Thursday, September 18, 2008

El Tejado:Mariscos from the lime capital of the world, Tecoman, Colima

A little stretch of Tecoman in LA

Otra cerveza, porfa!

Ceviche de camaron, Tejado

Chacales zarandeados with all the trimmings

Fun with friends and family, El Tejado

Having worked in Colima city and Manzanillo before an auspicious occasion brought me to Tecoman, Colima a few years ago.This plane often enters my thoughts. In the home of the lime capital of the world where the Mexican key lime and Persian limes that cook raw seafood in aguachiles, ceviche, cocteles, combine with achiote paste for marinades, tenderize Sonoran beef, and are submerged in millions of Mexican beers by frat boys, and Mexican construction workers alike. the lime has endless uses in Mexican cuisine, and the air in Tecoman is laced with citrus, tropical humidity, and the scent of coconuts.It's one of those places in Mexico not on any tourist map, full of the hospitality and warmth found all over Mexico in the small towns, a place of enchantment.

El Tejado, one of a handful of Colimense restaurants in Los Angeles, Colima being a lesser known jewel of the Pacific coast of Mexico.But, this is the only one claiming Tecoman style, and the owner(dueno)hails from the lime capital and has brought forth a substantial restaurant familiar(family style restaurant)serving a variety of mariscos.The scene is amusing, a grungy industrial neighborhood south of Boyle Heights next to the Sears complex at Soto and E. Olympic.The parking lot is full of Ford F-150's, Range Rovers, and other symbols of Latino machismo where valets will drive your truck down the street and park it next to an abandoned warehouse.Mexican families,retired OG's, cholos sagging and posturing with their requisite voluptuous latina girlfriend glamorized by sandals, faux sunglasses, and tank tops fresh from the nearby Fashion District,A Nortena band throwing down some Tucanes de Tijuana,flower and stuffed animal hawkers, and attractive latina waitresses wearing tight fitting white pants and matching red shirts evoking a Salon de Bailes in Colima permeate your field of view. The place is packed on weekends, inside an outside of the joint.

The most popular items are the shrimp cocktails and the mariscadas(esp. the cielo, mar, y tierra) served on braziers at your table along with buckets of beers. There are also ceviches, many other cocteles, filetes done in predictable styles, along with the many usual shrimp offerings:al mojo de ajo, a la diabla, rancheros, emapanizados, etc.The ubiquitous pescado veracruzano from Vera Cruz is present. Colima shares many of the Pacific Coast dishes with Jalisco, Jalisco, Nayarit, Guerrero, and Sinaloa.These all looked great, but there was a little something extra:chacales zarandeados(langostines),tacos de pescado estilo Colima,huachinango a la talla(whole grilled red snapper), huachinango a la talla relleno(stuffed), pulpo enamorado(octopus in love-in a salad with mayo), pulpo al ajillo(garlic chile sauce),riquisimo salmon, pescado zarandeado estilo Tejado(red snapper),and Colima style ceviche de pescado(chopped with finely chopped carrots added). These made the day for me, to see something from my trips to Tecoman, Colima(the city), and Manzanillo.

I had the ceviche de camaron, by mistake.I ordered the pescado and was having such a good time listening and watching that I was half way through my tostada before I realized it. No worries, it was solid and I was putting away the Modelos waiting for my Chacales zarandeados! I'll verify the authenticity of the ceviche Colimense another day, soon.The chacales came looking fabulous along side white coastal rice, a delicious cole slaw, and a simple salad. The flavor of the langostines zarandeados was sheer pleasure, and I am once again pleased to find a Mexican seafood restaurant that properly presents mariscos traditioanlly.No refried beans and spanice rice to upset the balance.All elements executed to satisfaction.
El Tejado is a place to bring friends and family on a Saturday or Sunday to experience the Mexican family style restaurant in all its splendor.A great showcase for the hometown limes, some special Colimense dishes, and different take on some of your favorites the Tecoman way.Let the locals enjoy their shrimp coctails and mariscadas, as they are a bargain and quite filling.The waitress may even tell you that the huachinango a la talla will take a while, the kitchen clogged with mariscada traffic, but have her bring you another round while you wait.All you have to do is ring the buzzer.Do indulge in the sprinkling of unique dishes from Colima and the charm of El Tejado on a Sunday afternoon.Vale la pena!

Marisqueria El Tejado

1426 Soto St.Los Angeles, CA 90023


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crawling Lennoxico with the Pleasure Palate

Birds afire at Lennox Pollo

Lengua ranchera at Don Rogelio's

Aguachile Sinaloa style, Mariscos Chente

Camarones a la pimienta at Mariscos Chente

Trocitos en salsa roja and mole verde at Angelica's Restaurant, Lennox,CA

On Labor Day I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon and early evening with Abby's Pleasure Palate for a restaurant crawl through the city of Lennox, a place I have affectionately called Lennoxico for it's strong Mexican-American and Central-American presence. We made it to four restaurants for a feast of regional Mexican food with a Mexican-American cuisine thrown in as well. Pleasure Palate always brings out a fantastic group of diners and epicurean adventurers, and last night was no exception.Nine of us met up to embark on a tour of an under the radar restaurant mecca full of surprizes.

Lennox Pollo

Our first mission was to hit Lennox Pollo to sample the rottiserie chicken specialty from Mexico. As a PP member pointed out, Lennox Pollo is pretty easy to spot with its mural of floating rotisserie chickens painted on its bright yellow exterior wall.Inside, the hard working duo of Tonio and Angel prepped, ran the rotisserie monitoring with vigilance, and handled the business of pollo commerce. Lennox is not accustomed to outsiders, people in line asked us what we were doing taking pictures.When I asked Angel if it was OK to shoot he referred me to Tonio, with incredulity. They didn't know why we wanted pictures and couldn't think of a good enough reason why not, so they acquiesced. When told of the huge internet stardom (yeah, right) forthcoming they smiled and let us have the run of the place.

