Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Best Fish Taco North of the Border


The Baja fish taco at Nick's Crispy Tacos is a revelation. Never mind north of the border, it's possibly the best fish taco anywhere. Only one of several delicious tacos available, the Baja fish taco is easily the most popular of the 1000 tacos a day that Nick's sells. What makes a taco worthy of such high praise? As with any great food, it has to do with the ingredients, the technique in preparing it and the actual person who prepared or conceived of it.

The ingredients are simple: a generous piece of fresh fish, often mahi-mahi or local albacore, fried crispy on the outside and tender on the inside in a beer batter, a roasted tomato salsa, some shredded red onion and cabbage, a dribble of delectable lime mayonnaise dressing and a sprig of cilantro, all wrapped in fresh corn tortillas. While some fish tacos use thresher shark, Nick a devoted surfer believes in the saying, "if you don't eat me, I won't eat you".

What makes this taco so special really comes down to Nick Fasanella, proprietor of Nick's Crispy Tacos. Fasanella is not your average taqueria proprietor. He is not Mexican. He didn't grow up eating tacos. He's not even from the West Coast where taquerias are so prevalent. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at several highly rated, James Beard awarded top-notch restaurants such as The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia and Chef Allen's in South Florida.

But perhaps it's Fasanella's out of the ordinary background that makes this taco so out of the ordinary. A chef by trade, after working in various restaurants, he spent six years cooking for private clients on yachts, all the while sailing around the world. He made it to Mexico by accident when a storm re-routed the boat he was sailing on and he quickly fell in love with the food. Visiting San Francisco he became aware of the popularity of taquerias and decided owning his own taqueria was going to be his next career move.

When asked about the recipe, Nick says, "it's really no big secret, being a chef, you know how you want something to taste". It's also worth noting he uses the best sustainable ingredients he can get his hands on, and prepares everything to order. What's next for Nick? Bringing fresh, relatively inexpensive, delicious taqueria-style Mexican food to the East Coast is his dream. And a dream we whole-heartedly support.

Best Fish Taco North of The Border goes to Nick Fasanella
Nick's Crispy Tacos
1500 Broadway @ Polk, San Francisco CA
415.409.8226
For more about the Independent Food Festival & Awards, please visit TasteEverything.org