Monday, January 5, 2009

Update: Mariscos Chente, the king of Mexican sashimi opens on the Westside

***I can no longer recommend this branch of the Cosio family's brand. I do recommend Coni'Seafood (Owned by Coni Cosio) in Inglewood and Mariscos Chente in Lennox, run by "Chente" Cosio. 

Mariscos Chente, Mar Vista

Respresenting The first family of Nayarit/Sinaloa cuisine, Angie(manager), Sergio(chef),and Magdalena(owner)

Magdalena's ride, don't mess!

Pescado zarandeado

Aguachile, the cadillac of Mexican sashimi

Garlicky and spicy camarones checos

With very little fanfare, Mariscos Chente, a branch of the best Mexican seafood restaurant in town (Mariscos Chente's) reopened its westside location in Mar Vista. I stopped by earlier in the week to grab a bite only to find Sergio and Angie Penuelas, the son-in-law and daughter of founder Vicente "Chente" Cosio, over at MC, receiving the fire marshall to determine when they could reopen. On my way back from Ensenada, yesterday, I stopped by to find a small group of family and friends dining, so even though I over did it in Baja, why not a little ceviche and beer? The grill to zarandear (to make pescado zarandeado) is not set up yet; I believe they said they were going to get the stuff in TJ this week and should be up and running soon. In the meantime, all the raw seafood items on the menu are available as well as various cooked seafood dishes.

Camarones a la pimienta, one of the finer Nayarit dishes, a hit with the regulars

You gotta love a family restaurant, but lately I'm seeing many of these set ups, a dueña(female owner) with her daughter and son-in-law as employees. Man, I don't know if I'd want to work for my mother-in-law. But, when you see them together it all makes sense--a loving family working together to make great food. Magdalena, la suegra(mother-in-law), hails from Nayarit, the birthplace of pescado zarandeado, the world renowned mangler wood-grilled whole fish entree marinated in either a chile based adobo sauce, or a garlic, butter, and soy base--my favorite. Soy sauce is a common ingredient  in Pacific coast cooking, brought to Mexico by Japanese immigrants and mariners.

Although Nayarit is the birth place of this traditional seafood dish; Sinaloa to the north also has a tradition of pescado zarandeado and claims it as their state dish. Her son-in-law and chef, Sergio, is from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and had also grown up eating some of the best seafood in Mexico but wasn't a cook until he went looking for the a place to enjoy the mariscos of his youth, at Mariscos Chente's. Sergio used to attend the unlicensed backyard operation started by the Cosio family and began to date Angie, Chente and Magdalena's daughter, and learned the Cosio family recipes from Vicente Cosio including the marinade for pescado zarandeado. When the original Mariscos Chente's brick and mortar opened on Imperial Highway (now Coni'Seafood), they didn't do the zarandeado because the original preparation is cooked over manglar wood, but Sergio convinced them that he could do it on a conventional grill and the family has done it ever since.

Camarones a la diabla, the superlative version in LA

The restaurant is a Nayarit seafood place with a chef from Los Mochis that has mastered the Cosio family recipes, using fresh fish and shrimp brought in from Mexico. It's rare that you have a cuisine outside of its country of origin where the quality, aesthetic and flavor is identical to the best representations in the mother country. Mexican seafood cocktailers from the states of Nayarit and Sinaloa are Mexican sashimi experts, deft with the knife, aficionados of fresh seafood, polished platers, and versed in many cooking disciplines.

Their style and technique form the popular seafood culture in many parts of Mexico, and while other Pacific states have dishes with the same name they're held in less regard. The sashimi-esque ceviche de camaron crudo (raw shrimp ceviche), callo de hacha(raw scallops in lime and chili) or the aguachile (whole raw shrimp with lime and chili) come garnished with the signature sliced purple onion and cucumber.

The cooked dishes at Mariscos Chente are delightful and go beyond the usual suspects at most Mexican seafood restaurants: camarones culichis (shrimp in creme of poblano, au gratin, a Sinaloan specialty), camarones borrachos (drunken shrimp), camarones a la diabla (spicy shrimp), chicharron de pescado (fish skin in soy sauce), camarones a la pimienta (shrimp in a oil and pepper sauce) and of course the pescado zarandeado from the Mexican beach grill tradition.

Camarones culichis, comfort food from the heart of Culiacan

Camarones borrachos, drunk from a taste of tequila, a great example of Sergio's sauce technique

Mariscos Chente (as does Coni'Seafood) brings in seafood from Mazatlan--the Cosio family doesn't like the seafood here--it sits too long in the fridge. The Cosio's bring in 2 sizes of shrimp for raw and cooked preparations and róbalo, or snook for the pescado zarandeado--the product is the most important component of any seafood tradition.

I had the ceviche de camaron yesterday, a glorious heap of white shrimp (smaller than the aguachile sized shrimp), fresh diced cucumber, purple onion, tomato, and cilantro in a shallow pool of lime. It was ample and devastatingly good. You'll have to wait a minute for the zarandeado, but have the camarones culichis, a la pimienta, aguachile, chicharron de pescado, ceviche de camaron (raw), camarones al ajillo (spicy garlic sauce), al chipotle (in creamy chipotle sauce) and anything else they have on the menu. I've yet to find a better or more authentic Nayaritan seafood place in town.

The best pescado zarandeado is now available at Mariscos Chente.

Sergio's butterflies a róbalo for pescado zarandeado

Even a simple mojarra frita is brought to new heights at Marsicos Chente

Pescado Zarandeado made to order is the signature dish from Mariscos Chente

Tacos gobernador

Tacos de marlin, simple Sinaloa/Nayarit street tacos, a definitive styling at the best Mexican seafood restaurant in town

Mariscos Chente
4532 S. Centinela(at Gilmore)
Mar Vista, CA 90066

Mariscos Chente's (Run by family patriarch, Vicente Cosio)
10020 Inglewood Ave
Inglewood CA 90304

Mariscos Chente in Los Angeles

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