Chef Carlos Falcon claims saltwater is in his veins.
The youngest of seven children born to Emma Ortiz, Falcon grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, watching his mother prepare authentic Mexican seafood dishes.
“Being the youngest, it was my job to help my mother cook and then sell her food on the streets,” Falcon says. “Cooking is my life. It is my passion.”
Falcon moved to the Kansas City area in 1994, and 20 years later opened Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos in Kansas City, Kan., after attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he honed French cooking techniques. The term “Jarocho” describes the people of Veracruz.
Falcon has a menu of nearly 40 fresh seafood and shellfish dishes he prepares for customers, and seafood is flown in daily. At first glance, the 60-seat restaurant appears to be another taqueria in Wyandotte County, save for the brightly blue painted exterior that is reminiscent of the waters where the seafood originated.
Dollar oysters are the popular special on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but on a slower evening, you might ask to eat omakase-style, which is chef’s choice ($45 for up to seven courses and $70 for up to 12 courses). Ceviches, soups and bone-in fish are made daily for the regular clientele, including patrons who drive from Wichita just for a meal made by Falcon.
Falcon’s seafood dishes incorporate butter and Asian flavors: soy sauce, gingerroot, wasabi and Thai chilies, which are an homage to his classical training and the influence of his wife, Sayaka.
Falcon’s Mussels in a Wheat Beer Broth is a one-pot wonder, rich with butter and Boulevard’s popular ale, tasty with jalapeno heat and finished with Chinese parsley or cilantro. This dish costs between $8 and $12, depending on the market price of mussels.
“The Prince Edward Island mussels are my favorite,” Falcon says. “And, after making these mussels, the unused bottles of beer are for people to enjoy with the dish.”
▪ Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos, 719 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., 913-281-7757, JarochoKC.com
Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos’ Mussels in a Wheat Beer Broth
The Broadway Butcher Shop, 3828 Broadway, sells a 2-pound bag of Prince Edward Island mussels for $10. Call Stuart Aldridge at 816-931-2333 to order or check availability.
Makes 6 servings
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 jalapeno pepper, washed, seeded and finely diced
1 small sweet onion, skin removed and finely minced
6 cloves garlic, skins removed and finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups seafood stock
1 (12-ounce) bottle Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer
1 (2-pound) parcel fresh Prince Edward Island mussels, cleaned and beards removed
1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 rustic loaf French or Italian bread, optional for dipping
In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, melt butter over high heat on stovetop. Add jalapeno, onion and garlic to pot and season with salt and pepper. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour seafood stock and beer into pot and bring to a boil. Add mussels to pot, making sure to discard any opened shellfish before cooking. Immediately put lid tightly on pot and boil for 2 minutes, or until mussels have opened. (If a mussel has not opened after boiling for the allotted time, discard it.)
Ladle mussels and broth into individual serving dishes. Sprinkle cilantro over top of each bowl and serve with bread for dipping into broth, if desired.
Per serving, based on 6: 466 calories (72 percent from fat), 36 grams total fat (21 grams saturated), 130 milligrams cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 1,187 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.