Aponiente, Puerto de Santa Maria
Address: 6 Calle Puerto Escondido
Ángel León knows his way around a fish. The son of a fisherman, the Andalucía native has spent his life studying the sea. But if that conjures up images of an old salt and his weathered shack, think again: León's culinary experimentation has led to discoveries like how to use algae to clarify broth, and fish eyeballs to thicken a sauce. At the simply designed Aponiente, the felicitous results of his tinkerings are on dazzling display: from a crunchy, parsley-flecked pancake overflowing with tiny shrimp to sand dabs that are stuffed with jamón serrano and then fried to a shatteringly crisp crust and served with a gazpacholike salmorejo for dipping. His latest innovation is to turn olive pits into charcoal so that when the affable waiters bring a firm fillet still grilling over burning stones to the table, the restaurant fills momentarily with the briny aroma of smoke, sea, and olives (entrées, $30$66).