The Cortez is undoubtedly one of the most talked about restaurants in North Carolina and the Southeast right now. The dynamic duo of Chef Oscar Diaz and Creative Director Charlie Ibarra have been putting in work since day one to craft this tropically chill seafood-focused restaurant in Raleigh. Chef Oscar was featured in our Hottest Chefs of the Triangle Calendar, but I was embarrassed to admit I hadn’t checked out his restaurant after it opened and before I moved to Korea. With my reputation (ha!) at stake, I made sure to check it out while I was home a few months ago.
We ordered many dishes to sample a bit of everything, as well as were treated by several plates sent out by Chef Oscar. While the menu leans heavily towards seafaring offerings, there are many specials and land options sure to fit your taste preference and/or food allergy needs.
I think lots of places shy away from acidity, when really, it’s a key component to make any dish well-rounded. This ceviche was just the tart start I was craving to kick off a seafood feast.
Spicy Chowda Fries
Of all the menu items, this was far and away the most suggested by my friends to order. I love fries (any style of potato, really) and seafood chowder (more potatoes). It wasn’t hard to say this was a match made in heaven for me.
It’s not a secret I’m obsessed with oysters. I usually take them with just a squeeze of lemon, but these babies were creamy and dreamy with the addition of weed butter, garlic, prosciutto and parmesan.
I don’t usually opt for swordfish, as I find the flavor to be a bit metallic. However, Chef Oscar really changed my mind after this one. The filling was delicate, yet rich without the heaviness I typically associate with swordfish.
Kimchi Tuna Sliders with Fried Oysters
Can’t really complain about this. A perfectly seasoned tuna slider topped with salty, briny kimchi sandwiched between a soft roll. How does it get thrown over the top? A side of juicy fried oysters.
Gambas Al Ajillo
Shell-on shrimp isn’t for everyone, but it’s a go for me. You can take your time peeling the shrimp and licking your fingers after every bite. Or, you can go my route and enjoy the crispy, charred shell and all.
The Cortez is an amalgamation of so many food traditions and cultures that just works. Southern seafood availability, Chef Oscar’s Mexican-American heritage and the influence of countries and foods visited along his culinary journey all seamlessly blend into the Cortez. It really is a force to be reckoned with and I look forward to my next meal to see how they continue to celebrate the versatility of seafood.
Thank you to Chef Oscar, Charlie and their staff for taking great care of us. Thank you to my pal Meg for the photos. Like what you’re reading? Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and check in for my regular posts over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.