Restaurante El Museo– situated at the busy intersection of CallePrimera (First) and Ave. Revolution — has helped anchor a flourishing resurgence of dining in downtown Tijuana that has been missing for decades.
Is it a restaurant, a museum, or a curio shop? The entrance does not make it all entirely clear as you pass the wooden, full life-size vaqueros staring at you from behind their cigars beside the classic “U” shaped wooden bar with the jukebox behind the patrons, loaded with classic rock, salsa, banda, Norteno and Latino rock. The bar, stocked with quite a few different tequilas, is known for great margaritas.
As for the food, the menu is mostly Mariscos(seafood) and is inventive and delicious thanks to Chef Rosalba Rodriguez. On prior visits to the restaurant I had ordered shrimp ceviche tostadas and whole fish fried. Both were well above the standard I am used to in typical Mariscoshouses – many much more expensive than this. It is, I must say, also quite nice to not have your ears bleeding from that awful music they call “banda”(think German polka music with lyrics glorifying drug cartels).
On this trip, I opted for a couple of items that I had not tried before. I started with the AlmejaRellenna a la Parilla whichfeatured diced clams with a chipotle cream sauce. I have seen a similar dish done before in a “gratinada” style with some cheese on the outside but this was even better. The smoky chipotle flavor was not overpowering and the clams were very fresh. The dish managed to retain the smoky chipotle flavor despite the fact that the chipotle sauce was mixed with fresh cream. The presentation of the dish in the original shell was a nice touch.
Next were the Shrimp Tacos, an Ensenada standard. The batter at El Museo was significantly than the usual fare and the white sauce was both tangy and light. But it was not the sauce that made the dish. Unlike so many shrimp tacos in Baja, at El Museo the shrimp were fairly large and not just pure batter like so many of the street vendors. There was no shortage of fresh cabbage and tomatoes to round out a simple yet delicious taco.
We also ordered the fried fish – not something in my ordinary repertoire. But it is a La Playa staple and I did not feel I could give the place a fair shake without trying it. Most Mariscos joints in Tijuana use tilapia for their fired fish. Not so here, the type of fish varies daily;ask if you have a preference. But the technique exhibited on this trip translates. The fish is moist and falls right off the bone and the skin is crispy, not oily in the least. I also love the accompanying salad of mixed greens, cabbage and carrots anda citrusvinaigrette. I love eating with my hands and this is a dish that requires you to dig in, pick the bones and get the good stuff. I especially enjoy the meat near the fish’s cheeks and always eat the eyeballs….butthats just me.
I finished off my meal with a shot of a rather peculiar – almost unique — tequila: one soaked in a large water container along with a large cobra. The snake tequila is, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty harsh…but it’s something you absolutely have to try.
But maybe El Museo really is a museum. As good as the food is – and it is good — take some time to look around at the old Tijuana photos, old menus and artifacts of TJ history, particularly the Caliente casinos. I have yet to see a collection this extensive of Tijuana history.
- El Museo Restaurant
- 508 Avenida Revolución
- Tijuana, B.C.
— El Fabio