Watch out, Ixcapuzalco ... there's a feisty new competitor in the haute Mexican dining scene in Logan Square. Fonda del Mar, a 32-table storefront, opened about three weeks ago on Fullerton between Ridgeway and Hamlin, and based on tonight's carryout (and the time I spent inside watching the staff at work), I think we have a winner here. Everything I ate was very good, some of it great, and I'm pleased to have this new addition in the 'hood.
Metromix reports Fonda del Mar is a partnership of "Hernandez and Luis Montero, who hail from Mia Francesca and Raul Arreola, who spent a dozen years under Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill/Topolobampo." This shows in the professionalism of the staff, as well as the quality of the food.
As the name seems to imply (and also based on the number of painted wooden fish decorating the place), seafood is the specialty at Fonda del Mar -- although they do a very good with the red meats, too. And the prices are right: I had a 5-course Chef's tasting at $30 that was enough to feed an army; a very generous carne asada platter was $14, and both came with a healthy supply of chips and hand-made tortillas (I watched them make my batch). In a lot of ways, Fonda del Mar reminds me of Dorado, but without the French influence and heavier use of peppers and Mexican spice (although the flan is unfortunately not as good as the uber-flan served at Dorado).
So, here's the pictures:
This was very fresh fish, brightly flavored and with a relatively high spice level. Better than Islas Marias, not quite the best I've had, but very good.
Pepper and Corn Soup
This was one of the best things I've put in my mouth in months. Really, this is a "Top 10 of 2006" candidate. Rich, spicy, corny and delicious. Hope they have this when you come.
The picture doesn't do this justice, but it's a very firm and fresh tilapia filet, spicy exterior and moist interior. The rice was perfect and the onions were a flavorful counterpoint to the fish.
Lambchops in Mole Negro
Tender lambchops cooked precisely as ordered (medium rare), served with a mole negro that's the equal of any Bahena mole I've tried. The mashed potatoes are also much better than what you get at Ixc or Chilpancingo. A real winner.
I include this picture for sake of completeness. As noted above, the flan was very good, but it was also fairly typical. However, they advertise a different flavor of flan nightly, so it might warrant another go to try the other varieties.
Fonda del Mar
3749 W. Fullerton Ave.