Relax, Enjoy, Eat

Phillip Brents

Thu February 26, 2015 6:30pm

An enchanting dining experience by the fountain — whether by day or night — can be had at the Enamorada by Karina’s restaurant in the Village Walk at Eastlake shopping mall. The lush and stylish but not severely overpriced restaurant specializing in Mexican seafood opened two-and-a-half years ago, and has been going strong ever since, according to manager Esmeralda Beltran.
“It’s hands down one of the most popular and authentic for Mexican seafood in San Diego,” Beltran said. “It’s perfect for the Eastlake location because it has a nice family-oriented ambiance as well as an intimate dinner for two for everyone to enjoy.”
We certainly found no complaints here. In fact, this restaurant zoomed to the top of our list of favorite Mexican restaurants, not only just in eastern Chula Vista, but the entire South County region. The atmosphere is casual yet intimate, the staff exudes friendly vibes and the food is downright excellent, even for native Americanos who might be somewhat wary of chile peppers.
Each restaurant in the Karina’s Group has own distinct theme. Enamorada by Karina’s is named after the classic 1946 Mexican film starring Maria Felix. The interior features a cantina, lounge seating, table seating, with piped music and flat screen TV monitors. Classic Mexican films screen on one wall.
The style of the restaurant is that envisioned by the owners’ Mexican roots, according to Beltran. “There are a lot of paintings that capture the ambiance and traditions of Mexico,” she said.
The large painting of a dancing skeleton depicting the Dia de los Muertos celebration situated near the entrance to the restaurant is simply stunning.
Good taste
The menu at the Eastlake eatery is quite extensive but not overwhelming. There’s something delicious for everyone, even if customers’ tastes do not include seafood.
For those who do love seafood, this will seem like heaven. There are seven ceviche options alone.
Add to that soups, eight traditional Mexican dishes, eight shrimp dishes, nine fish dishes, a children’s menu, dessert menu and lunch specials –- and Enamorada by Karina’s quickly has guests hooked.
Among the most popular dishes is the Filete Zarandeado, a charbroiled fish filet accompanied by the restaurant’s own spicy zarandeado sauce served with rice and salad for $16.95.
The zarandeado sauce is akin to a chipotle sauce and is rich in spices. It is creamy — with a chile and garlic-based paste and glazed with mayonnaise — and goes very well with the fish.
Another good choice is the chile relleno plate, which includes a chicken enchilada and is served with sides of rice and black beans.
We found the latter dish to be a perfect introduction to the Enamorada restaurant. The chile relleno is a breaded deep-fried whole Anaheim chile, stuffed with Monterrey Jack, cotija, queso fresco and Mozzarella cheeses. The red ranchero sauce over the chile rellano is very tomato-based. It’s tangy but on the mild side.
The enchilada was stuffed full of tender shredded white meat chicken, topped by a very tangy yet delicious green tomatillo sauce. Beltran said the chile relleno is prepared more to traditional styles in Mexico.
“We added it to our menu because people requested the style,” Beltran said. “We only serve it at the Eastlake restaurant.” Enchiladas suizas can also be ordered separately.
The Shrimp Miguellitos, another popular menu item, can be ordered wither peeled or unpeeled. The dish ($19.95) comes piled high with cooked shrimp in a red chile-based sauce. The sauce is fairly spicy with a nice bite to it. Novices may want to order the shrimp peeled. Otherwise, be sure to request a lot of napkins.
There are more than a half-dozen chile sauces at the restaurant, ranging from mild ranchero sauce to the zarandeado sauce, which tops the list for spiciness.
Seafood surprise
The restaurant’s signature ceviche is the Ceviche Karina’s: chopped shrimp, cucumbers, avocado and cilantro in a spicy chile serrano cilantro sauce. The sauce makes the cocktail a vibrant green. Beltran said the restaurant sells about 50 (at $15.95 each) on a typical weekend.
“A lot of our customers order them as an appetizer,” she said. The restaurant is also known for its Campechana cocktail — a combination of shrimp, octopus, scallops and oysters served cold in a fresh oyster and clam juice. It’s very popular and very spicy.
The Seven Seas Soup (Siente Mares) is chock full of shrimp, octopus, squid, fish (Pollock), scallops, crab, mussels, clams and vegetables. It goes for $15.95. The fish dishes start with grilled salmon ($16.95) and include the Filete Zarandeado.
Specialties include New York steak ($17.95), New York steak and shrimp ($21.95) and the Sky, Sea and Land combination of grilled chicken, steak and shrimp ($22.95). Also on the seafood menu is Puerto Nuevo lobster (sold at market price).
The lunch menu specials (before 4 p.m.) include an array of tacos (from grilled steak to carnitas, from marlin to lobster), quesadillas and a la carte burritos (shrimp and lobster, streak and shrimp).
For starters, try the chips and house salsa with guacamole. The salsa is a bit spicy with a bit of a kick but otherwise on the tame side. The guacamole, made from Hass avocados, is creamy smooth but with some meaty chunks near the bottom. It, too, is on the mild side.
“It just has pepper and salt to taste,” Beltran noted. “If customers want it a bit more spicy, they can add some chiles.”
Great outdoors
There are 15 tables on the outdoor patio, each with shade from an umbrella (and heat lamps for cool nights). We found dining by the fountain to be quite relaxing and conducive to quiet conversation. Dining outdoors can also be quite romantic, according to Beltran.
“There’s more privacy and more of a romantic feel to sitting outdoors and having an intimate conversation,” she said. Enamorada by Karina’s is located at 866 Eastlake Parkway, Suite 110. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.