Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meet me at the Feria-La Feria de Leon

cebadina, a local refreshment of barley, jamaica, and bicarbonate fizz, fermented in an oak barrel.
families and friends at the Feria de Leon

vendor of sweet gorditas de trigo

A plethora of pinatas in centro historico, Leon,Gto.


The ferias(fairs) of Mexico are a must for those seeking authentic Mexican experiences.Bullfights,concerts, cockfights,rides,eating regional foods, rodeos, gambling, dancing to roving banda groups, drinking, beauty pageants, exercizing you chivalry,partying with friends and family,and celebrating your hometown.The big three are La Feria de San Marcos(Aguascalientes), La Feria de Zacatecas(Zacatecas), and La Feria de Leon(Leon).While visiting family in Aguascalientes a few years ago I was fortunate enough to receive my first Feria encounter at the most grand of all, La Feria de San Marcos.I still recall a battle of four banda groups, each with their own crowd of partiers, competing in a decibel contest all within a small area as my cousin and I tried to squeeze through the compacted celebration on our way to the casino.In my job as musician for a prominent Mexican artist, I have been to many a feria, including Zacatecas, and La Feria de Leon last weekend.Ferias can last nearly a month and you can catch top acts such as:Vicente Fernandez, Jenni Rivera, Alejandra Guzman,Joan Sebastian,Pepe Aguilar,Ninel Conde(why not!),Marc Antonio Solis, and Los Horoscopos de Durango.Of the many concert venues, the palenque is the one I'm most familiar.Yes, that's right, that mulit-purpose arena where roosters fight 'til the death.We go on after the "peleas"(fights).

Women throw and catch tennis balls to and from the crowd full of money for gambling
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3209964399/in/set-72157612710944205/ local guacamayas make a crunchy and satisfying lunch http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3209950047/in/set-72157612710944205/

Each Feria brings forth the best local foods: antojitos(little whims), tacos, junk food, and some unique local items. The beers, tequila, Buchanan's whiskey, and palomas(tequila and fresca cocktail) are flowing night and day. I walked around the Feria in Leon scoping out the eats and enjoyed a local guacamaya, a torta of chicharron with tomatoes and onions.A deliciously crunchy torta from the heart of Mexico accompanied by an agua fresca of horchata with strawberry, the epicureans "Strawberry Quick."I spoke with a taquero(taco maker)preparing his al pastor, assembling the marinated pork carefully on the trompo(spit), and was impressed by all the time he spent marinating, constructing, and cooking his taco earmark.I would give these a whirl later along with the excellent local "huaraches"(sandal like massa shape with toppings) estilo Bajio(lowlands of Central Mexico).

a taquero loads his trompo http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3209928059/in/set-72157612710944205/

Later in the afternoon, after our souncheck, I headed in the historic city center to sample more foods, including a taste of the fondas in the Mercado Soledad.The downtown is a beautiful Spanish colonial neighborhood, full of culture and fantastic local cooking.The loncherias(luncheonettes) and fondas were enchanting with their albondigas, soups, sauced meats, chile rellenos, and the famed carnitas and birria de borrego of El Bajio.A sweet gordita de trigo from a street vendor, the neck birria of lamb tacos, the albondigas with chiles gueros, and the chile relleno of picadillo cooked by Mexican grandmothers were exquisite.

chile relleno de picadillo just like grandmother makes
albondigas con chile guero
An outgoing taquero trims some birria de borrego for a taco
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3209977607/in/set-72157612710944205/
the fountain in centro historico, Leon

A walk through the mercado was an steer and pig anatomy lesson.Beef hearts with freakishly large valves protruding, and the inelegant task of carrying whole parts of a bloody steer on your back.Our beef horror show needed refreshment, so we grabbed an agua fresca of alfalfa, one of the most complex and blissful agua frecas of Mexico.

