Alcomar opened a few months ago on the corner of South 1st Street and Mary in the building which once housed an El Chile (another El Chile from the same restaurant group still exists on Manor Road). Before that, the space was occupied by La Reyna, a nearly 40-year old Mexican food eatery and panaderia that was a favorite of mine back in the 80's. When I was invited to visit Alcomar to experience their menu, I was happy to accept the offer. My son and I went for lunch last Monday and were promptly seated at a front table near the window. This vantage point afforded a great view of all the interesting design details of the space. I was very happy to see the tile insert of the Virgin de Guadalupe from the La Reyna days still intact on one wall--a respectful nod to the origins of those who came before. Basic concrete floors, white walls and wood accents provide a clean backdrop for the colorful windsor style chairs in aqua, turquoise and yellow. These colors are played up in the yellow, blue and green bar counter tiles, and the turquoise octopus stencil on one wall (a mirror image of the one painted on an outside wall). There are basket pendants throughout the restaurant, hanging lantern lights at the bar, and wonderful 70's style macrame (created by Melissa O'Boyle) that filter the light coming through the large picture windows--all contribute to the Baja beach vibe. This coastal Mexican theme sets the scene for Alcomar's menu.
We started with the Cebiche Peruano which has ahi tuna, ají amarillo, ginger, corn nuts, sweet potatoes and yucca chips. This was served with house made tortilla chips and pickled vegetables. The tuna tasted very fresh and delicate, while the crispy corn nuts and ginger added an unexpected flavor combination that complimented the fish. For entree, my son went for gold and ordered the Texas Wagyu Hanger Steak with poblano and goat cheese enchiladas topped with mojo lobster and avocado. He was delighted with his choice; the bite I had of the medium-rare steak was incredibly tender. I tried a little of the lobster garnish on top of the enchiladas and it was perfectly cooked and buttery. I chose the Sea Scallop Veracruzana with cauliflower flan, grilled asparagus and warm corn tortillas on the side. I feel that you can usually tell a good restaurant by how their seafood is prepared, and Alcomar seems to have mastered this skill. The scallops were cooked to just the right point and the sauce with tomatoes and peppers gave it a light kick. I especially loved the cauliflower flan, which was unexpectedly light and delectable, and I relished the asparagus which was grilled and had a pleasant smoky flavor. Even though we were in theory quite full, once the server brought the dessert menu, we decided to split the Pineapple Crème Brûlée served with a lime cookie. Since I am gluten-free, I skipped the cookie (my son enjoyed it though) and focused on the crème brûlée. A very generous size portion (perfect for two) with a crisp top layer, the crème brûlée was silky, creamy and a unique rendition with the glazed pineapple topping (the chef changes the type of crème brûlée periodically).
Technically, this was not my first visit to Alcomar. I stopped in one weekend evening in late June with friends (that meal was paid in full by our group and, at the time of our visit, our server had no knowledge that I write a food blog). We started the meal with drinks. One friend had Te Amo, which is Tito’s vodka, St. Germaine, macerated berries, lemon, agave and mint. I had a sip and it was very refreshing and balanced, something I would probably order next time I am there. I ordered a Margarita Don Carlos with Don Julio blanco tequila, Cointreau, lime, and a Bolivian pink salt rim. This was a simple, classic style margarita that works well for the purist. Next round, I decided to switch things up when I saw the margarita another friend ordered. Margarita Alcomar contains Dulce Vida reposado, damiana, grilled pineapple, lime. and a Bolivian pink salt rim. This margarita had a little more character, and somehow the addition of pineapple seemed to fit the beachy atmosphere. For appetizers we shared Gulf Oysters served with lemons, orange habanero mignonette and cholula cocktail sauce. There were 6 to an order, and I was too late to grab one (we were a group of 8), but I was told the oysters tasted fresh with just the right amount of heat from the habanero. We also passed around the Snapper Ceviche with serrano, mint, green olives, jicama, tomatillos, avocado and yucca chips. The bites I had of this dish tasted light with generous pieces of fleshy fish with good texture from the jicama and brightness from the mint. The last appetizer we tried was the Cebiche Peruano mentioned above (it made quite an impression, which is why I ordered it again for lunch). For entrée I had the Half Chicken and Mole Xico with sweet plantains, saffron rice and corn tortillas on the side. The chicken was juicy and moist with a slight sweetness from the mole. More than I could eat in one sitting. The servers at both our lunch and dinner visits were attentive, knowledgeable and guided me through the menu to confirm those items I thought were gluten-free. We all left pleasantly full with no room for dessert. Alcomar has happy hour every day from 3:00-6:00 p.m. with reduced priced select appetizers and drinks and half off bottles of wine. They also offer brunch every day 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., something of a rarity. I look forward to a return visit to try brunch (and happy hour) which features their Bloody Cesar, a version of a Bloody Mary served with an oyster.