Sunday, July 28, 2013

Meeting Up With a Nice Crab in Corona

El Cangrejo Nice
510 Hidden Valley Parkway #101
Corona, CA 92879

It was time to come out to Corona again to see Sabrina and Anthony. It had been awhile, and true to form, I was left in charge of picking the restaurant. Before we had left home, I had two places in mind. One was a run down shack restaurant, that Yelp promised had good food. The other was a sit down restaurant, that would prove to be a little more comfortable, especially with the stifling heat that Corona was experiencing. I gave Sabrina and Anthony the options, and just like I had predicted in my mind, they went with the more upscale of the two choices. That Sabrina is always so high maintenance. So it was off to El Cangrejo we would go.

El Cangrejo was a short trip up the 15 Freeway from Sabrina and Anthony's house. This is a newer looking shopping center right off of Hidden Valley Parkway. The shopping center features a Stater Bros., a Kohl's and the recently relocated Twisted Gourmet. There was also another restaurant in this center that caught my eye, the Hot Dog Shoppe. We almost got side tracked by their large hot dog menu, but our resolve was strong. The hot dogs would have to wait for another day. We had Mexican seafood to consume.

El Cangrejo Nice translates to the nice crab in English, so I had a sneaky suspicion that we would be in for some good seafood during our visit. The restaurant is much larger than it appears from the outside. Black and white checkered floors, large TVs, loud, booming music, and a DJ booth dominated the dining room. With all of this going on, it really reminded me of restaurants on the Mexican Riviera that I have been to, without the 80 percent humidity. Kind of a laid back, vacation type vibe going on here. Now that I was relaxed, I was ready for some food. We ordered, and the parade of food just kept on coming. Here's how it came out for us.

As with most Mexican restaurants, we were given Chips and Salsa to start off with. These tortilla chips were not your standard chips. They were of the lighter variety, maybe using white corn instead of the standard yellow. Also, they were seasoned with a light dusting of chili powder. Not too greasy, and definitely a lighter chip. The salsa could have been a little chunkier, but there was definitely some heat in this. Not a bad start to the meal.

A lot of the Yelp reviews recommended the Shrimp Empanadas ($12), just like our waitress, so that's what we started with. I have never had a shrimp empanada before. The outside of this empanada was also a little foreign to me as well. It was not as doughy as others I have had. It was fried to a very crispy, golden brown, but lacked any residual grease. The inside of the empanada was very basic. It only had lightly seasoned shrimp in there, which was very fresh, and not on the briny side. This came with a sauce that is prepared table side by your server. She was very coy about what was in these sauces, only telling us that ketchup was one of the ingredients. Whatever was in there made this a wonderful dipping sauce for the empanadas. Mellow, but with a tiny little kick, by the end of the empanadas we had wiped the dish clean of the sauce.

Ceviche is not something I normally order in restaurants. It's not like I do not enjoy it, but I kind of like my shrimp to be on the warm side. This Ceviche de Camaron ($5) might help change my ceviche habits. This thing was loaded with cooked, chilled shrimp. Just like with the empanada before, the shrimp here was very fresh. The onion, tomatoes, avocado and other assorted items heaped together with the shrimp, really combined to make one heck of a ceviche tostada. The only minor complaint about this dish was that the tortilla got a little lost under the mound of shrimp, but that can never be a bad thing.

Now on to the entree portion of the evening for us. Sorry for the poor photo quality of Sabrina's dish. Her dark personality must have affected the camera. Sabrina is not much into seafood, so she stayed within her comfort zone by ordering a very traditional Trio Combination ($12). For her three items she went with a Cheese Enchilada, a Chicken Flauta, and a Pastor Taco. Sabrina was not too impressed with her meal. She was not too big of a fan of the enchilada sauce that was used here. She felt it was a little too creamy, and really detracted from the cheese and the tortilla. She also thought the flauta was a little over fried, and it was hard to cut through to the chicken inside. She passed the pastor taco onto Anthony, who had it for lunch the next day. Anthony felt it was an average taco. The beans and rice also failed to impress fickle Sabrina. She summed up this dish by calling it middle of the road. She would probably try something else on future visits.

