Vuelve a la Vida Revisited - Houston

I had completely forgotten about this, but oyster season is getting away from us and I wanted to try this ‘return to life’ coctel while they are still tasty. I went back to Ostioneria La Reyna first. This place’s coctele de camaron had not been as good a Mar Azul’s but I hadn’t tried the Vuelve here.

The preliminaries:

Thick, house-cooked chips, a steaming bowl of hot sauce (maybe just Valentina heated up) and a small cup of another hot sauce that seemed to have perhaps clam juice in it, plus tomatoes and red onions. I had wondered before if the veggie bowl was supposed to be add-ins for the cocteles but this was brought out before I had ordered the Vuelve.

Then the main attraction. That’s a heck of a big goblet and I couldn’t get far enough back to get more of it in the shot without standing up. The menu just says camaron, ostiones y pulpo but I thought I detected a couple of pieces of pescado, too. That’s okay by me; the one at Mar Azul included not only fish but squid.

Along with the coctel came a basket of saltines and a small bowl of iced lime wedges. I was digging in, enjoying the sweetness of the ketchup as a relief from the hot sauces until the heat of the minced jalapenos started kicking in. The pulpo was not overdone and tough as it sometimes is and there was a lot of it, the oysters were small (spoon-size) but tasty and there was a lot of shrimp - the bottom quarter of the goblet was almost solid shrimp. I don’t know how they can put all this in there for the price ($11.99). The oysters really do make a huge difference - this is a coctel I will avoid out of season.

There was a more generous portion of avocado than on the shrimp cocktail I had had here but I might not have missed it at all if it hadn’t been present. The only negative thing about the visit was the crackers - stale and hard.

I really wanted to like this place. I like the simpler, brighter, more open decor than Mar Azul. It has a kind of fast-food place feel but that’s okay by me - it’s not a chain. I came away more pleased than I expected to be.

All the other customers were sitting at the bar when I came in, I saw big bowls of caldo de mariscos with their crab legs jutting up over the side and one diner apparently had the makings for some DIY seafood tacos. By the time I left, several tables were also full. This waitress spoke almost no English but that was not a problem for me.

I expect to return to try some other dishes but I will also indulge in this again and I can’t wait to get over to Mar Azul soon to try their version while the season is still on.

In the meantime I had also noticed this thread on the SF board - something that’s new to me. La Reyna has a rojo, verde and borracho version - the latter includes habanero, jalapeno, caribe and cebolla. I don’t know if I’m hardy enough to try that last one.

Website, with menu and lots of pictures.

I guess there are different versions of vuelve a la vida? They only time I’ve ordered it was at La Fisheria, and it was a soup. A very fishy soup.

I noticed that last August when I was looking for versions to try. Apparently upscale places serve it as a soup (chilled?) like at La Fisheria and America’s on West Gray. The pic I saw on Yelp of the dish at Peska looked like a ceviche presentation. This is a coctel (coctele?), like a shrimp cocktail and I’ve just found it at taquerias, ostionerias, etc.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold