Monday, February 11, 2013

First Thoughts: Tacos Punta Cabras

One of Santa Monica's many mysteries has always been a lack of fish tacos. It's baffling. You're on the Pacific Ocean. You have tons of taco joints. Locals love fish tacos. Tourists love fish tacos. Yet, for years, the beachside community has existed sans a go-to fish taco joint. 

Until now. 

As first reported last week by Eater, local chefs Daniel Snukal and Josh Gil's hoped to fill the void with their new Tacos Punta Cabras. After a visit to the restaurant, which is still in a soft opening phase, I can gladly report Santa Monicas can stop fretting. Void filled. With a clean, modern taqueria feel (think reclaimed wood benches and vintage wood chairs, tables and frames) and a very simple menu (tacos, tostadas, coctele) serving only fish and vegetarian options, the two young chefs already serve the area's best Baja fried fish tacos - and the tostada doesn't suck either.

If you name your taco joint after a celebrated Baja Norte surfing spot, you better feature some kick ass Ensenada-style fried fish tacos. Luckily for all of us, Tacos Punta Cabras is up for the challenge - with spades. I don't surf, but I imagine if I did, these are exactly what I would crave after I got out of the water. And now, FINALLY, they are within driving distance of our beautiful beaches. The deep-fried cod is topped with cabbage, green and red onion and a citrus dressing, on a housemade flour tortilla. Although slightly smaller than popular eastside fish taco stand, Ricky's, the TPF tacos exceed their competition with a slightly lighter and less greasy consistency. This gives the taco a fresher and more refined taste, yet still the expected crunch. The citrus dressing is a perfect compliment as well. Not to mention the chewy housemade tortillas, which take the taco to a higher level. I also threw on a little of their homemade salsas, a spicy tomatillo and (what I believe was) a medium chile de arbol.

After finishing off two fish tacos, I was still a little hungry, so I ordered a cauliflower tostada. The tostada comes with thinly-sliced cauliflower, cucumbers, avocado, pico de gallo and a stellar cashew salsa. I can't imagine a taco shack serving a better, fresher, more refreshing tostada. Santa Monica vegetarians, take note, you no longer have to go to Veggie Grill every lunch! Then again, I sort of fear Tacos Punta Cabras growing very popular very fast and I'd prefer not to fight the crowds, so, uhh, keep going to Veggie Grill...

Sure, still in the soft opening phase, TPC is still working out the kinks. In fact, the restaurant still has the previous tenant's signage up. There's also no parking whatsoever - and no immediately available local street parking due to the nearby hospital. Still I have nary a major complaint about my inaugural visit. Santa Monica will most certainly welcome this fish taco (with a fine dining chefs' touch) joint with incredibly welcome arms.

Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica

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