One-Stop Seafood ShopThe Meal Appeal
February 4, 2024
Story By: Dining Out Team |
Kunia native Amanda Cordes comes from a family of restaurateurs — her dad owns Forty Niner Hawaii in Aiea and her mom’s ohana runs an eatery in Sonora, Mexico — so it’s not surprising that she took a leap into the culinary world, too.
Her restaurant, Da Seafood Cartel, initially operated from Forty Niner Hawaii, then transitioned to farmers markets, where you can still find it on Saturdays (Kakaako) and Sundays (Kailua). Just over a year ago, Cordes fulfilled her dream of opening a brick-and-mortar location.
With the Super Bowl around the corner, the chef/owner recommends bringing a pan of ceviche to your game day party.
“It’s such a great and easy dish to bring — you don’t need to warm it up and people can serve themselves. And, it has great portions, too,” she says.
Here, Cordes talks about her inspiration for launching the restaurant and highlights some of its most beloved dishes.
DO: How did you come up with the name?
AC: It was just kind of like a play on words. The “da” is kind of like a tribute to local pidgin, and the “seafood cartel” is just being a little cheeky.
DO: Is ceviche your most popular dish?
AC: Yes! We started with the ceviche and it definitely is still our most popular item. My dad owns the Forty Niner restaurant in Aiea, so we would sell ceviche, people would preorder and pick up at his restaurant.
We sell ceviche tostadas, containers and pans. Usually during special holidays or events, like the Super Bowl, we sell a lot of pans of ceviche.
DO: Why did you decide to open Da Seafood Cartel?
AC: After high school I lived in Mexico City for six years, and I came home during COVID. Ceviche was something we knew would always do super well in Hawaii because local people love seafood — but it’s super hard to find; it’s not common to find ceviche, and a well-done ceviche, at that.
As soon as I moved back home from college, I decided to make ceviche and one thing led to another and when the space was able to open up where we’re at now, we jumped on it. And that’s when we were able to expand our menu to include more Mexican seafood items.
DO: Tell us about your bestsellers. AC: We have our Fish Taco ($9.75). It’s a beer-battered taco that comes with Mexican-style coleslaw, pico de gallo and a chipotle aioli. Our tacos are not the traditional small tacos; they’re really generous in portions.
The next dish is a super popular Mexican seafood dish called the Shrimp Aguachile ($16.95). It has raw shrimp marinaded in a spicy lime serrano sauce. It’s a spicier dish but it’s super refreshing. I think for the most part people in Hawaii haven’t had aguachile but it’s something that’s super typical in Mexico.
We also have the Taco Cabo ($9.95). On the very bottom is a cheese quesadilla, a cheese crust, then we have steak, shrimp, guacamole, pico de gallo and our house salsa on the side.
The next is the Cocktail Campechano ($29.50), which is a seafood cocktail that comes with cooked shrimp, shrimp crudo, octopus and fish, and its topped with an oyster. It’s accompanied with tostadas and chips on the side.
We have our Ostiones Da Seafood Cartel ($26.95). These are super popular. The order comes with six oysters and it’s topped with ceviche and our housemade hot sauce.
The Tostada La Basta ($19.35) is a single tostada but it’s a really big portion. It comes with a layer of chipotle aioli and then is topped with a mix of octopus, cooked shrimp, raw shrimp and ahi. It’s marinaded in a lime Mexican sauce.
The last one is our most popular tostada, Da OG Tostada ($9.75). This is how we started — with our homemade tostada that comes with a layer of our blue crab spread, shrimp ceviche, avocado and hot sauce.
DO: Any specials coming up?
AC: Normally we always have specials on our board depending on the fish we get that week. For instance, this week we were able to get some fresh ahi so we’re doing Mexican-style Poke Nachos ($17.95). We also have something called the Ahi Trio ($19.95), which comes with a spicy ahi tostada, a grilled ahi taco and Mexican-style sashimi.
Photos courtesy Da Seafood Cartel