Friday, September 17, 2010

Rubio's Crispy Shrimp Tacos

There are far too many foods I've come to love as an adult that I never would have considered even trying when I was young. I could spend the better part of an hour writing a list and it would still be incomplete: cilantro, red onion, peppers, roasted garlic, shallots, baby seal, chives, calamari, sushi, chutney, pickles... you get the idea. I believe there was a year or two where I refused to go to a restaurant unless it had fried cheese on the menu. (I often write comments that are self-deprecating exaggerations; that one was not.)

But there may not be any food whose refusal to try I regret more than fried seafood tacos. There is also no food whose refusal to try I can less explain: I loved fried seafood and I loved tacos. Why I never got around to combining them, I do not know.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had one of my culinary epiphanies: a plate of fish tacos at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka - beer battered fish, fried up perfectly golden and crispy and washed down with a pitcher of Great White Beer. I became addicted to fried seafood tacos.

Years later my friend Tom and I took a weekend trip, cramming three minor league baseball games into 36 hours and eating fish tacos for every meal. What we found that weekend surprised me: Rubio's, the San Diego-based chain, served some of the best fish tacos I have had.

In the years since then I have eaten at Rubio's frequently, often trying their new promotions. A couple years back I tried their crispy shrimp tacos and thought they were outstanding, so when they reintroduced them a few weeks ago I thought I should take my camera and grab a couple.

There are two versions of the taco: the original, with a chipotle sauce, salsa fresca and shredded white cabbage, and the "Mango" version, with mango salsa and red and white cabbage. I got a two taco plate with one of each taco, chips and pinto beans. (I realized after the fact you can request rice instead of beans, something I would have much rather had.)

Looking back through this blog, I realize I wrote about the crispy shrimp tacos a couple years ago, when I'd tried them at a Rubio's in Riverside. Those tacos had been a disappointment, with only a few shrimp scattered in them. These tacos, however - at the Rubio's in the Paseo in Pasadena - were full of shrimp.

The shrimp were crispy and hot, just out of the fryer. Both tacos had nice flavors, but if I had to pick one of the two as my favorite I would choose the mango taco. The sweet flavor of mango was a nice play against the spicy sauce and the red cabbage was more flavorful than the white, which was all the original taco contained. But I would not hesitate to eat either of them again. They actually inspired me to make my own shrimp tacos. But more on that later...


SuperLarge said...

I see what you did there.

Anonymous said...

im originally from san diego, so ill always have a soft spot in my heart for rubios, and a big spot in my belly for fish tacos!

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

Can't believe you missed out on so many years of missing baby seal. So great with some melted butter...