Open just over a year, La Cueva has becoming increasingly popular When I visited, the restaurant was packed—and the sounds of sizzling fish and meat filled the relatively small space, which makes for a comfortable and appetizing ambience. While the menu of casual Mexican cuisine covers a lot of territory, it’s the fish tacos that everybody’s talking about.

La Cueva offers four varieties: the sea bass and the tilapia, which are available for $3 apiece, and the shrimp and the breaded halibut, which are $3.25 apiece. Regardless of fish choice, the tacos are bursting with flavor. They are served on two small corn tortillas with grilled bell peppers, onions, cabbage, avocado sauce and spicy chipotle sauce. I particularly liked the halibut—the breading gave it a nice crunch—and the grilled shrimp, which was meaty and lightly seasoned. The fish tacos are also available as part of a plate, which comes with rice, beans and mango salsa. The one-taco plate is $7.50. A two-taco plate runs $9.75 (add 50 cents for shrimp or halibut).

It isn’t necessary to be a seafood lover to appreciate the fish tacos. The flavors are subtle enough and not overly fishy. You do, however, have to enjoy spicy foods; the fish tacos were, as was everything else I ordered, quite spicy.

Two other interesting dishes are the shrimp burrito, $8.25, and the shrimp quesadilla, $9.50. I tried the shrimp quesadilla and really enjoyed it. The shrimp are grilled inside the flour tortilla, along with onions, cheese and bell peppers. The quesadilla is cut up into several bite-size triangles, drizzled with chipotle sauce and served with salsa fresca, guacamole, mango salsa and more chipotle sauce. The texture and flavor of the shrimp blend perfectly with the cheese and grilled veggies. While $9.50 is a little steep for a quesadilla, at least La Cueva doesn’t skimp on the shrimp.

For $3.95, a nice treat is a homemade gordita. Actual gorditas have little in common with the Taco Bell version. They are made of cornmeal, baked and/or fried in a comal (a flat griddle used to cook tortillas), and stuffed with meat, cheese and other fillings. My gordita was prepared more like a sandwich and was stuffed with refried beans, lettuce, tomatillo sauce, sour cream and a choice of meat. I settled on the steak, which wasn’t bad but lacked the vibrant flavors of the fish and shrimp. Meals are accompanied by homemade tortilla chips and tomatillo salsa, which was very fresh and flavorful, but that spiciness can really sneak up on you.

La Cueva
18486 Prospect Road, San Jose; 408.517.8603