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Mariscos Altamar pleases with packed platters

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Mariscos Altamar’s Coconut Plate presents a zesty seafood cocktail and plenty of color. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mariscos Altamar’s Coconut Plate presents a zesty seafood cocktail and plenty of color.
We set out on a fruitful fishing expedition.

We floated through the Southeast side, searching for a fallback after being turned away from a spot annoyingly not open during posted hours. Casting our net over a half-vacant strip mall nearby, we spied Mariscos Altamar, a surprise because it had failed to ping our sonar after apparently being open a few years. (Location, location, location ... plus a lack of publicity or active social media.)

It was also a surprise because it defies the setting, with a capable Sonoran- and Sinaloan-style seafood-forward menu highlighted by bountiful platters, thoughtfully presented amidst a sea-themed atmosphere complete with blue walls and even a lively fish tank at the entryway. Continue onward into a modest but noticeably tidy dining area, drowned in the noise of Mexican soccer matches on a central overhead TV, and quickly an authenticity shows, beyond the fact that the staff predominantly speaks Spanish.

Mariscos Altamar offers a menu you won’t find elsewhere in town (i.e. not the typical Tex-Mex spread, though many of those familiar items can be found here too). Take for instance a $15.99 Seafood Coconut Plate — listed for one; it fed two of us heartily — staged with a cored young coconut with chopped coconut pieces scattered beside it as if they’d blown out the top, like a volcano. Tajin, a fruit seasoning composed of dehydrated lime juice, salt and chili pepper powder, dusts the top of those pieces for a zesty entry point, and some tomato, onion and citrus slices scatter the rest of the plate along with a couple head-on shrimp.
Location Details Mariscos Altamar
3105 S. Academy Blvd.
Airport
Colorado Springs, CO
471-4472
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

But get back to that coconut bowl, man! Within, we find a piquant cocktail broth, like a runny, spicy Bloody Mary, sharply acidic, spiced and darkened by another condiment: Mexico Lindo brand’s Picante Negra “black” hot sauce. And in this broth we find refreshing cucumber cubes with sharp red onion and tomato, and bits of swimming soft shrimp, and tender-enough octopus, with (seldom-if-ever-seen-locally) abalone. Not recalling when either of us last ate said sea snail, we research on our phones as we dine on the tough meat, which we learn stores energy as glycogen, not fat, making the protein quite dense and nutritious.

All told, it’s just a fun dish on which to co-dine, and the staff even pours us two cups of the water drained from our coconut, so we get a hydrating accompaniment to a sweet limonada mineral, a frothy limeade made more crisp and complex with mineral water.

On a subsequent visit, Negra Modelo in hand, we share the love again with an even beefier $27.99 Sea and Land Platter (for two; we’d say three to four), served atop a foil-wrapped plate on a mini parilla (charcoal grill), with a stack of corn tortillas and side plates of Mexican rice with small salads and potato slices. Juicy, seasoned grilled chicken strips join a tangy, chewy carne asada mound, next to thin-breaded fish pieces and crunchy, dark-red hued, chicharrón-like fried chicken fat-and-skin pieces. Still more: bacon-wrapped fried hot dog and shrimp pieces (flavors of a loaded torta in one bite) and bacon-wrapped, shrimp- and cheese-stuffed yellow jalapeños — hefty luchadores of mingle-plate fare.

Garnish with mini-lime squeezes, commercial hot sauces from a provided array, a pretty smoldering house salsa from a bottle, or mayo and ketchup if you can’t help but be a gringo even when you’ve washed ashore on a treasure island.

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