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Saturday, August 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 59.0° F  Fair
Eats

TABLE TALK

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Humberto Macías and Angel Medina
El Pescador, 2810 E. Washington Ave.
on
Medina
(right): 'We want to have something for everyone's taste.'
Medina (right): 'We want to have something for everyone's taste.' Credit:Susan Kepecs

OCCUPATION: Macías, with partners, owns El Pescador and also Laredo's. Medina is the chef and manager.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Chef Medina's beautifully plated nueva cocina mexicana is a must for any bona fide Mad City foodie.

What was your vision for El Pescador? Macías: Marisquerías - seafood restaurants - are very popular in Mexico, and we offer ceviches, cocteles, mojarra frita (fried tilapia) - very traditional. We also have bean burritos, chicken enchiladas - people who don't like fish expect to find those things on a Mexican menu. But there's much more competition when it comes to traditional Mexican food than there was when we started Laredo's nine years ago. We wanted to try a new concept here, do something creative. Angel's a chef, not just a cook - and our main plates are the chef's recipes. They're not authentic, but this food is heavily influenced by our homeland.

Do you catch your fish in Lake Mendota? Medina: Of course not! We get our seafood from Empire, in Milwaukee. Their quality and variety is the best - they bring me perfect Pacific shrimp, clams, mussels, swordfish, mahi-mahi, red snapper, squid, calamar - everything.

I come from Guadalajara myself. I was 16 when I started washing dishes in an Italian restaurant in California. I spent 13 years there. I moved up to prep cook, and the owner gave me the opportunity to go to chef school in San Francisco. Later I opened three restaurants in Nevada, and also worked for a banquet service. There were hundreds of chefs there from all over the world. We shared recipes, so I learned to create my own dishes.

In Mexico there were eight of us, growing up. The boys didn't cook, but after I came to the States I got really interested in what my mom made. I was remembering her salsas in my imagination, so when I went home I'd ask her how to do this and that. I'd help her in the kitchen. That's where I get my Mexican flair. To this day I like to go into people's kitchens, when I'm invited to eat in their homes. I always want to learn what they do to make their dishes special.

How did your paths cross?Medina: I came to Madison because I had family here. I was working at the Concourse Hotel when I met Humberto. Turns out he's from Guadalajara, too. He told me he wanted to do a seafood restaurant, and since I had experience with all kinds of food I helped him with the menu, so here I am.

What are your favorites? Macías: Mine's the caldo de siete mares - soup of the seven seas. Our customers love it, too - we sell over 300 siete mares every month. And the ceviche's from my childhood. We'd go buy some every weekend, for a treat.

Medina: One of my favorite plates is the filet of salmon in a sauce of sundried tomatoes and mushrooms with white wine, garlic and cream. It comes with a potato gratin cake. I'm also partial to the crab cakes, with cold black bean salad and an avocado salsa. To be honest, I like the filet Oscar, too - filet mignon with crabmeat. It's not very Mexican, but we want to have something for everyone's taste.

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