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RESTAURANT REVIEW : Seafood That Comes Up Short of Satisfying : The soups and ceviche are worth a try, but too many other dishes are bland and overcooked.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s one of those places you’ve been driving by for years. Why haven’t I ever stopped there, you suddenly ask yourself?

At least that’s what happened to me, and that’s how I happened to turn into a parking lot one day at the Bahia Del Mar restaurant in downtown Oxnard. I’d swear that something had changed on the restaurant’s exterior, the sign or the colors--that something had occurred to finally draw me in.

But even though the place has new owners, Adam and Ofelia Sumano, who’d been in the restaurant business in nearby La Colonia, they swear they haven’t changed a thing inside--or outside--of the restaurant, which apparently has been around for close to 20 years.

Bahia Del Mar, as we might guess from its name, specializes in mariscos --seafood. Oh boy, I thought, I’ve discovered a new place in which to chow down on Mexican fish and oysters and shrimp and so on.

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It didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, I’d have to say that the seafood, even though it’s the area of house specialty, is iffy.

I started to realize this when the abalone cocktail ($8.99) I ordered, although almost grandiose in size and looking just great, turned out to be in a watery sauce. And the abalone, apparently out of a can, wasn’t so fine either. The sauce needs more body and more kick. Its saving grace is lots of fresh cilantro and plenty of seafood.

It turns out that the filete de pescado empanizado ($6.99) is breaded and frozen elsewhere but, I must confess, the breading was beautifully crisp and quite tasty.

Another evening, I tried a whole fish, the guachinango frito ($10.69)--a red snapper that was overcooked and flavorless.

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If I were to eat seafood again at Bahia Del Mar, I would order the tostada de ceviche ($2.89), marinated fish which, although it’s got the unusual addition of a little mayonnaise, comes fresh and moist and tasty. Ditto for the camarones al mojo de ajo ($8.99)--plenty of shrimp, fried in chopped garlic and butter.

You can pass on the chile relleno , which is very, very heavily breaded. They swear they make them there, although the chiles seem factory-produced. And I did enjoy the plato bahia ($8.99), a combination of carne asada --beef that’s well flavored and chewy--and ranchero-style shrimp. The sauce was just a little bit spicy but full of nice seasoning.

One thing the house specializes in is caldos --soups. The seafood broth--which I think is the same whether with the caldo de pescado ($6.99)--fish or shrimp or octopus or clams--has a good deal of character, although frequently the fish comes out overcooked.

DETAILS

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* WHAT: Bahia Del Mar.

* WHERE: 349 S. Oxnard Blvd., Oxnard.

* WHEN: Open seven days, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: Meal for two, food only, $12 to $27.

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* CALL: 487-5166.

* FYI: Reservations and major credit cards accepted.


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