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New Orleans Restaurant with Spanish Flair 

Speaking into the phone while butchering fish, Chef Adolfo Garcia says that ten years cooking in New York City "got me out of the trout meuniere train of thought." This begins to explain why he and his partner Nicolas Bazan III call their four-month-old restaurant RioMar (800 S. Peters St., 525-FISH) "a seafood destination" even though -- situated smack in the heart of this city which rests heavily upon the laurels of being a seafood destination itself -- their menu doesn't offer one filet of catfish, not a tail of crawfish cream sauce nor a spot of fishy gumbo. Garcia's New Orleans roots take the backseat to the palate he garnered during four teenage years in Panama and subsequent visits to Latin America and Spain -- a taste for ceviche, paella, salt cod and olives. Garcia's family would drive in his parents' Panama through a little seafaring town called Riomar on warm trips to the beach.

A cruise through the Warehouse District isn't exactly a drive to the beach, but the splash of royal blue in RioMar's crowded foyer and the ensuing view straight ahead to the semi-open kitchen, framed with mosaic tilework and a hanging plaster villa scene, sets the right tone for squishy white bread with grassy, perfumed olive oil and crisp white wines from the Americas, Portugal and Spain. A fruity Chappellet Chenin Blanc from Napa Valley and two citrusy Spanish Albarinos, in particular, bring nice balance to seafood dishes heavy with garlic and parsley. (Q-5)

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