Drop anchor at Mariscos Chente for some of L.A.'s best Mexican seafood.
Mariscos Chente set the standard for Mexican seafood in Los Angeles, but owner Magdalena Garcia and chef/son-in-law Sergio Penuelas aren’t satisfied with a stack of accolades. They recently rolled out a new slate of winter-friendly dishes, and longtime Chente booster Bill Esparza arranged a complimentary sampling for a small group of food bloggers, including me.
To keep the seafood fresh, Nayarit native Magdalena Garcia frequently travels by bus to Mazatlan and her home state of Nayarit to procure authentic seafood. Penuelas is from a neighboring state that’s also known for its seafood, Sinaloa. When Garcia can’t make it all the way to Nayarit, she’ll meet family members halfway, in Tijuana. That commitment level shows on the plate and in the bowl at Mariscos Chente.
We started with a small bowl of soup. Spicy tomato and shrimp broth was spiked with lip stinging jalapeño and chock full of celery, bell pepper and cilantro. Floating in the broth: firm shrimp meatballs (albondigas).
Each Sinaloan style fried shrimp taco featured a grilled flour tortilla, squiggles of homemade 1000 island dressing, crunchy shredded cabbage and diced tomatoes. Shrimp were a little overcooked, and the batter wasn’t as crispy as L.A.’s best Baja style fish tacos.
Sea bass was better suited to the Sinaloa-style preparation, with each taco topped with a thick, juicy fillet.
Halibut soup was loaded with skin-on fillets. The milder, tomato-based broth shoed no hint of jalapeño.
Mixto incorporated the same mild broth and was absolutely loaded with sweet head-on shrimp, tender cross-sections of octopus tentacle and more of that halibut, including bone and firm, gelatinous fin.
Gobernador was the dish of the night, folded-over flour tortillas packed with shrimp, molten Monterey jack cheese and sweet grilled onions. These grilled tacos were absolutely addictive.
Mariscos Chente also provides complimentary tortilla chips and salsa: mild tomato-based and a lip-stinging jalapeño slurry.
Señora Garcia topped off our meal with a pitcher of Palomas. The sweet drink was loaded with Squirt, citrus, salt and ice. The drink is known as a Jarritos in Nayarit and is available with or without tequila.
Gobernador and the shrimp albondigas soup are both instant classics that don’t quite rate with Mariscos Chente’s prized dish, pescado zarandeado, but certainly qualify as must-order items.