Manta and Seafood – A No-Brainer! - Food Column
It’s no secret that Manta is a seafood hub. Being one of the largest port cities in Ecuador, Manta has been hailed as the tuna fishing capital of the world. Canned tuna is one of the primary exports from Manta and walking along the Malecon you can see the many boats going out to sea filled with fishermen. So, it’s to be expected that one can get some of the freshest and most delicious seafood here.
In the seven months that I’ve lived here, I have made it my mission to eat all the seafood! A very popular dish in Manta is ceviche. I’ve had it at several restaurants in the city. I learned while living here that ceviche is made differently in different parts of South America and in North America. Here in Manta, ceviche is made the same in almost every restaurant. It can be prepared with almost any seafood that is lightly cooked or steamed and then put into a bowl with lime juice, red onion, tomato, and cilantro. It is served chilled with a side of chifles.
Chifles are thinly sliced green bananas that are deep fried and salted, like a potato chip. So crispy and a very good accompaniment to the cool ceviche!
My favorite place to enjoy Manta’s seafood is at Frutos Del Mar Restaurante. This restaurant is one of the many restaurants you can find at Playa Murciélago, the most populous beach in Manta. Playa Murciélago stretches along the main road (Avenida Malecón) and is right across from Mall Del Pacífico.
The beach has a large boardwalk with many restaurants and a few businesses like a souvenir shop and an ice cream stand. Frutos Del Mar is the second restaurant to the right on the boardwalk when you enter the beach from the main entrance.
Many of the restaurants have a “caller” outside waving customers in. You can spot the “caller” for Frutos Del Mar from across the beach because they usually wear bright orange shirts and black pants. The “caller” will wave customers into the restaurant and offer to show them the menu before even entering. The restaurants on the beach are all open and airy (no windows and doors). When sitting at Frutos Del Mar, you get an incredible view of the ocean, amazing ocean breezes, and a great view of the many activities of the beachgoers. During my last lunch there, we saw the cutest little kids’ soccer team practicing on the beach. The interior of Frutos Del Mar is bright and colorful with orange tablecloths on every table, the waitstaff in orange shirts, and bright blue walls. There’s a wall of colorful bottles of wine
and spirits and two large screen TVs in the center for watching soccer.
The name of the restaurant, Frutos Del Mar, translates to “seafood” in English, so you have an idea of what they serve before sitting down. What more could you ask for at the beach? The menu is extensive and is offered in both English and Spanish. There are so many options, but some of the best dishes in my opinion are ceviche, camotillo (fried fish), chicharrones de mariscos (fried seafood pieces), and camarones encocados (shrimp in coconut sauce). They have several types of ceviche: crab (cangrejo), shrimp (camarón), fish (pescado), and mixto (all the seafood). The fish ceviche is very delicious
and is made with lightly cooked wahoo fish (a firm white fish). What’s surprising for us North Americans is that many restaurants here will sit ketchup, mustard, and peanut sauce on the table when you order ceviche. I believe the expectation is to add the ketchup, mustard, and chifles to the bowl of ceviche and eat it all together. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will say I’ve tried the fish ceviche with peanut sauce and chifles and it was very tasty.
The most outstanding dish on Frutos Del Mar’s menu is camotillo in my opinion. It is my absolute favorite dish that I’ve found in Manta. Camotillo is prepared by taking a whole white fish and cutting it so that the meat of the fish sticks out from the sides. It is then seasoned and deep fried until golden and crispy. It is served propped up on the plate with lime slices tucked in between the meat of the fish. It looks very impressive and I’ve seen many tourists taking pictures of the camotillo when it hits the table. Interestingly, the type of fish used for this dish is also called camotillo which is a sand sea bass. At Frutos Del Mar, camotillo is served with white rice, fried smashed green bananas, and a side salad. On the table is a common condiment here in Ecuador, aji. Aji is a hot sauce made of tomate de
árbol (tree tomato), hot red peppers, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. It’s the perfect accompaniment to camotillo. The delicious fried white fish pairs so well with the cool and spicy sauce.
Frutos Del Mar has an extensive menu and everything I’ve tried has been delicious. I highly
recommend this place as it has some of the best seafood you can only get in Manta. If you’re a seafood lover like me, then Manta is a great choice.
By Rolanda Stinson-Smiley