Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Last longer in bed with La Palapa's "Mattress Breaker"

Posted By on 06.05.13 at 04:39 PM

rompecolchon, aka The Mattress Breaker
  • Mike Sula
  • Rompecolchon, aka the "Mattress Breaker"
Mariscos joints—where huge quantities of occasionally less-than-pristine seafood accommodate not just budgetary deficits, but libidinal ones—abound around town. And it's fairly easy to spot the ones worth your time. There's a place in my Albany Park neighborhood I can't bear to report on, because in the year or so it's been open I've never seen anyone eating inside.* It's the places that have a consistent following of eaters who hunch over heaping platters of raw ostiones and head-on langostinos, like El Barco and Mariscos el Veneno in the Ukrainian Village, that you can depend on.

McKinley Park's BYO La Palapa is one too, and also boasts the recommendation of no less a discriminating personage than Goat King Juan Zaragoza. And that's not just because of the giant gore-pussed great white shark that announces its presence on the carswept corner of Damen and 34th. At least it's sheltered by fencing and the palm-thatched umbrellas that mimic the Mexican seaside joints that all of these places owe their shtick to.

Part of that shtick, and one a disproportionate number of men seem to endorse, is the idea that ingesting large quantities of shellfish and crustaceans will impart staying power in amorous situations. Thus you'll see, among the cocteles, ceviches, and deep bowls of fishy soups, hombre-sized platters of things like the mataviejitas, or "lady killer,"** a "sauce -smathered" shrimp, octopus, and oyster combo; and the rompecolchon, or "mattress breaker," sauteed shrimp, octopus, and krab on a mountain of rice, which bestows such strength upon the lustful that the typical unreinforced box spring simply doesn't have a chance.

I wouldn't know. I sleep standing up.***

camarones La Palapa

But in terms of taste, what really works for this dish, and many others other on La Palapa's menu, is the dissolute use of butter, which slicks the rice and seafood, adding richness to the more piercing contributions of onions, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro. You see this across the menu, particularly with dishes like camarones La Palapa, seasoned with a secret house-made sauce which a manager I asked would only admit contained butter and "some spices," but which surely also includes a typical vinegar-based hot sauce and perhaps Maggi-brand seasoning.

quesadilla de las camarones a la Mexicana
  • Mike Sula
  • Quesadilla de las camarones a la Mexicana

Perhaps the greatest application of this sauce is available by special request, first innovated by Friend of the Food Chain Jeff Bushofsky. That would be the quesadilla de camarones a la Mexicana, a thick house-made corn tortilla folded over snappy sweet shrimp, sauteed in butter, onions, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro, all bound together by gooey melted chihuahua cheese. Ask for the sauce—insist on it, because some servers seem to think it's weird—to be added with the regular filling and you'll be rewarded with something really worth getting randy over.

La Palapa

La Palapa, 2000 W. 34th, 773-376-9620, lapalapamariscos.com

*Apart, regrettably, from myself. Details spared.
** Not to be confused with the nombre de muerte of female serial killer and lucha libress Juana Barraza.
*** Like a stallion!

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