(warning:not for the faint of heart)Giant beef heart and parts in a market stall, valves still attached http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3210799056/in/set-72157612710944205/

After cleaning up and resting, it's time for La Feria.Some tacos al pastor from the taquero I met earlier in the day, and a Guanajuato style huarache to take backstage, a great end to a delicious day's feasting.There's so much energy at the food booths, hungry people crowding around, plating their tacos and huaraches, attractive Guanajuatense women gossiping and laughing, cool vaqueros(cowboys) sipping a beer while telling jokes.Meanwhile, roosters are fighting for their lives while the crowd gambles, shouts, and celebrates the chanticleer's victory.It's midnight, and after eating, going on rides, dancing to banda in an intimate circle of revelers, drinking whiskey and squirt,sending a bottle of Chivas over to the "chavas"(girls) across the stage,gambling on the cock fights, it's now time for your favorite artist.Tonight, it was Marisela, a Mexican legend who was joined on stage by La Diva de la Banda herself, Jenni Rivera.Jenni is a fan of Marisela's and the two sang in mutual admiration much to the delight of the crowd.After, more drinking and eating,singing along to "Enamorada y Herida" to your girlriends on your cell phone who missed the show,dancing to some post concert ranchera music until you can't stand anymore, it's 4AM and time to go home.Let's do it again tomorrow!Como no?

The happy and the hungry at Super Huarache
huarache mixto, carne and al pastor
Marisela and Jenni Rivera

When in Mexico, try to include a Feria in your itinerary, a wonderful celebration of Mexican culture that will stay in your heart forever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fast food quesadillas

Las Quekas


Taco Bell has got it down.Put the packed pre-grated cheese blend in the tortilla, maybe add cubed rubber chicken or steak, and there you are.What, probably five minutes from ordering to your mouth?Places like Jerry's Famous take a little longer, maybe 15 minutes, gotta plate the canned salsa, and guacamole mix.


I was in TJ for the Tequila Expo back in October and watched a family set up their kitchen and deliver a homemade quesadilla preparada(prepared) within 15 minutes, not bad.




Guisados D.F. style at the Expo Tequila


Mom sets up the burner


The guisos are unpacked



No.1 daughter wipes down the comal de acero



No. 1 daughter strains a little used oil



No.1 son and no.2 daughter deliver more supplies in anticipation of dad's arrival



Dad lays out his guisos(stewed fillings)



The chicharron prensado is launched



Huitlacoche is slammed into a freshly made raw tortilla



The quesadillas slide into a hot oil bath




Ah, the technology of the comal!



No.1 and 2 daughters plate



“Numero uno, su orden esta...." Your order is ready, two homemade quesadillas preparadas of chicharron prensado and huitlacoche, exquisite and delicious.

Now, why can't fast food chains do that?Nothing to it.
Hope you enjoyed the show.It was even more fun being there, especially after 2 hours tasting tequila.

Monday, January 12, 2009

An untold tale of community and good food:Eating our way from Huntington Park to Watts

Tamales Elena-estilo Guerrero

Los Koritas-authentic sabor de Mexico

This says it all, harmony through bar-be-que, and tacos.


Watts towers get a makeover



"If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed."-Mark Twain




Tim and Nina Zagat's friend don't go to Watts, nor do the food writers at Los Angeles Magazine.The local news mostly relays sensational tales of gangs and and violence.Search engines pull up pages that talk about the '65 riots.But, would you believe that Watts is a hotbed of amazing Mexican food?Or, that right across from the Nickerson Gardens projects lies one of the best Nayarit style seafood restaurants in LA?How about the black-owned restaurants that serve burritos and enchiladas?Did you know that people in Watts are living harmoniously, giving to each other without the pretense of public praise?Did you know that Wilmington Ave. has more hospitality than Ventura Bl. or Little Santa Monica?

Right after Christmas I gathered a fellow food adventurer for what turned out to be a very special day for the both of us.Our food crawl started at the Blueline stop at Florence Ave., near Alameda Ave in Huntington Park.We were heading to Watts for the bulk of our dining, so this was to be a few bites and some recon.Our first stop was at Birrieria Tlaquepaque for a traditional Mexican breakfast, tacos de birria de chivo.Absolutely slammin' tacos for those looking for some delicious goat birria.Tlaquepaque is a nice neighborhood in Guadalajara, so these are estilo Jalisco.Tapatios(people from Jalisco) are famous for their birria.

