Canasta Kitchen (Alameda)

1544 Webster St. @Lincoln, Alameda, CA
Dinner Review date: December 2021
This is a branch of the same-named restaurant in Concord. It’s located off the Webster St. tunnel –just across the street from our fav East Ocean Seafood, where we usually go for dim sum. A small, casual space; not fancy, but sparkling clean. They check vaxx cards and the tables are distanced. Menus are on QR cards.

Like most Cal-Mex places, customization is the order of the day. Canasta offers the following meat options: Birria $1, Asada $1; Carnitas, Chicken, Pastor, Cabeza, Chorizo, Lengua, Tripa, Shrimp $1.5; Fish $1.5, Veggies, Pastor Vegan $1.5

I asked the waiter was pastor vegan was. He said it was a soy imitation meat that they make pastor style. Yelp reviews applaud Canasta for being vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Shrimp Ceviche. Holy moly, this was huge! A large bowl full of good-sized, fresh tangy shrimp. It looked like almost a full pound and Spouse was surprised (but happy). Came with a scoop of guacamole, a nice addition. Good housemade chips, too. We don’t mind thick chips, they’re sturdier.

Chiquitas: We ordered the lengua (tongue) in both corn and wheat tortillas. I confirmed with the waiter it came with pico de gallo , but when the plates arrived we were surprised to see they also come with an equal amount of good guacamole. They are well-stuffed with cheese and diced meat, and ordering both is the equivalent of a full entrée. Canasta does not salt the meat, so the flavor of the lengua was better appreciated in the wheat tortilla. The corn was good, but the meat (no matter what filling) needs to be salted to hold up against the more robust grain flavor and generous cheese.

Crispy Taquitos Chicken, mild salsa verde. Mild is the default salsa here, unless you specify you want it hotter. The taquitos were well-stuffed with sliced chicken breast, but too dry from the deep-frying. Not bad, but not worth ordering again. With a fattier/juicier filling, perhaps a chorizo, they would be more appealing. Even salsa on the side wasn’t enough to make these little rolls of interest to either of us. There are four to an order, corn tortillas about 4” long when rolled.

Canastaco Fish Tacos: Although there was only two tacos on the platter, they were generously filled with fried battered fish. Spouse doesn’t always care for crema but Canasta’s pink-hued version, which is only mildly spicy, tasted like Thousand Island without the pickles, so he was fine with it. There was a double-sized cup of guacamole, which we appreciated. I liked the shredded lettuce instead of cabbage, as I’m not fond of slaw. Spouse was disappointed Canasta uses only whole pinto beans for the side of rice’n’beans.

Despite the double tortilla wrapping, Canasta’s fish portion is so generous it makes them hard to pick up neatly. I ate a couple of fish pieces separately before eating the last one in the tortilla shell. The fish was very good, fresh and nicely fried. Spouse and I shared this plate, but next time I wouldn’t mind ordering one just for myself.

We both liked that Canasta lightly griddles the corn tortillas, giving it just a bit of crispness. They don’t have the decadent greasy spoon oiliness of Gordo’s/Albany quesadilla tacos, but Canasta’s healthier version doesn’t hit your stomach like lead, either.

Spouse had a Mexican coke and lime; I stuck with water. We were too full for dessert, but it might be interesting to try the mango panna cotta next time. We’ll be back – next go-around, it’ll be to try the carnitas. If we’re really lucky, they’ll have the cabeza – we love goat meat!

Two people, dinner: three starters, one main, one beverage. With tax but without tip, $47.