It’s not been open two weeks and I’ve already been to Adobo downtown twice.
Granted, the first time was a soft opening, where I gorged myself on Mexican-style pizza, sangria, buttery fajitas and an array of small dishes from the ceviche bar.
And when I returned a week and a half later on a relatively empty Wednesday night (open DJ — like open mic — night), the ceviche snack I had was just as good as it had been when Executive Chef Freddy Sanchez was lording over the operation. I say lording, but actually, Sanchez is young and calm in his deliberate execution.
Anyway, back to the ceviche. It’s the most noticeably expanded part of “old” Adobo’s menu. Where the original restaurant featured tilapia, shrimp and tuna, the downtown digs have now added salmon, scallops, baby octopus, oysters, sashimi-style tuna and a ceviche of the day to the list. It’s a veritable ceviche bar — hence the name.
One of my new favorites is the baby octopus ($9.99). The presentation is stunning: Purple tentacles undulate in a brick-orange sauce. The chewy-but-firm octopus finds delightful counterpoint in softer diced new potatoes, and the whole thing is steeped in tangy, earthy guajillo.
My only complaint with this dish is its accompaniment: crackers. Why does the lime-marinated tilapia with capers and olives get to have all the fun with those twisty plantain chips? I’d rather see something equally creative here — at least tortilla chips.
On to more appetizers. The Tlayuda Oaxaquena ($8.50) is something people may have overlooked before. But it made Adobo’s second menu cut, and for good reason. Calling this a “Mexican pizza” really undermines its flavors and the cues it takes from authentic Latin food. But in form, at least, it’s fitting. It’s a wheat tortilla topped with black beans, Chihuahua cheese, watercress and chorizo, then drizzled with sour cream.
The homemade chorizo really grabs in this dish. This dark-hued sausage has all of its usual piquancy, without the trademark gobs of orange grease. The meat provides depth to the dish, punctuating the creaminess of avocado, black beans and cheese by rousing their saltiness.
By this time you need a margarita (or sangria or Dos Equis) to cleanse the palate, and then it’s on to clean proteins that shine with simple preparations. I don’t believe the Tilapia à la Veracruzana ($16.99) was on Adobo’s first menu. Perhaps it was so successful at the Veracruz-themed tequila dinner last month, it landed itself a lucky spot.
Whoever said Latin food is fatty? This interpretation of tilapia with Gulf-style sauce of tomatoes and olives is light and flavorful. Pan-searing the fish with a thin crust gave the subtle-flavored sea creature a bit of texture, and the tangy sauce provided the most elegant bridge to Mexican rice.
If steak is more your thing, you may have already delved into the monte alban ($18.99) plate. It’s almost like a fancy-type fajita taco salad, with the skirt steak underneath a mound of guacamole, tomatoes, salsa and refried beans with chorizo.
When I see “skirt steak” on a Mexican or Latin restaurant menu, I immediately think of fajitas. Perhaps that’s why this dish seemed a bit too buttery to me — I’m used to peppery, citrus-marinated strips of grilled beef. Perhaps I’m being too closed-minded. Skirt steak certainly does need all the tenderization and moisture it can get.
And for dessert, moist, milky tres leches cake is more in the spirit of a real Mexican denouement. But the Oaxacan chocolate cake ($6.50), a dense dessert layered with Patron XO mousse and topped with chile ancho-spiked whipped cream, really lets the restaurant’s talent for Latin fusion shine.