There was so much going on with Anthony's selection for dinner, that it was hard getting it all in one picture. Hence, the four shots above. La Campesina ($17) means the peasant in Spanish, but I do not know too many peasants that eat as well as this. There was a lot of food on this platter. I would characterize this meal as a deconstructed combo fajita plate. Included in this were beef ribs, asada, grilled chicken, nopal, chorizo, and queso. Anthony seemed very pleased with everything on his plate. I tried some of the chorizo and the asada, and felt both were pretty good. This was also served with a large side of guacamole. Most places skimp on this, but at El Cangrejo they make sure that you get plenty of guacamole.

El Cangrejo is known for their seafood dishes, so both Katie and I got meals that featured our friends from the sea. Katie loves fish tacos, so it was no surprise that she selected the Ensenada Style Fish Tacos ($12) for her meal. Katie said something complimentary about each layer of these tacos. Starting with the fish, she was excited by the light breading that really showcased the fresh fish underneath. The cabbage added a nice texture, while the sauce that was drizzled over the fish added a pleasing flavor to the taco. Lastly, Katie was pretty impressed with the two tortillas that encased the contents of the tacos, which she determined to be made on the premises. Not sure about that, but I thought these were some pretty good fish tacos as well.

Much like Anthony's meal, my dinner plate had a lot going on with it as well. The La Mariscada ($16) is a seafood lovers delight. Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, along with Breaded Shrimp, a Tilapia Fish Filet, Langostino, and an Octopus Rice made up this large tray of food. I am usually not much for tilapia, but this filet was seasoned well, and cooked just right. The bacon wrapped shrimp were a little on the salty side, but that was to be expected. The breaded shrimp were large, and went well with the cocktail like sauce that came with this plate. This sauce had a nice little kick to it, and really enhanced a lot of the seafood on this plate. The one and only time I have had langostino, I thought it was too much work for such a small amount of meat. El Cangrejo split these miniature lobsters for me, and there was more meat in them than the smaller ones I had eaten at the other restaurant I had them at. The octopus rice was hidden under the tilapia, and it was full of flavor. I had thought it was going to be too fishy, but they got the right balance here. Even seafood novice Sabrina did not think the octopus rice was too bad.

Even though all of us were full to the rafters with food, the owner, Jorge, brought us out a sampler of two of their desserts. The Flan de la Casa ($3) was not very heavy with caramel like a lot of other restaurant flans are. Here the caramel was drizzled on the plate, along with a strawberry sauce. The flan was good, not drenched, but still moist enough. The Churros ($6) are the dessert to get here. The outside of these looked like any churro you could get at the ballpark or amusement park, but they were served warm, which made them softer than normal. The real surprise was inside, there was a cream waiting to be bitten into. Not overly sweet, this was a great way to end our meal at El Cangrejo.

I was very pleased leaving El Cangrejo Nice. I left the restaurant very full and satisfied, and because of the tropical atmosphere inside, I left feeling like I was on vacation while I was here. I'm not going to lie and tell you this restaurant is for everyone. If you just want regular Mexican food, you might want to head somewhere else, but if you want Mexican seafood that is fresh, spiced well, and if you are an eater with an adventurous streak, this could be the place for you. I really liked the uniqueness of it. The menu was a little overwhelming for us, but if you listen to what the servers recommend, you will more than likely enjoy your dining experience. We met one of the owners of El Cangrejo, and he let us know that they are headed to OC soon, with details to soon be announced. We definitely will be headed back when they open in OC, if not sooner to this Corona location.

Out of five mermaids, (not only because of the nautical theme here, but because the nicest crab I have ever seen was Sebastian, from The Little Mermaid) five being best to zero being worst, El Cangrejo Nice gets 3 solid mermaids

For more information on El Cangrejo Nice, click here to go to their website:

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