PICTURED: Ceviche de pescado with tortilla chips. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com

DV’s Mexican Grill
3845 Telegraph Road, Ventura
805-535-4377
dvsmexicanfood.com
$4-$17


The Lopez family is familiar to Mexican food fans through their first restaurant, La Parrilla in Ventura. This establishment near Ventura College gives customers a taste of the Yucatan along with more familiar Mexican favorites like carne asada, chile verde, mole and carnitas. Their second endeavor, DV’s Mexican Grill, is an effort to branch out even further.

DV’s (named for matriarch Delfina and patriarch Victor) opened in early 2019 in the space formerly home to Old Vienna (for years) and El Taco de Guadalajara (briefly). But tradition is only half the story here. Unlike La Parrilla, which takes many of its culinary cues from the Yucatan Peninsula, DV’s casts a wider net. Yes, the menu is dominated by the usual Mexican specialties, such as nachos, tacos, enchiladas, chile rellenos and the like — with one large section devoted specifically to seafood. But alongside the burritos you’ll find BLTs and burgers, and — most surprising — a variety of teriyaki-based dishes. An introductory paragraph on the restaurant’s website states that, “DV’s is about experiment and trying new things,” and the menu backs up that philosophy.

I attempted to explore all these different aspects of DV’s for dinner one night. Our to-go order included ceviche de pescado, a beef taco (shredded and ground) combination plate, an Alaskan salmon salad, mango-chile chicken, chicken teriyaki and some fresh, creamy horchata . . . our favorite way to wash down any meal. I was disappointed to find, via a follow-up phone call, that teriyaki wasn’t available, but was looking forward to the subsituted shrimp tacos.

The first thing we dug into was the ceviche. Good call: It was far and away the star player of the evening meal. A very generous portion of fresh fish, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and cilantro came diced in a zingy lemon-lime juice and topped with fresh avocado. DV’s had supplied plenty of (wonderfully crisp, freshly fried) tortilla chips for scooping up this nearly addictive substance, and yet the quantity of ceviche seemed endless. This and a salad would have easily satisfied two of us for a light summer meal.

The shrimp tacos — featuring medium-sized shrimp fried in a crisp, golden-brown batter and topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and avocado — were also delicious. Very fresh, not too greasy, perfectly balanced with vegetables, salsa and (on the side) a touch of spicy chipotle crema.

Shrimp tacos. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

There were things I liked about the salmon salad — the greens were fresh, and the sweet ponzu dressing was a nice complement. But the salmon itself? Quite dry. The seasoning on it was good; taking it off the pan a few minutes earlier would have done a lot for this dish.

I felt similarly about the mango-chile chicken. The fruity salsa, both spicy and sweet, was lovely, fresh and colorful. Together with the perfectly steamed vegetables and fluffy white rice, it was an appealing entree. But the dry, overcooked chicken breast detracted from these other wonderful ingredients.

It’s hard to wax rhapsodic about a taco combination plate with rice and beans: It’s about as basic as it gets. But what I will say is that DV’s did a respectable job: corn tortillas fried in house (no pre-packaged hard shells here!) with savory meat fillings that were juicy, well-seasoned and tasty. Ascending new culinary heights? No. Happily consumed? Absolutely. I’d take these over a dried-out piece of fish any day.

I can’t say our dinner from DV’s Mexican Grill was flawless. But I can forgive a lot during this never-ending shutdown . . . and that ceviche alone made up for a lot. With respectable tacos and a large breakfast menu available, I might even give them a second shot. There’s more to life than salmon. And, despite the name, there’s more than Mexican food at DV’s Mexican Grill.