What is it? Verde Mar means green sea in Spanish and is indicative of the plethora of seafood dishes in this new Mexican eatery making proper Mexican eats.
The place: Much more understated than the typical garish colours and celebratory feel adopted by most Mexican restaurants, Verde Mar wears a more mellow, back garden feel with strung up star lanterns, subtle mustard yellows and a few obligatory sombreros dotted around the walls. Traditional Mexican music sets the tone for the properly authentic food prepared by the passionate chef and owner Eligio Escobedo from the former Mr. Taco Truck in Lan Kwai Fong.
The food: The chef imports all his goods, from the cactus and the hot sauce to the tomatoes and the cheese, directly from Mexico to ensure the authenticity of his flavours. They make their own tortillas, tacos and ice cream daily and you won’t find the Tex Mex style of covering everything in sour cream and cheese (although some dishes certainly exhibit a pleasant cheesy element). The tortilla chips come with three salsas of varying levels of mildness and a good creamy gaucamole topped with fresh tomatoes and red onion. You can choose between the corn or flour soft taco wrap and we sampled both to find they were excellent. The tacos were our favourite dish of the night and came with pork, steak and vegetarian fillings. Uniquely, 80 per cent of the dishes can be made vegetarian, to the joy of my colleague, with us sampling the Mexican oaxaca string cheese dish topped with flavoursome mushrooms as opposed to the homemade chorizo. We also sampled a stuffed poblano that was teeming with vegetables, mozzarella cheese and had a consistent spice to it while the paella takes some getting used to. Mexico favours a very dry version compared to its saucier sister from Spain and despite the huge variety of seafood on top with squid, mussels, scallops and prawns and us piling on the hot sauce, we found ourselves wishing it was a bit wetter and more flavoursome. The prawn ceviche is served peppered with chilli seeds and cucumber, and you eat the cucumber either side of the seafood, like a sandwich, which is a cool and hot little number all in one.
We loved the grilled cactus that was served with a squeeze of lime and had a deliciously meaty texture to it and was rather like a vegetarian steak with a firm exterior and soft fleshy inside tasting like a mixture of aloe and okra that really grew on us with each bite. The health benefits of eating cactus are renowned and we found ourselves wishing we could find it in the wet markets, such is the excitement of a change of veggie from the usual suspects. We were a bit blasé about the crispy halibut with button mushrooms and were happy to move on to the sweets at that point. There are burritos and enchiladas for us to feast on another time, perhaps for lunch with their well-priced sets that start from $98. As they make their ice cream daily, we tried out the corn flavour of the day (last week was cactus) and it was a strangely savoury experience for ice cream but blended well with the Mexican baked banana and could easily have passed for a starter rather than an ender. For anyone who isn’t a fan of a too sweet sweets, this dessert is for you.
The drinks: After indulging in a splash of our favourite horchata and a delightfully sour yet sweet Hibiscus drink, we were stuffed like a Mexican pepper.
The verdict: Good, casual digs, authentic, reasonable eats, a well-priced lunch set and a new favourite edible plant equals the possibility of us returning to the green sea.
24 Tai Wong Street East, Wanchai
Website/Tel: 2810 0888
Mon-Fri 12:00 - 15:00, 17:30 - 22:30
Sat 12:00 - 22:30
Sun 12:00 - 22:00