Lennox Pollo's sabor comes from the state of Guerrero in Mexico. We got the special for $9.99, two whole birds with tortillas and salsa. You can also purchase sides of rice, beans, or macaroni salad from this little homey shack of chicken paradise.There's just enough room in the place for the line of clients, and you may sweat from the heat of the rotisseries.

Don Rogelio's was kind enough to let us eat the chicken in their outdoor dining area while we awaited our Tex-Mex feast, so we were off. The flavor of the tender birds was transendant, and as good or better than my best pollos rostizados experiences in Mexico.No salsa or tortillas needed, but you can't argue with such a delectable tradition.

Don Rogelio's

For our Tex-Mex tasting, the accomodating staff at Don Rogelio's brought us their best offerings. Cocido, lengua, barbacoa, carnitas in mole, and chile verde.Rice, beans, homemade tortillas, and some real homemade guacamole joined the cast of delicious entrees. I was already an enthusiast of DR's cocido, so no surprize that I love it; my other favorites were the lengua and the chile verde. Tex-Mex cuisine is all about the sauces. The lengua was cooked in a ranchera sauce, so tender it could be cut with a fork and the sauce was superb. The chile verde resonated with the natural flavors of tomatillo and braised then stewed pork, no canned green chile sauce here. I enjoyed everything else except for the carnitas in mole, which just didn't work. The barbacoa had a mild sweetness that while simplistic, was enjoyable. All that with a little Tex-Mex hospitality thrown in.It was not a bad start to our crawl.

Mariscos Chente

We opted for Mariscos Chente for our third stop since belts were becoming tight and some of us were about to hit the wall, and we didn't want to miss this opportunity to have some Mexican seafood. Our 4th destination would be saved for the optional encounter. Chef Sergio, his wife Angie, and owner Magdalena(Angie's mother who recently divorced Chente Cosio and opened her own branch of her husband's family business) are wonderful people. Magdalena, from Nayarit, gets her shrimp directly from Mazatlan, and Angie makes a great hostess/waitress. Sergio is from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and learned Nayarit-style seafood working for with father-in-law, owner of Mariscos Chente's (now Coni'Seafood) in Inglewood.The seafood cuisines of southern Sinaloa, and northern Nayarit share dishes many, cooking techniques, and traditions, but with their own subtle regional differences. Nayarit borders Sinaloa to the south, but as Angie says, "one minute you are in Sinaloa and the next Nayarit."

I had to have our group try the iconic aguachile and the Sinaloan dish, camarones Culichi, but I left the rest up to Angie. Our tasting included the aguachile, camarones Culichi, camarones a la pimienta, chicharron de pescado, and camarones checos. I will do Mariscos Chente proper in separate post, but here's my first bite, and it was all amazing. We were wowed by this mouthwatering  wealth of culinary dishes from the state of Nayarit. I am a partisan when it comes to Mexican seafood--especially the state of Sinaloa, andnot easily impressed, but Mariscos Chente has swept me off of my feet. We even enjoyed the coastal rice that accompanied the cooked seafood dishes.


Not sure if we would make this one, I didn't give the lone employee Gabby much time to prepare for our visit. We lost one of the original nine here, as our menu discussion unraveled his composure."OK, I'm out" he said, as he surged from the prone position and walked out. This was quite a lot of chow even for us diehards. Luckily for Gabby, we would only order a mole verde from Puebla, and trocitos en salsa roja(beef in red sauce) with some homemade tortillas. Angelica's is a D.F. style comida economica which also serves El Salvadorean antojitos to oblige the Salvadorenos of Lennox, so one of our remaining eight tried their first pupusas. Gabby deftly made pupusas, and tortillas(excellent)made to order while preparing the mole verde and trocitos.She apologized for taking so long as all eight of were served within about 15 minutes? I think Gabby could show Rachel Ray what can really be done in 30 minutes or less. The mole verde was excellent and a first for me.I've only had mole verde from Oaxaca and mole poblano from Puebla before. The trocitos en salsa roja tasted just like your Mexican grandmother makes.I know, I have a Mexican grandmother.Angelica's is home cooking featuring guisados, sopes, pambazos(forgot we tried these too), meats stewed in complex salsas, and other platos tipicos. The mole verde is the find here, though, as well as Gabby.

End notes
We spotted the Taco Dollar truck parked next to a throng of locals as we were leaving Angelica's for those that had mentioned the taco trucks. We wanted to try them but just couldn't eat another bite-- it smelled great, had a huge, festive crowd. There were teenage boys showing off for the girls, familes perusing the pirate DVD aisles for the latest, and tacos being gobbled down to the sounds of Los Tucanes de Tijuana. All afternoon and evening we were stared at with wonder. A group of people walking in our neighborhood speaking english?Are they tourists, here in Lennox? We were asked if we were from out of town at one point. Besides that, it was a relaxing evening walking and eating like kings in a very family friendly neighborhood, a Latino neighborhood, and a place worthy of being a new food destination.

I would like to thank Abby for putting this together, and can't wait for her write up. Cecilia, Lisa, Dao, Mike, Jeff, Tom and Barb--thanks so much for your daring enthusiam, excellent palates, and jovial company on this Lennoxico trip. I really enjoyed our dining together. So, was I exagerrating about the low flying planes?