Florence Ave. is littered with Mexican restaurants, some fresh poultry markets promoted by people in chicken suits dancing, the eateries all with a regional lean.On the way back to hit Sinaloa restaurant, a very humble establishment near the Florence station, we met with quite a thrill.As we walked towards Alameda I noticed a bunch of police vehicles from multiple units closing off the street.Before I realized what was happening there were about 10 police cars and officers were out yelling with guns drawn right in our direction.About 100 ft in front of us was a Suburban with presumably a very dangerous person out of the SUV with his hands behind his back walking backwards, the other passenger receiving ultimatums fired over loud speakers.After snapping a couple of shots, I thought, maybe I should move out of the way! We manuevered around the road block and made our way to Sinaloa Restaurant after all the excitement to enjoy some Sinaloa home cooking.This place looks like an abandoned restaurant inside, a small kitchen with a visibly unkept storage alongside.The owner and cook, and elderly gentleman from Culiacan.Our chilorio(spicy pork)plate, famous in Sinaloa, was something your Mexican uncle would make.Simple, and absolutely comforting.The ceviche wasn't bad, but this isn't a seafood place, stick to the typical plates.Machaca, chilorio, etc.The man can cook, and another Sinaloa restaurant for the rolodex.

My comrade drove us to Wilmington and the Imperial Hwy. to walk through a part of Watts I had ventured into on a recent meandering.Here there are soul food, and mexican restaurants in a mixed Latino and Black neighborhood that has seen Latinos stream into the area in recent years.Our first taste of Watts, a tamale truck, estilo Guerrero, Mexico.Guerrerenses are renowned for their tamales.Tamales Elena has a truck on Wilmington near 110th street open daily until 2PM that is probably one of the best tamales hits in LA.Nothing fancy, standard offerings, but tender and flavored with a Mexican grandmothers love and care. Our chicken tamale was outstanding.On the walk up the street three characters on the street wished us a good afternoon, very rare in Los Angeles, and when my friend took a call announcing,"you'll never guess where I am right now", one of the men walked by and chimed in, "you in Watts, ha HA, you in WATTS,man."Across the street a gathering of about 15 men outside Lee's Market and Chicken Wings provoked our interest.My friend peeked over and said "looks cool, but....."I smiled,"Oh yeah man, we are definitely going over there."Outside Lee's Market, a black owned market and restaurant, was a tent with a group of black men cooking and serving food to Latinos.Lee is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, a national black fraternity he joined back in his college days.Each year, after Xmas, Lee and brothers from his fraternity do a toy giveaway and donate a fine catered meal to people in the community.Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, greens, and a roll, made by Lee and his fraternity brothers, a southern Xmas for the Latinos in Watts.The Alpha Phi Alpha brothers showed us around to where the toys were and talked about their efforts in the community, and even offered some food.We didn't want to impose, but couldn't keep our eyes off of those greens!They insisted."OK, just a bite", as we devoured an entire meal, some of the best greens I've had.Too bad Lee only makes these during Xmas.Lee's is known for his fried chicken, but his menu has changed in recent years to reflect the local tastes; enchiladas and tacos are offered right next to burgers and fried chicken.We were welcomed as family here, and we were both very moved by this experience in Watts.Too bad, the media doesn't cover these stories.

Our last stop of the day was to eat at a Nayarit style Mexican seafood restaurant occupying a former auto repair lot.The property has a parked catering truck and the former aluminum sided auto shop garage as the dining room.Mariscos Los Koritas estilo Nayarit is located on Imperial Hwy, right across the street from the Nickerson Garden's projects in Watts.Once you enter the parking lot you are in Mexico, though.A few decorations, some corridos on the jukebox, and among of the finest Mexican seafood in LA make for a fantastic time.Los Koritas has callo de hacha(scallops), pescado zarandeado(tomato based sauce), aguachiles, and other regional cooked and raw seafood dishes.After Mariscos Chente in Mar Vista, this is another must for fans of Sinaloa/Nayarit style seafood.The callos(rare)and aguachile(raw shrimp in chile and lime)are excellent, true Nayarit flavor and presentation.The pescado a la diabla(mojarra frita in a spicy sauce) and camarones al vapor(steamed shrimp in spicy sauce)were super, but the real treat here is the callos de hacha, raw scallops with lime, seasoning, fresh purple onion and cucumbers, along with the aguachile make up the richest "Mexican sashimi" offerings.The zarandeado also looked fantastic although I've yet to try it.This family is from Nayarit, another matriarcal arrangement with son and daughter-in-law working with la duena.Great people, authentic mariscos, an interesting menu, and a real downhome feel.Can't wait to try more of their food.

