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Fish Flop 

The seafood is fresh at Mariscos Mi Mazatlan—but kitchen errors and service lapses let us down

The oysters were fresh, smooth—and unappetizingly served at room temperature.

That, in a nutshell (or perhaps a lukewarm oyster shell), describes our experiences at Mariscos Mi Mazatlan, a restaurant on 22nd Street that opened a few months ago.

There is a lot to like at Mariscos Mi Mazatlan. The seafood and other ingredients seem fresh; the place has a rustic, beach café charm; and the folks there serve up a killer michelada especial ($6, with spicy tomato juice and shrimp; trust me, it's fantastic). But hiccups in execution—especially during our dinner visit—messed things up to the point that I can't recommend the place.

Our first visit was for a weekend lunch. Mariscos Mi Mazatlan was doing a decent business, which was nice to see. The restaurant has all of the Mexican-seafood standards one would expect, including soups, shrimp dishes, seafood cocktails and, of course, quite a bit of fish. We decided to share the medium campechana regular cocktail to start (with octopus, shrimp and oyster, $11.99). For my main course, I ordered the shrimp in garlic sauce ($11.99), and Garrett got the smoked marlin quesadillas ($7.99).

We watched soccer on one of the perfectly placed TVs and enjoyed the tasty, if watery, salsa with chips as we waited for our food. The décor at Mariscos Mi Mazatlan largely comes straight from the Pacifico and Corona reps—flags, signs and even inflatable flip-flops are everywhere, along with fishing-themed knickknacks like nets and whatnot. Blue walls and blue wooden seating dominate the look in the main room; there's also seating closer to the semi-open kitchen/prep area, where a cute desert mural occupies one wall.

The cocktail came quickly, and the verdict was mixed. I gave it a thumbs-up because the seafood was fresh and enjoyable; Garrett gave it a thumbs-down because the liquid wasn't all that flavorful. We agreed that more seasoning would have made it better.

As for the mains: Garrett's quesadillas were more like tacos—the amount of cheese was low, and he picked them up and ate them as one would eat a taco—but he enjoyed them, thanks to the moist, flavorful marlin. Unfortunately, my shrimp was decidedly mediocre. The eight slightly overcooked shrimp swam in a butter-garlic sauce that was oily more than anything else. The salads that came with both of our dishes were unspectacular.

Despite my so-so shrimp, the smoked marlin tacos quesadillas and the cocktail had me looking forward to our dinner visit.

On a recent weekday evening, we stopped in for dinner, starting with those aforementioned oysters ($6.99 for six) and the shrimp-meatball soup (medium for $8.99). Garrett decided to try the tampiquena (grilled steak, $10.99) as his entrée, while I ordered one of my favorite dishes (when done right): the whole grilled snapper, Veracruz style ($13.99).

Things started going downhill with the aforementioned room-temperature oysters on the half-shell. They were served on a bed of ice, but they had obviously been sitting somewhere that was not refrigerated before they were placed on that ice. Because I am a trouper, I sprayed the oysters with lime, dabbed on a bit of hot sauce, and choked them down. They'd have been splendid had they arrived properly chilled.

Next, there was a ridiculously lengthy delay between the arrival of the oysters and our soup. When the soup finally came, our server apologized for the delay and said she'd brought us a large-size soup instead of a medium. We started dishing up ... and then came our main courses, about one minute later. We took quick samples of the soup and asked the server to package the rest to take home. I enjoyed the soup for lunch the next day; the tomatoey broth with carrots and celery was hearty and just spicy enough. The shrimp meatballs, actually, were the soup's weak link; while they were decent, they had a rubbery mouth feel and didn't add a whole lot of flavor.

Speaking of not adding a whole lot of flavor: That could be said for the Veracruz sauce on my red snapper. There was a decided lack of seasoning in the tomato sauce, and the onion, peppers and green olives didn't contribute much to the fish itself. The body of the fish was cooked nicely, though the head—where there are some tasty tidbits—was not sauced at all, and was therefore dry and tragically inedible.

Garrett's steak was seasoned well, although it was a bit tough; it came medium-well, and if he'd been asked how he wanted it, he'd have requested a proper medium rare.

Both of our dishes came with rice and more of that unremarkable salad; Garrett's tampiquena also came with some fine refried beans and a cheese enchilada.

After finishing our main courses, we were ready to go, but instead, we found ourselves dealing with one of my biggest restaurant peeves: a missing-in-action server. Actually, our server wasn't missing; I could see her just fine. However, instead of offering us our check, filling our empty water glasses or clearing our plates, she was peering into the kitchen, waiting on food for other tables. A dish would come, and she'd take it to a table, drop it off, and head back to the kitchen area to do more staring (without ever looking in our direction). This went on for at least 15 minutes before I literally waved her down. She apologized, brought the check, and then did the same deliver-and-ignore-and-stare routine for another 10 minutes before I literally called out, "Hey!" so she would come to get my credit card.

Mariscos Mi Mazatlan has some potential, thanks to the use of fresh seafood and the spot's ample charms—but as it stands now, that potential is being squandered by poor service and kitchen errors.

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