Fish is the focus at Knoxville restaurant Mariscos Pacifico Nayarit

Let’s start with a translation: In Spanish, mariscos is seafood, Pacifico refers to the big ocean, and Nayarit is a state in southern Mexico, just north of Jalisco. In total, the name conveys that this newish Mexican-food restaurant specializes in seafood. That distinction was enough to draw me and The Grub Spouse to its Kingston Pike address, formerly occupied by Casen’s Steakhouse and, before that, a place called Slawger’s (a terrible name for a restaurant).

Inside, things didn’t look much different from what I remember, except that the coat of light-blue wall paint the new owners have added makes the place seem much brighter than the tomb-like Casen’s atmosphere.

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The voluminous, spiral-bound menu does, indeed, offer many seafood dishes and in a wide variety of categories. For example, appetizers include fried calamari and fish quesadillas. There are entire categories devoted to ceviche (raw fish cured in citrus juices) and aquachiles (raw shrimp submerged in liquid seasoned with chili peppers, lime juice and more). Even scanning the listings of tostadas, soups and molcajetes, ingredients like prawns, tilapia and scallops were prominent. House specials include dishes like langosta estilo Nayarit (lobster) and pulpo al carbon (grilled octopus).

The Filete Rey at Mariscos Pacifico Nayarit is smothered with generous amounts of white fish, shrimp, octopus and other briny goodies. It was served with warm, buttered bread, seasoned French fries and white rice.

We were tempted by the camarones rellenos (bacon-wrapped shrimp with cheese) appetizer but wound up ordering the empanadas de camaron — shrimp and cheese empanadas ($9.99). For our main dishes, I decided to try the Filete Rey ($19.99), described on the menu as being a fish fillet stuffed with seafood (no further details given). I had come very close to ordering a fried snapper dish but changed my mind at the last second, when I learned that the Filete Rey was grilled.  

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