The day was memorable, touching, and full of flavor.I recommend experiencing these places and treat yourself to the real Watts, and south-central Los Angeles, a place where Blacks and Latinos help each other, smile, and enjoy each other's culture.


Birria tacos Tlaquepaque http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3147242525/in/set-72157611789549493/


Lee(far left in full view)and the Alphi Phi Alphi fraternity spreading holiday cheer http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3148069360/in/set-72157611789549493/

Lee's Xmas for Watts http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3148070390/in/set-72157611789549493/

Los Koritas http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3147231987/in/set-72157611789549493/

callos de hacha-Koritas http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3148060220/in/set-72157611789549493/

chilorio-Sinaloa Restaurant http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3147231139/in/set-72157611789549493/

Tamale de pollo-Tamales Elena http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3148076498/in/set-72157611789549493/

Public enemy No.1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3147245821/in/set-72157611789549493/

Mexican flag at Koritas lot waves with Nickerson Garden's in background http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3148071668/in/set-72157611789549493/

Birrieria Tlaquepaque 1753 E. Florence Ave. Los Angeles,CA 9001

Lee's Market 1908 E.110th St. Los Angeles,CA 90059

Mariscos Los Koritas estilo Nayarit 1310 E. Imperial Hwy. Los Angeles,CA 90059

Sinaloa Restaurant 1720 1/2 E. Florence Ave. Los Angeles,CA 90001

Tamales Elena Wilmington Ave. near 110th ('til 2PM daily)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Moqueca Capixaba-the traditional dish of Espiritu Santo, Brasil- "Moqueca" ups the stakes in LA

< Moqueca(mo-ke-ca), pirao, arroz, and malagueta-capixaba

Moqueca capixaba(ca-pee-shaw-ba)the spirit of Espiritu Santo

While talking with Natalia, the magnificent chef at Woodspoon the other night, she informed me that a friend of mine was there the night before and had missed our Minas Gerais tasting but came down to check it out anyways.I called this friend up and he said that an acquintance, a local carioca(person from Rio) had mentioned a new place in Oxnard had opened up called Moqueca."Moqueca!", I cried.The famous Brazilian dish from Bahia and Espiritu Santo in the northeast of Brazil.

I first encountered this dish walking on a beach in Ilheus, Bahia, and I've been a devotee ever since.Moqueca is a seafood stew with onions, garlic, cilantro(coentro),and tomatoes,the Capixaba(Espiritu Santo) version uses olive and soy oil, the Baiana(Bahia) moqueca has dende(palm oil) and coconut.Each claims to be the originators of moqueca, but for now, only the Espiritu Santo interpretation is available in the greater Los Angeles area.

The traditional moqueca capixaba is served with white rice and pirao(moqueca broth and yucca) and served in the same clay pot(made from black clay and local ES mangrove tree sap) in which it was cooked.Be sure and ask for the pirao, they've stopped serving it because confused diners weren't eating it. You WANT the pirao, ladies and gentlemen.


The chef at Moqueca, Tatiana, hails from Vitoria, the state capitol of Espiritu Santo, and her menu is a celebration of comida capixaba.It's likely the most extensive Brazilian menu in the LA area, perhaps the US.And, maybe the only places in the US specializing in Espiritu Santo state cuisine.This restaurant would fit in just fine in the upscale Sao Paulo neighborhood, Jardins, a modern, elegant presentation and space showcasing a unique regionality.

Moqueca of shark and fish, Moqueca of lobster and jumbo shrimp, and Bobo de Camarao


Moqueca of lobster and jumbo shrimp

The menu boasts eight capixaba moquecas, athentic Brazilian appetizers and sides(porcoes), salads and desserts,Brazilian cocktails from caipirinhas to batidas.Another excellent family run restaurant.

