July 30, 2008
If you ever find yourself in Lívingston, Guatemala (on the Caribbean coast), go straight to the Restaurante Bahía Azul and order the tapado. It may be the most expensive thing on the menu (Q90, or about $13), but, by golly, it´s worth it. In fact, to my mind, it´s pretty much the only reason to go to Lívingston at all (illustrated by the fact that I´m not even going to bother writing about the rest of our experience there). Incidentally, if you do ever find yourself in Lívingston, Guatemala, don´t even think about staying (notice I didn´t say "sleeping," or "showering," or even "flushing the toilet") at the Hotel Río Dulce.
My guidebook describes the meal thus: "Tapado is probably the region´s signature dish, a seafood soup that´s a superb mix of fish (typically snapper), prawns, coconut milk, peppers, plantain and spices." Cristie and I shortened it to: "Wow."
That tapado was one of the more complicated and adventurous meals either of us had ever eaten, and the meal was punctuated by disbelieving exclamations and peals of laughter as we continually unearthed new discoveries in our bowls. The plantain was absent, but just about everything else you could imagine was there -- fish, clams, crab, whole shrimp (including the heads and googly black eyes, which we weren´t brave enough to swallow), squid, and probably more that I either can´t remember or we couldn´t identify.
Now, let me clarify two things. When I say there was fish in the tapado, I mean there was a fish in the tapado. As in, a whole fish, draped across the bottom of the bowl, with its head (eyes, teeth and all) peeking out on one side and its tail on the other. (We ate around our fishes for a while, marveling at them, then finally broke down and asked the waitress how on earth we were supposed to eat them. She pulled the plates out from beneath our soup bowls and told us to lif the fishes out of the soup and eat them off the plates. Of course!) And when I say there was crab in the tapado, I mean there was an entire crab in the tapado. I was practically crying with laughter when I discovered my crab, because I had foolishly assumed that it was just a few crab legs floating around in the broth, and that I had discovered everything there was to be discovered.
Ah, tapado memories. Photos and videos will eventually be up on Flickr, and I´ll try to remember to put a note back here when they are.
Update: Photos and videos from Lívingston are up! They can be found here.