I woke up early--around four am-- to see Mr. C out to the airport, then slept in till noon. When I woke up I was starving! Since tonight will be the last evening of Wagner's Ring Cycle Number III and Götterdämmerung's estimated running time will be over 5 hours, 15 minutes (including 2 intermissions but not includind the post-performance lecture) I opted for keeping our kitchen free of splatters and fried food smells and instead of cooking for one, go out for lunch.
Eating fried food is definitely a special treat. For obvious reasons, frying is not our preferred method to cook at home. Stove top sautéeing, braising, slow cooking, roasting and grilling are. But sometimes a girl needs a splurge and considering the marathon that awaits me tonight, today seemed the perfect day to indulge.
So, for Linda's IMBB 18: "Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying" I'm having lunch at La Casa del Mojito in Lake City Way, one of only two places in the city I think of whenever in the mood for a culinary getaway to Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela or Puerto Rico and my favorite fried food dishes.
Because when it comes to fried food I immediately think of pescado frito (fried fish) tostones, yuca frita, maduros (also called amarillos) or platanitos (plantain chips) and in Seattle, nobody does it better than the cooks at this joint.
I sat outside and ordered a Batido de Guanábana ($3.75), a fresh fruit shake made with milk as a base, thick, sweet, creamy and cold, which I sipped very slowly while browsing the lunch menu. I opted for the Pescado Frito.
The menu describes it as "the ultimate beach meal in the tropics of Latin America. Seasonal white fish fillet (Tilapia today), lightly dredged in seasoned flour, pan-fried with garlic and served with white rice, maduros, and ensalada de palmito (hearts of palm salad)."
Since they were out of maduros and I was there for the fried food anyway I had Ariel substitute my maduros for yuca frita and my ensalada de palmito for tostones. I also requested a small side order of Frijoles Negros (Cuban black beans).
While lunch was being prepared Ariel sat with me and we talked about his recent trip to Europe and Cuba, his first trip back home in three years. Ariel also told me about how in 1995 he escaped the Fidel regime by leaving his whole family behind, jumping on a balsa with some friends and neighbors.
He went on about the shark infested waters and how most of the rafters on that journey perished from dehydration on the way to US shores. We both got goosebumps and tears in our eyes imagining the predicament while he recalled those dangerous hours.
He also told me about how as part of his new life in the US the government sent him to Seattle where he has been living ever since, working at the Space Needle restaurant and meeting the guys who along with him got together to create La Casa del Mojito five years ago.
Which is where he has been until now, a city he proclaims to love dearly, a place that has treated him very kindly over these past 10 years bringing out to the table some of the best Latin American food in the city and my favorite, utterly delectable, crunchy delights, just out of the very hot oil, that I crave from time to time.
The Pescado Frito platter ($8.25) was just what this IMBB called for. Tender, moist and flavorful fried fish in a light as a cloud batter with three tostones, three pieces of yuca frita with a small mound of white rice
The special also included a side of the Guasacaca, Venezuela's answer to salsa de ajo or mojo de ajo (garlic sauce) the perfect accompaniment to fried root vegetables, plantains, tostones (which can also benefit from a side of hot sauce) and definitely yuca frita (Yuca al Mojo de Ajo is one of the definitive Cuban cuisine dishes no meal is ever without).
The Frijoles Negros were just the thing to round up the meal. Cooked al dente with plenty of garlic, onion red peppers and tomato sauce. Delish!
For dessert, homemade Quesillo (or flan). The real deal ($3.95). Recipe happily volunteeered without even asking for it. Made with four egg yolks, vanilla, pinch of salt, condensed and evaporated milk and sugar for the caramel, garnished with a chocolate/condensed milk sauce that was surprisingly delicious. Sweet but not cloyingly so, slightly redolent of chocolate without taking away from the traditional flavor of this favorite dessert.
A cup of their Café con Leche ($2.50), which is always served, a la Cubana, with a couple small teaspoons of sugar in the bottom was de rigueur. A quick stir and I was in Ariel's Havana, walking on the beach, listening to Ibrahim Ferrer, watching the waves splashing on the Malecón.
Between the great conversation, my scrumptious fried lunch, flan, coffee and the tropical music in the air, two mouthwatering hours had gone by. Alas, time to drive home, write my entry and get ready to go.
Best thing about it? No need to go through Customs (or sneak back in through Canada). But wait, is that sand on my feet? ;-)
La Casa del Mojito
7545 Lake City Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115