By Bonnie Walker and John Griffin
If you’re looking to give up red meat during Lent, here are several suggestions of seafood dishes in area restaurants that are guaranteed to keep you satisfied.
Jalapeño Fried Catfish Sandwich, Big Bob’s Burgers, 447 W. Hildebrand Ave. — “Big Bob” Riddle once featured a similar item at the now-defunct Podna’s, where it was a big hit. The fish is marinated in jalapeños and garlic before being breaded in cornmeal and fried. This sandwich builds on the fried fish with pickles, onions, tomato and lettuce with some soothing mayonnaise.
Haw-Mok, Tong’s Thai, 1146 Austin Hwy. — Several Thai restaurants in town serve versions of Haw-Mok, but no one’s quite matches the version here. Assorted types of seafood, including squid, shrimp, mussels and scallops, are cooked inside a foil pouch filled with vegetables, red curry and coconut milk. The pouch is opened at the table, so that the steam inside can escape in an often dramatic billow, leaving you with nothing but tongue-tingly flavors.
Crab and Portobello, Antlers, Hyatt Hill Country, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive — Antlers’ menu features a number of seafood dishes including a pan-seared Gulf red fish, but don’t miss the crab and portobello appetizer, a tower of lump crab meat and strips of mushroom are presented with roasted pepper tapenade, tomato and silky slices of avocado.
Georges Bank Skate Wing, the Sandbar at the Pearl, 200 E. Grayson St. — The menu is filled with more seafood treasures than you can imagine including an array of oysters that is pure sensory overload. But the skate wing, no matter how chef Chris Carlson prepares it, has always been one of those culinary experiences that calls you back for more.
Diablo Fish Fillet, Bourbon Street Seafood Kitchen, 24165 I-10 W.; 2815 N. Loop 1604 E. — As the name implies, the restaurant is a haven of seafood favorites. This one features grilled white with a topping of crab meat and crawfish swimming in a creamy butter sauce filled with garlic and tomatoes. The devil in the name comes from the addition of serrano peppers to give each bite an extra kick.
Moules (mussels) with Frites, La Frite Belgian Bistro, 728 S. Alamo St. — On South Alamo, La Frite does a thriving business, not the least of which involves bowls full of mussels, steamed to perfection in their shiny, dark shells and offered in a variety of flavors. We are currently working our way through the list. Most recently it was the Basque and Spanish flavors of chorizo, smoked paprika (pimentón) and wine that tempted both by aromatics and flavors. The bowl of Moules Provençal came with sprigs of fresh herbs. For a little bit more moulah, order your moules with frites, excellent, crunchy french fries. Add a cool glass of white wine and a slice or two of bread and this is one of the most gratifying meals in town.
Broiled Fish with Nopalitos and Cheese, La Playa, 3201 W. Poplar St.; 3343 West Ave.; 4411 I-10 E. — This casual Mexican and Salvadoran restaurant obviously specializes in seafood. We’ve enjoyed most everything we’ve eaten at the location on West Poplar Street. A favorite quick snack, for example, is the black beans, Salvadoran crema and fried plantain. For more substance, try the foil-wrapped fish, mildly seasoned, topped with cheese and sliced fresh nopalitos (cactus paddle). While you don’t always think of topping firm, white fish with cheese, it really does work in this dish. You can get fries with this dish, but we recommend La Playa’s excellent rice.