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Coral Beach Cantina mixes up tradition

Pictured is the mahi mahi in an achiote sauce, served with quinoa, salad and vegetable medley, from Coral Beach Cantina in Malibu. Photos by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Pictured is the Santa Fe salad from the Coral Beach Cantina in Malibu.
Pictured is Coral Beach Cantina’s homemade flan.
Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
12:44 pm PDT July 8, 2014

Despite having achieved its position as a Malibu mainstay, welcoming Zuma Beach tourists and locals alike for several decades, Coral Beach Cantina doesn’t settle for predictable when it comes to its menu choices. 

Although the Mexican restaurant owned by Peter Soli will never do away with its loved and lauded staples — burritos, nachos, tacos and traditionally prepared carnitas and carne asada, among other best-sellers — general manager Cesar Flores said the eatery always wants to give its fans something new to come in for, especially during the peak summer season.

“We want to motivate people to try new dishes,” Flores said. “They might pass by and see a new special item that they’ve never heard of before.”

The most recent special item attracting beach-goers to the Pacific Coast Highway-parallel location is the mahi mahi in an achiote sauce, also known as recado rojo. Although little known to many of Cantina’s customers, the vibrant, deep red sauce is a centuries-old Mayan spice blend served throughout the Yucatan peninsula, which incorporates Mexican oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, annatto, black pepper, allspice, garlic and salt. 

“That’s what makes it special and more original,” Flores said. “It has a distinct, interesting flavor that you wouldn’t expect.”

The bite from the achiote is quelled by the mildness of the mahi mahi — the two are a simple duo that play off the flavors inherent in each. Served with white quinoa, a side salad and a medley of sauteed asparagus, red and green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and zucchini, the dish is not a conventional interpretation of Mexican cuisine.

“Instead of your typical rice and beans, people are looking for something different,” Flores said. “It’s a lighter, healthier option.”

Although the mahi mahi achiote is featured on the specials menu and varies in availability, Flores said the restaurant tries to incorporate a different item each week to give its guests something to look forward to throughout the summer.

But, after a day of surf and sun, Flores said guests will still be able to count on Coral Beach Cantina for the authentic Mexican dishes the restaurant built its name on. 

Other dishes not to miss...

• Santa Fe salad — This dish features grilled chicken a medley of lettuce, corn, black beans, red and white onions and avocado, topped with a creamy Santa Fe dressing made in-house. 

• Flan — This dessert is a traditional Mexican flan, made in-house and topped with chocolate and whipped cream.