Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ortiz Taco Time: Best Place to Eat a Whole Fish (Eyeballs and All)

As published in the VC Reporter, August 2010.

Photo by Lisa Snider
Working close to the Avenue in Ventura, I’ve tried a lot of taco shops, but my hands-down favorite is Ortiz Taco Time. When they burned down in March of last year, I kicked myself for not having tried the mojarra frita, pictured above the cash register. The photo of a whole fish was intriguing and intimidating all at once, but I stuck with the tried and true tacos, gorditas and sopes that they do so well. When I heard that Ortiz was back, I made a beeline for the new spot they found just a few doors down from the old.

Owner Bulmaro Ortiz, originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, cooked for many years at the Four Season Biltmore in Santa Barbara before he finally stepped out on his own to open Taco Time. Most of the menu is what you would expect of a typical taco shop, but there are many stand-outs, particularly the seafood. The shrimp cocktail and the tostada ceviche are excellent, but you won’t find fish tacos here. What you will find is mojarra frita - a whole tilapia, seasoned, scored and fried, then served up with fresh lemon wedges, beans, rice, pico de gallo, tortillas chips, smoky salsa and four corn tortillas.

When the plate came out, I knew I was in for an eating adventure. It was staring at me, gape-mouthed, with fins poking out, and was so big it was hanging over the side of the plate. I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, pulled my hair back and started plucking the chunks of fish from the bones. It was crispy on the outside, but moist, tender and mild on the inside. I filled up two tortillas, then flipped Nemo over and had at the other side. I washed it down with a pineapple Jarritos soda, plopped a ten dollar bill on the table, and didn’t eat again until the next day!

If you are ready for an authentic foodie adventure, head on over to Ortiz Taco Time. I didn’t have the nerve to eat the eyeballs, but maybe you will!

Ortiz Taco Time
371 N. Ventura Avenue, Ventura
(805) 648-5003