A “marisquería” is a restaurant specializing in seafood — fish, shellfish, crustaceans — and Rincon Nayarit does that but also from a specific region — the seafood of Nayarit, a state in Mexico on the western coastline, south of Mazatlán. We didn’t really have a true marisqueria in the Mission, until now. Rincon Nayarit is definitely a family affair — Gerardo, an electrician by trade, is the owner and working the front of house, and his wife and mother-in-law, who are from Nayarit, are in the kitchen. Gerardo told me his MIL had a restaurant in Watsonville, but they left to come open up shop here, and we’re happy they did.
They’ve done a lovely job with the space — bright sea-blue walls hold “framed” pieces of Mexican folk art. Rustic lamps float over the primary-colored metal chairs. It’s airy and cheerful. There’s a bar area where you can also eat or have a beer.
First things first: Their salsa is KILLER HOT. I don’t mean that it’s so hot you can’t eat it, but it’s authentically spicy compared to any table-top salsa I’ve had anywhere in this City.
The secret? Serrano chilies. HAWT.
I’d found out that they actually have meat items too, so the seafood-eschewing BF could join me. We started out with a ceviche tostada de pescado (fish) … (oh yeah, he will eat ceviche. Weird, I know.)
Beautifully fresh! The difference between Mexican ceviche and Peruvian ceviche is quite significant, to me. Instead of the large chunks of silky fish marinated in chilies and lime that are typical of Peruvian ceviche, the fish in Mexican ceviche is chopped up small, for one thing, as are the onions, tomatoes, avocado, sometimes cucumber, and seasoned with Mexican oregano, chilies and, of course, the lime juice. My only complaint here was that there was too little avocado on this one, missing out on an opportunity for a creamy contrast. There’s a place near the Embarcadero where I’ve had ceviche tostadas, and they spread the tostada with crema, which makes all the difference — it adds a richness. Still, this was good, bright and light.
Their sangria is quite tasty, not too sweet, with little bits of apple floating at the top.
The BF ordered a carne asada burrito with black beans, which he really liked …
As burritos go, it was a fine one, but not spectacular, to me.
I had a basa fish taco …
Pan-fried, crispy, buttery — really good! I’d get this again, as it scratches the itch for the fish tacos I’d get whenever I went to Ensenada in my youth. Not the same, but a really good compromise.
On my second visit, I went with a couple of friends who really know how to eat! I had seen the michelada on the menu, and had to have one …
A giant schooner of spicy love! Micheladas are a combination of beer and tomato juice seasoned with chilies and lime. It may sound counterintuitive, but they’re refreshing as hell, and I appreciate that they give you a choice of beers here. (Negro Modelo, for me). Love the spicy rim, and the chubby shrimp perched like a mermaid on the lip of my goblet was a nice touch.
We began by splitting a quartet of ceviches:
Octopus (my favorite), pescado (fish — perhaps the spiciest), “Krab-with-a-K” (added a touch of sweetness — and don’t knock it; as my friend noted, “at least here they tell you when it’s not the real thing”), and shrimp (nice texture). The ceviches were served with crispy fried tortillas and saltine crackers, just like they do in the old country.
Next up, we had the empanadas de camaron con queso …
Fried empanadas colored with annatto, I believe, and stuffed with cheese and pieces of delicate shrimp, resulting in crunchy/gooey goodness. Cool crema sauce for dipping. This could have used a little salt for me, but no matter: the hell-fire serrano salsa helped a lot.
But we weren’t done with appetizers yet …
Hell no! Chicharron de pescado — little fried fish strips, I imagine it was basa — were crispy, salty, perfectly addictive morsels, served with tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. They’d make a great bar snack with a cold cerveza. I couldn’t stop eating them.
We also split what has to be the oddest thing I’ve had in a Mexican restaurant ever — a bola cora …
The bola cora appears to be an invention of the Nayariteños. It’s essentially a savory donut stuffed with fish, shrimp and octopus, which is deep fried and covered in cheese. It came with rice and salad. The menu said it came with fries, but we sure didn’t need any more food. Besides, the rice here is good, mild and buttery. The bola cora coating was a little thick, a little chewy, but tasty. Comfort food of the sea.
Finally, to our mains. I ordered the pescado cucaracha …
Love. A sauce that’s smoky from the chipotles, peppery, poured over nicely fried fish that still tasted like fish. Again with the buttery rice and a little side salad.
My friend’s BF ordered the pescado diablo, which really looked almost exactly like mine, but was made with, as he posited, guajillo or some other dried chilies. We asked for everything “hot” and they mostly complied.
My friend ordered the pescado empapelado …
In French, that would be en papillote, or, cooked in parchment paper. Here, it was foil, and the little pouch opened up with a poof of steam to reveal tilapia (or basa — not sure which), shrimp and bell pepper, everything blanketed in cheese. I personally thought her dish was a bit bland, but she liked it, so what do I know? We were offered tortillas, too, and ate most of them.
Beyond stuffed, of course my star eaters ordered dessert! I’m not a dessert person, and these not-house-made, pre-frozen sweets did not sway me otherwise.
One was a caramel cheesecake and the other a chocolate-drizzled tres leches cake. Not my cuppa tea.
Speaking of tea, Rincon Nayarit is also open for breakfast, with a full complement of egg dishes, French toast, pancakes and bagels. Looks like a very good place for the day after!
Gerardo told me that he had never before worked in the restaurant business, and had come to learn, in these six months, the long, hard hours, and the times he has to be there when someone doesn’t show — which, in this industry, can be pretty much all the time. But he said that they are happy with the relative success of the restaurant, these few months in.
Still, you have to give any family-owned endeavor the benefit of the doubt and support them, in this time of shunning our Latino neighbors. The food here is fresh, the service warm, the ambiance relaxed. El Nayarit brings a welcome seaside vibe to the Mission.
1500 S. Van Ness Ave., Suite 100
San Francisco, CA 94110