Tatiana says it's only been a little more than a month since opening Moqueca.

Tonight I ordered the moqueca de peixe(fish moqueca), which came with the pirao and white rice.My moqueca was extraordinary, a beautiful presentation and true capixaba flavor.On another occasion I tried the lobster and shrimp moquecas, and shark with fish.Each dish really picks up the flavors and characters of each protein due to their long, slow cooking time.

The risoles(savory) de camarao were excellent, just a little less on the inside than what we're used to, but the flavor was right on.

Other regional specialties on the menu are arroz com banana da terra and bobo de camarao(shrimp cooked in a clay pot with coconut milk, and thickened with yucca cream).The bobo de camarao here is must be included on your itinerary.An elegant, and rich cream of yucca flour with just a hint of coconut. The moquecas and bobo de camarao are for two.Moquequinhas(little moquecas) are on the appetizers menu in case you are flying solo and don't want to dust off a moqueca for two.But don't find yourself in that position, bring a friend or date and get a moqueca here, or save the rest for lunch the next day.


There is prato feito(complete meal)for lunch and other traditional Brazilian dishes for those not interested in one of the best original dishes from Brazil,moqueca!

Two Brazilian beers are on the menu, Brahma and Xingu, the batidinha(brazilian cachaca cocktail) of cachaca condensed milk and maracuja(passionfruit)I ordered was 100% Brasileiro.Paves(milk flan layered with wihipped cream), pudim(brazilian pudding), and brigadeiros(mousse) are on the dessert menu.Our Paves de amendoim(peanut butter and cookies) and bombom(crumbled chocolate bar) were sinfully good.

Intimate, romantic dining at one of the most unique regional restaurants in the US by a seasoned Brazilian chef, pulling off simple every day dishes with flair, and effortlessly crafting legendary Brazilian cuisine fit for the arbiters of fine dining in Sao Paulo.For the uninitiated at Moqueca,there's really nothing to it.Order a moqueca, put some rice on your plate, top it with moqueca, have some pirao with the rice, and toss a few malaguetas(brazilian chile)in the mix.Repeat.You are now an expert in capixaba cuisine.MOQUECA Gente!!

MOQUECA BRAZILIAN CUISINE
3550 S HARBOR BLVD SUITE 201
OXNARD, CA 93035
805-809-0970

Much Ado about Carne Asada

Chopping blended carne for tacos in Tijuana

Sonoran cabreria from aged Angus beef.

A recent discussion on chowhound really got me to thinking about carne asada.Why don't we have great versions in LA? What is carne asada?What are its forms and traditions? I've had a great number opportunities over the years to experience the best carne asada and parrillada in Mexico, in Sonora, and in the best region, northen Mexico.I was blown away though, when the group I was traveling with this past weekend in Leon, Guanajuato ordered arrachera from the room service menu at the Holiday Inn, of all places, and how good it was.The Holiday Inn in Leon has better carne asada than the best restaurants in LA?

During a food crawl recently with Kaire Raisu(chowhound) in Tijuana, we checked out some carne asada as I contemplated the common thread that made the best places so good. I tasted too!

Here is my field tested theory: Carne Asada doesn't have the social, traditional or commercial infrastructure in the US to replicate the quality and taste in Mexico.Carne asada the Mexico way would outprice the average carne asada consumer in the US.Due to economics and local US tradition, a cheap, fast food version of carne asada thrives amongst the mexican-american community and entrenched "norteamericanos".

Northern Mexico makes the best beef:Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango,Coahuila,Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.But, the rest of Mexico fairs quite well, basically, quality beef is available throughout Mexico at a very accessible price for taco stands, taquerias, and restaurants alike.Restaurants advertise their Sonoran beef, and Benito Molina at Manzanilla in Ensenada even tells you the name of the ranch, Rancho El 17.We have cuts that approximate the arrachera here in the US, but not from the same cows nor are they cut the same way.Mexican butchers in the US do American cuts from US beef.Even latino markets in Los Angeles have ranchera, not arrachera.Arrachera can be cut with a fork,tender, juicy, and sublime.The beef matters in Mexico's asada as it does in Argentina's parrillada, Brazil's churrasco, and Japan's kobe steak.

