In a city where Mexican food can (still!) conjure up images of bean-popping burritos and cheddar-topped nachos, Richard Sandoval’s Pampano offers some welcome schooling. This seafood-centric restaurant combines the flavors and spirit of coastal Mexico with the elegance of European cooking methods, resulting in exquisite modern fare that reveals the true depth of this too often underestimated cuisine. A fresh and flavorful tomato soup bathes lush flash-seared scallops while a tamale dressed in guajillo chile sauce is the perfect showcase to woody huitlacoche. Impeccably fresh tuna steak is complemented by a sharp cilantro-ginger pico de gallo, and black bass in a tomato-chipotle sauce strikes the precise balance of sweet to smoke. Whereas the best of Mexican cuisine veers toward rustic, Sandoval’s is smooth sophistication—a vibe echoed by the cream-and-sand décor and polished, gracious service.