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I have to admit that finding a good place to enjoy great seafood in Ensenada is about as difficult as finding prime grade steak in Omaha, Nebraska. But, no matter where you happen to dine, there always seems to be different levels of nuance, preparation and presentation skill that ends up elevating the cuisine of one restaurant above that of another.

And many times, whether an eatery offers a fancy, upscale exterior or has the modest aura of a pedestrian neighborhood café, the level of the establishment’s appearance can bear very little resemblance to the quality of meals actually served therein.

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Although I have driven past El Primo Nava on many occasions traversing Avenida Lopez Mateos while running errands in downtown Ensenada, it took a strong recommendation from a friend whose taste I have faith in to finally prompt me to actually stop there for lunch a few weeks back.

The true size and seating capacity of the restaurant can not be appreciated until you walk up the stairs and through their doors. It is a spacious venue with high, pressboard ceilings that appears to be capable of serving well over 100 diners at a single sitting.

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While certainly not fancy, this popular family style seafood restaurant is extremely clean, well lit and staffed by a competent team of friendly waiters. They even have menus printed in both Spanish and English. I would suggest, however, that unless you like big crowds, you might want to visit on a weekday; it can become absolutely jammed with festive local patrons over the weekend.

From succulent shrimp, calamari and fresh fish to oysters, clams and octopus; there are few popular species that exist in our regional waters that are not available at El Primo Nava. Of course, every seafood lover is bound to have their own personal preferences when it comes to this type of cuisine, but one of mine happens to be Baja’s quintessential clam concoction known as Almejas Gratinadas.

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Almejas Gratinadas topped with shrimp and gourmet butter sauce is a house favorite. This toothsome combination of chunks of fresh Pismo clam and condiments topped with cheese and baked in the shell has always been one of my personal favorites. While this recipe is executed admirably by many of Ensenada’s better seafood restaurants, a version served at El Primo Nava that is topped with shrimp and a buttery, epicurean sauce truly takes the dish to a new level.

Another popular specialty is their decadent rendition of Camarones Costal Azul, which is made with large shrimp stuffed with a crabmeat mix, wrapped in bacon, baked and then topped with a rich béarnaise sauce moments before serving. They also have terrific soups, stews, salads and cocktails for those with a taste for something a bit lighter.

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El Primo Nava is the perfect place to take guests who are visiting our area and say that they ‘want to eat seafood where the locals do’; but it is also a prime choice when you are done with a busy day shopping in town, and suddenly find yourself craving a fresh and tasty treat from the sea!

MARISCOS EL PRIMO NAVA. Ave. Lopez Mateos 1561, Esquina Con Hidalgo, Zona Centro. Ensenada B.C. Mexico Telefono: 646 204 4206 E-mail: primo@elprimonava.com

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