The forms:carne asada tacos, the individual cut, parrilladas(assorted grilled meats),vampiros,perrones(Rosarito), tortas,gringas,sopes, huaraches, mulitas,quesataco(Tijuana) and so many more concoctions.

Even in our neighboring Tijuana, the street taquerias and stands advertise the fine cuts like NY Steak and Arrachera.Many of the best stands and taquerias doing tacos grill with coal, wood or mezquite and use blends of fine cuts and regular cuts to make economically sound tacos of high quality.In Sonora, Tacos Jass uses NY, top siroin(palomilla), and diezmillo.In TJ, a taqueria on the eastside of town has a secret blend of several meats over coal, the style and presentation is uniquely Tijuanense.The meat is grilled and chopped moments before serving.The parrilladas of Mexico and grilled and brought to your table on a brazier or a hot cast iron plate to keep warm, but are cooked on the grill.Sorry Ceviche(chowhound), they can touch the cast iron plate, just shouldn't be cooked on them.They can be served as whole cuts, in pieces, sliced, or chopped roughly for a taco.The cuts:NY steak, arrachera(favorite),cabreria(rib-eye),diezmillo,and palomilla are the most popular.The best versions are the taco, parrilada, and fine cut plate.In general, the more ingredients in the vehicle, the lower the quality of meat used, the American style burrito being the easiest way to serve cheap cuts as the taste comes from the conglomerate fillings.

The accompaniments are also important: flour tortillas(esp. those light Sonoran tortillas),queso fundido,salsas, a mixed salad with roasted chiles, tripas and costillas(ribs),refried beans sonoran or sinaloan style(infused with pork or chorizo and cheese),grilled onions and jalapenos,escabeche(pickled vegetables and chiles),baked potatoes, quesadillas de trigo,etc.This aesthetic exists throughout Mexico, carne asada isn't a fast food to be trivialized.Yeah, and they even got it right at the Holiday Inn in Mexico.

Until a Mexican steak restaurant in the form of Fogo de Chao, Mercado Buenos Aires emerges, or a taqueria/stand with the conviction and sourcing of Moles La Tia comes forth willing to charge $3 for a carne asada taco of imported arrachera or NY steak, we are stuck with the fast food steak combo plate and commercial beef cuts from Costco for street and truck tacos.We could have it here though, but it's goin' to cost you.Maybe some Sonorans here in LA will come forth and make it happen.

If you've survivied this far, here is the fun.A celebration of carne asada and a feast for the eyes.

Two parrilladas in Cd.Obregon, Sonora-Ny steak,arrachera,ribs, and tripas with tortillas Sonorenses
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3188306131/in/set-72157612405910987/
Arrachera, tripa,sonoran refried beans,sonoran tortillas,and a quesadilla(bitten!
)


http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3188489315/in/set-72157612405910987/
A prep at Tacos Jass in Hermosillo blends NY, top sirloin, and diezmillo.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3189335052/in/set-72157612405910987/
Aged cabreria in Hermosillo,Sonora
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3188492047/in/set-72157612405910987/
Grilled arrachera-Tijuana,BCN
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3189337650/in/set-72157612405910987/
carne asada tacos made from blended cuts-Tijuana
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3189338818/in/set-72157612405910987/
Manning the grill in Tijuana
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927@N03/3189343858/in/set-72157612405910987/
A NY steak and shrimp quesataco(taco with meats enveloped in a grilled-cheese wrapper)-Tijuana,BCN
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927...

Monday, January 5, 2009

***Sergio Penuelas has moved to the Inglewood branch***Mariscos Chente, the king of Mexican sashimi opens on the Westside

***Serigo Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente in Mar Vista, and is now cooking Thursday through Sunday at the Inglewood location,10020 Inglewood Ave,Inglewood CA 90304*** (4/14/10)


Mariscos Chente, Mar Vista


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, the best Mexican seafood restaurant in town 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 husband and wife team over at MC, having a visit from the fire marshall to determine when they could reopen.On my way back from Ensenada yesterday, I stopped by to find family and friends dining, a small group, so even though I over did it in TJ and Ensenada, why not a little ceviche and beer? The equipment 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 be up and running soon.In the meantime, all the raw seafood items on the menu are available, and various cooked Nayarit/Sinaloa dishes are present.



