There is no shortage of fish and seafood in Vallarta, that’s for sure. However, since the best fish and seafood is the freshest, I believe in eateries that are located inside major wholesale/retail fish-markets where they have a steady supply at hand, and never need to stock up more than they use, therefore avoiding wasteful spoilage, or worse, passing off yesterday’s catch as if today’s to unsuspecting customers.
In Athens I used to favor the Odos Athinas market in the middle of the city; in Istanbul, Balikpazar, in epicentral Taksim; in Sydney, Australia, the iconic Fish Market, world’s third largest with its 35,000-square-meter premises. These and all other fish-markets worldwide dazzle with lavish arrays of impeccably fresh creatures of the sea, but what makes them attractive to retail shoppers is their in-house eateries that serve the same for consumption on-site.
In Vallarta I choose to seek my fish-market meal at the modest (by comparison to Sydney) Mercado de Pescado in Cinco de Diciembre, not at all far from downtown, and doubly visit-worthy for a walk-through the spectacular cemetery which is right across the street. Justly famous, floral and overdecorated, the cemetery is the final home of Vallarta’s most notable personages.
The market itself has generous displays of everything for which the waters of the Pacific are famous, plus the tasty fare of Owner-Chef Daniella’s Isla de Mexcaltitan, named after the mid-river, Nayarit island from where she hails.
Her menu offers all the usual suspects, from ceviche to shrimps à la whatever, but I go with the simplest, just a filet of fried fish. “What fish will it be?” I ask. “We’ll see,” she winks, and runs down to the market, rushing back in thirty seconds with a snow white slab of dorado (by coincidence, my favorite).
She cooks it up in butter with browned garlic, fills out the plate with salad and rice and serves me with a big smile. It is a delicious and turns an ordinary lunch into a mini-feast.
ISLA DE MEXCALTITAN
Inside the Fish Market on Calle San Salvador
Cinco de Diciembre, Puerto Vallarta
Photo by Algis Kemezys