The Cossio family saga seemingly has more twists and turns than a Southern Gothic novel, and it’s probably best to leave plot analysis to my friend Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA, who turned me on to the cooking of Sinaloa born chef Sergio Penuelas in the first place. I enjoyed his cooking at Mariscos Chente, and he later left to join Nayarit native Connie Cossio at her father Vincente’s former Inglewood home, which dates to 1991. In 2012, she changed the name to Coni’Seafood and upgraded the decor, but the food’s just as good.
The dining room features mottled grey walls, decorative metal fish and dividers that resemble aquariums, complete with smooth black stones, starfish and seashells. A big back patio touts a tapered roof and mural touting Mariscos Estilo Nayarit.
The thick corn tortilla chips didn’t need refurbishing, and they still come with a molcajete of spicy salsa, a green slurry of sweet-tart jalapeno and lemon juice.
Coni’Seafood has several raw seafood preparations, perhaps none better than Aguachile ($12). Penuelas marinates shrimp in lemon and lime juice and slathers them in spicy, jalapeño-centric green sauce. Red onion and sliced cucumber provide textural contrast. Sometimes, the shrimp are firmer than others. The firmer, the better. Note the antenna on the bug-eyed shrimp, which resemble long strands of saffron.
Langostinos ($20) consist of “baby lobsters” that Penuelas splits and serves with a savory, spice-tinged sauce crafted from garlic, red pepper, lemon juice, and langoustine debris. Pull the sweet meat from the shells and spoon sauce over vegetable-studded white rice.
The Coni’Seafood piece de resistance is undoubtedly Pescado Zarandeado ($22 por kilo), a butterflied and chargrilled snook that’s seasoned with salt and marinated in a “house sauce” that includes soy sauce spices and mayo. Combine pieces of flaky white fish, sweet caramelized onions and warm corn tortillas to form delectable tacos.
Another favorite dish is Chicharron de Pescado ($16), crispy cuts of skin-on tilapia. That’s typically a bland fish, but not when entrusted to Chef Penuelas, who tosses chunks with a tangy blend of soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic. He plates the fish with cucumbers, shaved red onion, and a sprinkling of seasoned salt.
There are Mexican restaurants with larger menus in Los Angeles, in more contemporary settings, but that’s kind of the charm of Coni’Seafood: quality and focus, minus the fuss.