As sometimes happens in a city of literally thousands of restaurants that has had about a dozen significant openings since January, Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook and Houston Press critic Katharine Shilcutt have each published a review of the same restaurant this week. That restaurant is La Fisheria, the high end Mexican seafood restaurant from Latin American TV star Aquiles Chavez. When La Fisheria opened in February, Chavez promised to change the way Houstonians think about Mexican food with his introduction of flavors from his native state Tabasco. It's up to the critics to decide whether he's succeeded.
One area where both Shilcutt and Cook see eye to is that La Fisheria is a fun restaurant to visit. Shilcutt compares it to "walking off a stuffy plane and into a vibrant, wholly modern beach town in Mexico." Cook also digs the "beachy" decor, calling it "fresh and effortlessly cool." They also like that Chavez's celebrity status draws a vibrant mix of Mexican ex-pats to La Fisheria.
One area where they disagree is when to visit. Cook likes "La Fisheria best in its noontime mode, when the prices are friendlier and the menu is, too." Shilcutt doesn't like visiting at lunch because she's left with "the sad feeling of having to tear yourself away from the relaxing, vacation-like dining room and shuffle off back to work." Also, going for lunch "makes it more difficult to enjoy La Fisheria's excellent wine and cocktail program."
As for the food, they both liked the snapper served with sweet potato puree but neither liked the vegetable medley that accompanied the dish. Shilcutt loves the tuna dish calling it "one of the best dishes in the city," but Cook found it "overmatched by its cargo of vegetables in a piercingly sweet-sour escabeche mode." Can't please, everybody, right?
One aspect of La Fisheria that neither critic discusses is how Houstonians feel about the place. As both Eater's Good News/Bad News post from a couple weeks ago and the comments beneath Cook's review reveal, the city isn't quite sure whether it can love a Mexican restaurant that doesn't serve chips and salsa.