by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
Why would you go to a Mexican restaurant that’s between a donut shop and a 7-11, where the booths look like refugees from a fast food place, with mirrors that will keep the children busy making faces until the food arrives, and a TV is stuck up in a corner by the ceiling?
For the food, of course.
Carnitas y Mariscos Colima is on Jensen Avenue in Sanger, in the second block east of Greenwood. Brush up on your Spanish before you go (or bring a translator), because some things aren’t explained in English on the menu. “Mariscos” means seafood, “Carne” is meat, and “Carnitas” means “little meats,” usually pork that has been braised and roasted.
The start-your-meal salsa is thick; a wake-up shot that says “Arriba! (UP!)” to your salivary system.
The seafood at Colima’s is very interesting. I’m not used to coming eye to eye with dinner, and it had never happened until I ordered their guachinango (red snapper). He arrived in a coating of pico de gallo (“rooster beak” uncooked salsa), adorned with avocado strips, and giving me the fish-eye, because his head and tail were still attached! Later, I found out that I could have ordered it headless, but the un-decapitated fish was a surprise, and a tasty one.
Mojarra (tilapia) also is served with head and tail, but it comes onion-draped with a mojo de ajo sauce. “mojo de ajo” translates as “heap of garlic,” and it does deliver, to the joy of taste buds everywhere.
Camarones is shrimp, and Colima’s gets a lot of yummy out of little bits of sea life. Camarones empanizados is a basic breaded shrimp, nicely done and delicious. Fajitas de camaron is grilled shrimp in a buttery sauce that draws the eye and makes you wish for more. In camarones al mojo de ajo, the butterflied shrimp soak up the onion and that wonderful pile of garlic to create a mind-altering experience.
Colima’s chiles rellenos (green chiles, stuffed, batter-dipped, and fried: sort of like a chile omelet) is solid and gently spicy. By the way, they serve up one of the most scrumptious horchata drinks I have ever had, with the rice water clinging to the cinnamon like a long-lost love.
At most restaurants, a tostada is a dried-out Frisbee of tortilla with a slosh of refried beans, some cheese and meat, and a few shreds of lettuce, with maybe a blob of guacamole and/or sour cream on top. Colima’s presents you with a mountain of tomato-and-cheese-topped lettuce over cheese that is melting into a pile of meat and a layer of beans. There has to be a tortilla under all of that, because when you try to cut into the mound, the whole thing slides across your plate. Talk about “a movable feast!”
Carnitas is in the restaurant’s name, and carnitas is on the menu. The pork is falling apart as you watch, yet it has a satisfying crunchiness when you load it along with the rice and the stick-to-your-fork refried beans into tender tortillas. This is soul food Mexicano.
Colima’s is a well-loved part of Sanger, and it is usually a busy place…and it echoes. It isn’t a place for quiet conversation, but it is a place to enjoy what you eat.
Carnitas y Mariscos Colima is located at 1849 Jensen Ave, Sanger, CA 93657. It is open 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, while the hours on Friday through Sunday are 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. For more information, call (559) 875-5388.