By Tom Gatch
Finding a decent seafood eatery in Ensenada is a bit like walking down the beach in search of a sea shell; it doesn’t usually take too long to discover what you’re looking for. But those who are seeking a truly gourmet dining experience may face a somewhat greater challenge.
While there are numerous restaurants in the city that make a point of focusing their efforts on vying for a piece of the tourist dollar, Haliotis has become a local legend over the decades simply by being itself. Originally opened in 1976, it is often affectionately referred to as “the place where the locals eat.” The name also happens to be Latin for that tasty and wildly popular univalve mollusk known as the abalone (Haliotis rufescens).
In fact, the co-owner, Rafael Colunga, grew up on Isla Cedros off Baja’s central Pacific coast and spent his youth as a commercial diver for abalone and lobster.
Although this highly prized shellfish has become increasingly rare worldwide, it still remains on the menu at Haliotis. In addition, diners have a choice of a plethora of creative dishes built around seasonally fresh foods from the sea such as shrimp, lobster, sea bass, halibut, swordfish, clams and oysters.
About Abalone: The name seems to mystify people—especially Americans – probably because they are unfamiliar with the large marine gastropod mollusk that is basically a sea snail. But abalone is part of the culture of Baja. Its delicious meat created such a market that abalone was almost eradicated along the West Coast, and many areas banned its harvesting. However, cultivation and farming has saved the abalone and it is becoming more and more available – fortunately for lucky diners at restaurants like Haliotis!
The cuisine here is further enhanced by some of the most attentive tableside service in Ensenada, which is sustained by a highly seasoned wait staff, many of whom have been employed at the restaurant for years. Just past the foyer, a maritime influence and several uniquely beautiful stained glass windows add a tone of subdued elegance to the main dining room, which is continued on in a large, adjoining service area that is suitable for special events. Haliotis also offers a wide variety of both domestic and imported wines to accompany your meal, as well as full bar service and one of the best margaritas in town.
The restaurant is located just east of Avenida Reforma at Calle Delante 179. For reservations and additional information, call: (646) 177-22-54.
‘Hooked on Baja’ author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.
Scared of abalone? Baloney! It’s a delicacy of the sea and part of the Baja coastal experience, presented to you by Baja.com.
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