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 duena(female owner), and her daughter and son-in-law 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 charcoal grilled whole fish entree marinated in either a tomato based sauce or a garlic, butter, and soy base, my favorite.There is a huge soy usage in Sinaloan cooking, brought by Japanese immigrants and mariners. Although Nayarit is the birth place of this wonder, Sinaloa to the north also has a tradition of pescado zarandeado and claims it as a state dish.Her son-in-law and chef, Sergio, is from Los Mochis, Sinaloa.I'd like to think of his marriage to Angie as a royal wedding of pescado zarandeado traditions, to settle the feud of culinary heritage.Or maybe it was an arranged marriage, the ambitious Magdalena spying the perfect chef for her restaurant,"Angie, necesitamos un cocinero!"The truth is, outside a few dishes, Nayarit and Sinaloa have a similar seafood gastronomy.Sinaloa, is the source for much of the seafood in Mexico, especially shrimp with the largest commercial shrimp fleet in Latin America.



Camarones a la diabla, the superlative version in LA

The restaurant is a Nayarit seafood place with a Sinaloan chef, the best in LA.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 of the mother country.I would put Sergio's cooking up with the best seafood joints, high and low, in Sinaloa.Sinaloan chefs are Mexican sashimi experts, deft with the knife, aficionados of fresh seafood, polished platers, and versed in many cooking disciplines.Many of their techniques and dishes are performed all over Mexico.The sashimi ceviche de camaron crudo(raw shrimp ceviche), callo de hacha(raw scallops in lime),or the aguachile(whole raw shrimp with lime and chile), all garnished with the signature purple onion and cucumber.I can tell a Sinaloan chefs work, as in sashimi and sushi, the knife work of a great chef is seasoned and unique. In Nayarit and Sinaloa, there are so many raw offerings: abalone, various fish, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, mussels, and many more.

The cooked dishes are delightful and go beyond the usual suspects at most Mexican seafood restaurants.Camarones culichis(shrimp in creme of poblano, au gratin), chicharron de pescado(fish skin in soy sauce), camaron a la pimienta(shrimp in a oil and pepper sauce), and of course the zarandeados.Sinaloans are makers of the best cocktails, and tostada mixtas(mixed seafood tostadas).Their molcajetes, Mexican mortar and pestals filled with mixed raw seafood are fiestas in a lava bowl.



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 brings in seafood from Mazatlan, Sergio doesn't like the seafood here, too long in the fridge for him.He is all too accustomed to the fresh catch in Sinaloa and how it goes from boat to shack/restaurant to consumer in a matter of hours, or less.Sergio is consumate in his choice of seafood for each dish, only pargo and robalo will do for pescado zarandeado at Mariscos Chente.
I had the ceviche de camaron yesterday, a glorious heap of white shrimp(diferent from aguachile grade),fresh cut and crisp cucumber, purple,onion, tomato, and cilantro on 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), camaron al ajillo(spicy garlic sauce), al chipotle(in chipotle sauce), and anything else they have on the menu. I've yet to find a better or more authentic Sinaloa/Nayarit seafood place in town, and Marscos Chente is better or as good as the best places I've been in Sinaloa,Mexico.Come on in, the doors are open.

Update!!
The best pescado zarandeado is now available at Mariscos Chente.Whole grilled fish imported from Mazatlan in a subtle chipotle,secret spiced, mustard, and mayo marinade cooked deftly and soulfully with classical toppings of purple onion and cucumber.This dish is without peer this side of the border.



Sergio's knife works a robalo for pescado zarandeado


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


zarandeado to order is the signature dish from Sergio's kitchen.



Taco 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
310-390-9241

also in Inglewood
10020 Inglewood Ave
Inglewood CA 90304
No Pescado zarandeado at the Inglewood location and different chef.

Mariscos Chente in Los Angeles