creativity, it’s developed a mariscos ramen, which options toppings similar to shrimp and octopus ($16).
Greater than most eateries, the shrimp allergy turns into this meals author’s Achilles heel at a spot like this. However as I sat within the packed restaurant, each single desk round me was too busy devouring issues I couldn’t eat to keep up a dialog. And every part I might eat tasted higher than I’d moderately hoped: most of it spicy, exquisitely saucy, vivid, and refreshing.
Tacos of smoked marlin (left) and grilled mako shark (proper)
Nearly as an afterthought I ordered a pair of fish tacos — smoked marlin ($7) and grilled mako shark ($4) — and so they instantly turned two of my favourite fish tacos within the metropolis. However most fascinating needed to be the almejas chocolatas (3/$15). The “chocolate clams” (named for the colour of their massive, clean shells) are a delicacy from each coasts of Baja, and solely obtainable from El Viejon on weekends. The clam meats swim in their very own shells, in a spicy, acidic chilly broth with diced onion, jalapeño, and mango.
Contemplate these all the rationale that you must courageous Convoy parking this weekend. I by no means anticipated I might ever crave Mexican meals as I method that inverted triangle of Kearny Mesa, however for the foreseeable future a minimum of, El Viejon would be the first place on my thoughts.