Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mariscos El Pizón, Ensenada, B.C.: Saved by Sea Urchin

I don't like to get restaurant tips when I travel--I hate it, matter of fact. But, when I saw a Tweet by Chef Diego Hernandez back in January of 2012, I couldn't resist adding it to my favorites--I would have to check out this stand that offers sea urchin tostadas. More than a year and a half passed and I never seemed to get over there until last weekend, where I saw an instagram of an actual plate at Mariscos El Pizón while in Ensenada, of yellow tail with sea urchin--I greedily dialed Hernandez to find out the location and was over there within an hour. 

Alan Pasiano, and his sidekick Saul Hernandez can get you any seafood product, and sell sea urchin by the kilo, geoduck, and even had an order of octopus for Chef Hernandez that was allocated for a dinner at this restaurant, Corazon de Tierra. Pasiano has some outstanding sea urchin and his ceviches at the cart will endure alongside Baja legends. 

For the last decade, El Pizón has been a locals only spot--closely guarded by Ensenada chef hipsters, ha!--but not anymore, as the OC Press Award inning Tijuana Si! brings this amazing story of salvation by uni to light. 

Pasiano has spent his entire life in the sea urchin trade, first skin diving for abalone and sea urchin in his youth, which led him from Ensenada to Tokyo. Twenty-two years ago he was called to Tokyo to clean sea urchin at the largest wholesale seafood market in the world: the Tsukiji Fish Market. He worked all over Japan in various markets on two separate trips, comparing market prices and quality for his employer. 

Then, he was lost at sea, a turbulent, murky sea of substance abuse that would last 12 years, during the darkest period of his life. He didn't work and struggled to survive during this sad voyage, until he found his religion, and returned to what he knew best--seafood. 

It's been over 12 years of clean living, and 10 years back in business at his seafood cart, parked well outside the tourist zone. Pizón is Mexican slang for something nasty, but Pasiano took this name from the Pishon River, which is one of the 4 rivers mentioned in the book of Genesis, along with the Tigris and the Euphrates. In the Bible, the Pishon is said to have encircled the Garden of Eden, and this cart has saved Alan Pasiano's life--it's his sanctuary from the temptations of the outside world.

Today, Pasiano and Saul seem like to be one guy short of the Three Stooges--Pasiano is always teasing his cevichero a bit, who takes it with a smile. Customers come 2 or 3 at a time, and all seem to be regulars.

It's safe to say that his short menu of provocative sea urchin plates are sinfully delicious and original, but you can get sea cucumber, pismo clam, oysters, and sea snail, too. Call in advance and you can have them prepare anything you like--he'll even make a caguamanta, or skate soup. 

Pasiano's sea urchin tostada is a balanced spread of cool, oceanic flavors on a tostada that can be dressed up with the typical seafood cart condiments: soy, Huichol or Guacamaya salsa, maybe some local olive oil if you like. 

The ceviche of index finger-sized sea urchin and geoduck is where you first experience El Pizon's professionalism, the sea urchin is stunning, and immaculate--it's one of those "wow, those are for me?" moments. 

The unique dish that commanded my attention earlier that morning off of Chef Hernandez's Instragram was the raw yellow tail and sea urchin in a mustard sauce. Before you thumb your nose at the thought of mustard on sea urchin, I urge you to leave that shit on Yelp, because it's amazing. A foundation of yellow tail is given a sprinkling of olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper--then comes a generous amount of mustard, and finally that sexy sea urchin. 

If I could find the right bun, I'd turn this into the greatest seafood sandwich ever imagined--a tuna and sea urchin sammy. 

El Pizón is required eating in Ensenada--it's instantly part of the region's seafood hegemony of exquisite products interpreted by superior technique and sophistication--a star is reborn. 

Mariscos El Pizón is located on the northwest corner Av. Dr. Pedro Loyola at Guaymas, 10a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except Wednesday, 011-52-1-646-148-7961

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