2/28/2013 11:36:00 AM

Best Thing We Ate This Week: Pescado Tikin-Xic at El Naranjo

Our entire meal at this upscale interior Mexican venue on Rainey Street was so great that it was hard to narrow it down to one dish.

Should it be the rajas con crema appetizer, an even-more decadent alternative to queso fundido served with poblano peppers and onion for texture? The special mole of the day, a brilliant yellow-orange variety with a moist pork chop and white rice? The flourless chocolate cake that still tasted a lot like the ideal homemade comfort food, served with coconut-milk-based ice cream? Or maybe just the expertly baked bread and homemade salsas that chef Iliana de la Vega and her husband serve instead of chips, in the traditional Oaxacan way.

Finally we settled on the Pescado Tikin-Xic, a filet of tender sea bass served over a thick, tasty homemade spinach tamal with plenty of doughy masa and coated in Ix-Ni-Pec sauce (a somewhat spicy mix of tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice) and placed over a banana leaf. As with all of El Naranjo’s dishes, the beautiful presentation enhanced the natural flavors. In particular, we found ourselves fighting over the spinach tamal: what had seemed like an accompaniment actually stole the show.

The husband and wife pair previously ran a similar restaurant in Oaxaca before being driven out by riots in 2006. They regrouped in Austin, opening a trailer on Rainey Street that served many of the same moles and entrees we tried. Texas Monthly rated the trailer as some of the best Mexican food in Texas in December 2010. The pair opened their brick-and-mortar location in May 2012 and have already been receiving accolades (for example, Every Day with Rachael Ray featured it in October 2012).

The locale is a nice respite from bar-heavy Rainey Street. Be sure to make a reservation, as it’s hard to walk up to award-winning food like this.

85 Rainey St.; 512-474-2776


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