If seafood is what you’re after then you need to do yourself a favor and head for La Cocina de Marina in Antigua Guatemala.
The food is great, and there’ll be more about that later in this post, but first Yokobsens want to tell you about the restaurant‘s life force, Marina herself.
She must be all of 4 ft. 10 inches and she’s a jolt of energy and warm greeting as soon as you walk into her eatery, located just about five minutes northwest of Antigua Guatemala’s Parque Central.
The small restaurant specializes in fresh seafood and what’s available that day depends on what Marina has decided to cook. There’s usually about six choices on offer and Marina rhymes them off at lightening speed. Paella is one of her specialities. Once you’ve placed your order, Marina goes to the back of the restaurant where you can watch her cook and talk to her the way you would if you were sitting in an old friend’s kitchen.
While she cooked our order — spaghetti with a selection of seafood — we learned of: her upcoming marriage (so excited, so many things to do); the price of fish this time of the year (really expensive, the cold weather is making the fish go deeper and harder to net); plans for upcoming Holy Week (a carpet of flowers is planned for outside the restaurant, with the price of flowers quadrupling around Easter, but what can you do, right?).
Marina’s restaurant is dressed in a curtained fish motif with many posters featuring Italian cuisine. Maria wants you to know right away that she cooks with 100 percent virgin olive oil and only fresh ingredients honor the sea’s bounty.
Marina speaks a rapid and charming brand of Spanglish that is very easy to follow and she tends to cook in an Italian-inspired way, ergo the olive oil and simple treatment of food, a l’italienne. Good ingredients and simple cooking make for a fine plate of food anytime. Olive oil was speared with a dash of chile and lots of garlic. Marina asks first if you like that sort of thing before she proceeds with the serious science before her.
While she tended to the next course, we enjoyed a first course, a light chicken broth with infusion of fish, carrots and hint of cilantro. Our entre order of spaghetti was perfectly al dente and graced with the presence of shrimp, oysters on the half shell, calamari, squid and a medallions of zucchini. She was up front with us about the oysters’ origins — caught in Newfoundland, frozen and revived just for us. They were great and still had plenty of sea magic taste to them.
Yolkobsens shared a bottle of chilled Chilean white wine, with a glass of it going into the cooking pot for extra flavor. We were delighted with our meal. Cost of the meal with the wine (minus that sacrificed to the recipe) was about one quarter of what you would pay for something similar in Toronto, Chicago etc. But even if these northern restaurants could muster the same cuisine, they still would not have Marina, the true secret ingredient.
La Cocina de Marina is located at 7a Avenida Sur #6, Antigua Guatemala.