Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quality Seafood

Another delicious find: Quality Seafood.

Review by Aeran Shabi:

Quality Seafood Market
5621 Airport Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751

Dish: Fish Tacos

            $2 Tuesdays is reason enough in this town to head to Quality Seafood Market for their $2 fish tacos and $2 domestic beers. I like places like Quality Seafood where the restaurant shares a space with its store which sells the very ingredients that you find in their food. It evokes a certain level of honesty and transparency that gains trust with their clientele, almost as if they’re saying, “come judge our ingredients for yourself before we cook them for you.” I walked in and despite all of the raw fish about, the place barely had any fishy smell at all, which I’ve learned is a great sign. Promising sign number two? The place was packed. From the parking lot being full (I had to park in a tangential lot), to the line that ran almost to the door, in my experience if a place is having no trouble getting business, there’s usually a good reason why. Luckily for me, the line moved quickly and I had to make my taco choices quickly, though it was hard to settle for tacos with all of the classic gulf seafood cuisine choices on their menu. But, I had come with a mission, and that mission was cheap tacos. They offered three types of seafood filling, mahi-mahi, shrimp and catfish, with three choices of preparation, either grilled, fried or blackened. Lastly, I had to choose from a short paragraph of sauces to top each taco. I ended up with blackened mahi-mahi with avocado pico de gallo, fried mahi-mahi with fire-roasted salsa roja, and fried shrimp with salsa verde. I got myself a pint of Live Oak’s Big Bark, and found myself a table near the basketball game on TV until they brought my food to me. The three tacos sat in a paper-lined red basket with the three different sauces in their own brim-filled ramekins simply stuffed on one side of the basket; no frills. There are times and dishes that demand special plating in order to convey the relationship and delicacy of each ingredient. This was not one of those times. Gulf seafood should be at once dirty and hospitable, inviting but with attitude. Each taco had a colorful pinch of cabbage salad on it for texture and visual appeal, simple and to the point. The blackened mahi-mahi taco was first to the firing line and upon taking the first bite, I tasted something that seemed to execute at a 7 out of 10 level for what it was going for. Fortunately it was an easy fix. I simply put a bit of both the other sauces I had ordered, which filled in the flavor gaps quite nicely. Normally I’m not one to tout overloading food with ingredients, or as my high school drum instructor used to call it, “trying to stuff five pounds of crap in a four pound bag,” but in this case it proved to be a good call. All three sauces had a tangy and slightly spicy profile and when combined, formed a well-rounded condimental flavor that nicely complimented the pillowy chunks of fish. The fried mahi-mahi proved to be even softer and fluffier than the previous taco, as fried fish is wont to be. Texturally, this taco was my favorite because the entire taco was incredibly soft except for the ultra-crispy cabbage. Nothing helps bring out an ingredient’s features like contrast (think white lettering looks whitest against a black background and vice versa), so I really appreciated the contrast of fish vs. cabbage the most with this taco. Lastly, I ate my classic fried gulf shrimp taco, and since it was the last one, I loaded it with all the remaining sauces that I had. Let me just say, there is nowhere in Austin to get fresher, more plump and explodingly juicy shrimp for the price. Quality Seafood has a spot-on seafood batter that holds in the natural moisture of the meat while still getting crispy enough to have that slight pop of juicy flavor when you break into the first bite. Having tasted all three tacos and sauces, I determined the fried mahi-mahi to be my favorite all around item, though each was delicious in its own way. A seasoned food warrior, I left not a morsel of food on my plate, and not a sip (not even the last half-backwash sip) of delicious local beer left in my glass. The atmosphere here was excellent, and on Wednesdays there’s a Gulf ragtime band that can cook better than the kitchen. I’m definitely going back, but be warned, though I thought I was being clever, Live Oak does NOT count as a domestic beer on $2 Tuesdays (it was only a dollar more though). 


Circe said...

wowww tacos mexicanos! los ingredientes no, obviamente, pero si el concepto, deliciosos. saludos

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