I've only managed two so far, the classic Villa Saverios, where Tijuana's well-heeled eat high style Baja-Mediterranean food (above). And the new Erizo Cebicheria, a casual seafood bistro. Erizo means sea urchin, which is sometimes on hand, but not when I was there.
The restaurants do have a couple of things in common. Both serve Plascencias' mosaic-like octopus carpaccio (Erizo's version is at right. The greens in the center are slivered nopales) and his thin-crusted pizza that's like a cheese course and dessert combined. It's topped with Baja's Real del Castillo cheese, then quince paste, fig syrup, pomegranate seeds and thyme sprigs.
And each has a signature cocktail--a tamarind martini at Saverios, Peru's pisco sour at Erizo, where you can have it plain or dolled up with flavors such as mango, passion fruit and pomegranate.
With your tamarind martini at Villa Saverios, you could have a trio of tiny tostadas (right), one topped with spider crab, another with geoduck clam and a third with a combination of Sonora dried beef and octopus machaca.
If the only chile relleno you know is a green chile stuffed with cheese and coated with batter, you would be amazed at Saverios' pasilla chile stuffed with beef cheek sweetened with fig granules, surrounded by heirloom beans and topped with arugula.
The duck taco at Saverios is just as inventive. The wrap is a thin slice of jicama, not a tortilla. A spoonful of green habanero salsa lies underneath, crossed by a red line of jamaica salsa. Jamaica flowers are scattered over the top.
Plascencia does an interesting risotto based on his grandmother's recipe, switching from rice to farro and inorporating crisp suckling pig, sliced morels, heirloom beans and, in the center, shredded nopales.
He honors Tijuana tradition with two classic Caesar salads, the original from the Hotel Caesar and another from Victor's, which some insist is the best.
In a side by side comparison, Victor's seemed a little lighter and more vinegary. But the tableside presentation made them both winners.
Villa Saverios is upscale and dressy. Erizo is a nice place to spend a lazy afternoon. It's on a pleasant street, Avenida Sonora, where the Plascencia family restaurants Caffe Saverios and La Tia are also located.
The seafood menu is extensive. The 10 ceviches include one modeled on what Plascencia tasted in Peru. True to Peruvian style, it is dressed up with red onion, chunks of yam and corn, only not the giant corn used in Peru. Perhaps that's not available in Tijuana.
One called petroleo, which includes a variety of seafood, apparently gets its name from the addition of squid ink.
Erizo does some clever innovations, like birria made with fish instead of meat and swordfish cochinita modeled on Yucatan's achiote-seasoned cochinita pibil (pit-steamed suckling pig).
Toritos are deep fried batter-coated guero (yellow) chiles stuffed with shrimp and crab. Aguachile combines two types of scallops with bright fresh seasonings sparked with lime juice and serrano chile.
And there's a dramatic salt-crusted whole corvina (right) that is stuffed with herbs and lemon slices and carved at the table. It's accompanied by a garlicky yellow salsa de pescado packed with flavor from ginger, citrus butter, white wine and Peruvian aji amarillo (yellow chile).
The inventive approach to fresh seafood makes Erizo a destination place. But so do its "Tardes de Pisco Sour," a daily afternoon special when the drink price is reduced. The good thing is that afternoons at Erizo continue from 4 to 9 p.m.
Villa Saverios, Blvd. Sanchez Taboada, corner Escuadron 201 in the Zona Rio, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. Tel: (from USA) 01152 (664) 686-6502
Erizo Cebicheria, Avenida Sonora 3808-11, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. Tel: 01152 (664) 686-2895.