Santa Marta red snapper, a whole fish recommended strongly by our server, had been deep-fried so long that the petrified specimen was more suited to mounting on the wall than eating. Not even the promised "sautéed garden of vegetables" could've helped, had they come, which they didn't. What accompanied the fish was a lot of the aforementioned patacones, which in fact accompanied everything except dessert, plus a heap of coconut rice. The latter starch was tasty.
On both visits, though, the kitchen surprised my table just as we were getting real grouchy. Mapalé fish was wonderful, a small but perfectly cooked juicy grouper steak in an elegant, light coconut milk-enriched Creole sauce. But Catalina grilled chicken was the real surprise; given how easy it is to grill skinless white meat chicken bone-dry, I cannot even remember the last time I ate a truly moist butterflied breast. But Mapalé's was both ultrajuicy and full of scrumptious wood-smoke flavor. The chicken came accompanied by unheralded crisp garden vegetables, but no need for runners to panic; there were yuca, patacones, and a heap of rice, too.
Nice decoration, but it can still leave a bland taste
Open 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Call 305-865-7144.
9551 Harding Ave, Surfside
For dessert, passion fruit mousse had a nice tang, but athletes wanting a more perfectly balanced all-carb meal should go for flan, more of a cornstarch-thickened pudding than the usual custard. To drink, the house special is a mix of super-sweet Colombian soda and beer. Are we hopped up yet? But prices are moderate, so no need to worry if you win the race for the check.