When I've got visitors who think Tijuana's only about street food, whose vision of Baja gastronomy is those stalls along the walk from the border to Avenida Revolución, I drive straight to Cebichería Erizo, chef and Baja wunderkind Javier Plascencia's fish market and ceviche stand in the upscale Chapultepec neighborhood.
Is there a better Saturday lunch than sitting in a sun-bathed restaurant, sipping on a Pisco sour or one of Baja California's under-appreciated craft beers, a bowl of deep green scallop ceviche between you and a friend? Hot sauces line the table, but they're extraneous and taste oddly artificial next to the sauce. Two tostadas later, it's gone, the temptation to tip the dish into your mouth taken by the busboy.
Aguachile comes next, sweet shrimp from San Felipe on the other side of the peninsula shelled, cleaned and soaking in a broth that will make your hair stand on end. What is it about lime juice that amplifies the effects of fresh chile?
Another round of drinks, more conversation, and then sopes de chorizo de abulón, hand-made masa boats filled with abalone sausage, a dish the originated in Baja California del Sur, dressed with salsa and a little drizzle of crema. There are three of them, and two of us. Uh-oh. We make a deal: she gets the last sope and has to pay for coffee at Das Cortez down the street afterwards.
Another time, it's cold outside, and I order güerito chiles stuffed with marlin and cheese, followed by a big, murky bowl flecked with white: birria de pescado, fish cooked in the style of birria, slightly smoky and not as spicy as the roiling red color would have you believe. I spill some down my shirt and wonder how the fashionably dressed elite of Tijuana sitting near us in the dining room manage not to ruin their clothing.
Surprisingly, the bill is not as high as you'd think given the digs and the quality of the seafood; while Tijuana's not always about street food, it's always about value.
Cebichería Erizo is located at Ave. Sonora, 3808 in the Chapultepec section of Tijuana, just off Blvd. Agua Caliente and west of the golf course; 011-52 (664) 686-15-64.