I knew we were in for an experience when I saw the waiters peeking around the corner of the building as we walked up the sidewalk to the door. It was on the early side, so being the first guests of the evening was not wholly unexpected but there was something about their sense of surprise that worried me. But since we're always shopping for an experience, we forged ahead and chose a table on the edge of the restaurant, overlooking the sea. One of the waiters brought a floor fan over and set it on a table so we'd have a breeze. He took our margarita order and went off for menus.
The view was wonderful, a crescent moon setting over Tetakawi, the water in the cove slowly turning to inky black. MLW told me the story of how she'd found the big Abalone shell she still has, under the cliff off to my left. The waiter returned with our drinks, in plastic birthday party glasses. We found this a bit odd considering one can buy those giant margarita boats at just about any store. Oh well, at least they were cold.
The choices on the menu were interesting - all the traditional Mexican seafood fare plus a smattering of Greek choices. Many interesting things to choose from, I was challenged with making a decision. A second waiter came to take our order, a younger guy, late teens or early twenties. MLW ordered her regular, pescado al mojo de ajo. The waiter looked confused and said, "No, we don't have that." I pointed to it on the menu and he made a face and left, returning a few seconds later with the straight answer - it wasn't that they didn't have the fish the way she wanted it, it was that they didn't have any fish fillets. Whole fish, yes. Fillets, no, and no one was offering to turn a whole fish into a fillet. We asked for more time, considering if perhaps we'd be best served to just have the drinks and find dinner elsewhere. But, intrepid souls that we are we decided to tough it out. I called the waiter back over and MLW ordered scallops in butter and garlic, "callos" on the menu, another new word for us. She asked about vegetables and he said "yes, with green beans."
Now I'd also been counting on some sort of fish fillet so I had to make a different choice going with the spicy calamari. Mexican meals usually come with a side of some kind of vegetable and rice, but I have had more than one instance where I ended up with nothing more than a big plate of meat so I asked, thinking I wanted something more than squid parts. "No" was the answer so I changed my order to one of the other "callo" dishes and the waiter made a face. He said that the calamari was really good. I said that I wanted some vegetables and he stood there in stoic silence for a full 30 seconds, making me wonder if Spanish was truly his first language. Finally he offered to add on some vegetables and rice and I said "veggies only" and all was once again good. He went off and placed the order.
The place was starting to fill up, a big table of Americans came in and sat down to our right. They got the good waiter, the one who had a sense of humor and spoke Spanish fluently. Another couple came in, Mexican woman and American man. She immediately got on her cell phone and he lit a cigar which prompted me to get up and move the fan in order to redirect his stinky smoke out to sea instead of across our table.
The food showed up, delivered by a third water. Mine was a fancy pile of breaded octopus parts, MLW's was a collection of little gray-brown disks that looked like sliced Kielbasa sausage that had been pan fried. You know, held in shape by the sausage skin and puckered up in the center. Kind of like the little hot dog slices my Mom used to add to my Chef Boy-Ar-Di Spaghett-Os. I tasted one and it had the flavor of fish but the consistency of fried pork. Further confounding our analysis was the fact that there seemed to be two kinds of disks, one more meat like and one more fish like. Her rice and vegetables were more readily identifiable.
My dinner was okay, sort of Latin version of sweet and sour squid that I might consider at the Chinese restaurant near our house, assuming that I would want such a thing or that we would actually eat there. The breading didn't really stick to the fish but the fish was tasty enough.My vegetables were also identifiable and edible. It was a fun dinner of inside jokes and laughs and funny faces and curses for our friends Carole and Doug who recommended the place. Perhaps we'd expected too much, that a seafood restaurant within casting distance of the ocean would have the ingredients necessary to make any of the dishes that comprised 75% of their menu. Maybe we should have gone Greek?
In any event, we finished up, I asked for Flan was told no and ended up with Baklava. I mean what could be better than Baklava on the seaside in Mexico.
We paid, left a reasonable tip and got up to leave La Palapa Griega, pausing only to admire the painting of the Parthenon on the far wall as we went out the door.
A little research later informed us that "callos" is Spanish for callouses or tripe, neither of which explains the contents of her dinner. As of now, we don't what she ate but whatever it was it was not enough to make us want to go back for more. Our Culinary Tour of San Carlos continues, with another place checked off. Permanently.