Back in January, Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA wrote about the wonders of Chef Sergio Eduardo Penuelas’ Sinaloa/Nayarit style seafood, and on our Baja bender, he made it clear that Chente is one of the few Mexican restaurants in L.A. that can compete with their south-of-the-border counterparts. That’s high-praise from a food-seeking missile who’s explored almost every corner of Mexico. With fantastical visions of seafood grandeur in our heads, Pat from Eating LA, her friend Matt and I met up in Mar Vista for a seafood feast. Considering the massive portions of high-quality Mazatlan seafood, it’s hard to imagine a better Mexican seafood experience in L.A. at the moment.
Pescado Zarandeado ($20) was absolutely state-of-the-art, a kilo of butterflied snook marinated in soy sauce and topped with a flavored mayo. What’s snook, you ask? We’d never heard of it either, but apparently the long silver sport fish comes from tropical waters
The snook was just terrific, and only $20 for the minimum weight requirement! Amazing. We plucked moist, flaky chunks of white fish until the bones were bare. The snook was strewn with cucumbers and orange slices and plattered with a dish of stewed onions. If you want a terrific taco, just pile chunks of snook and sweet onions in a steaming corn tortilla.
Mariscos Chente features 15 different shrimp preparations, including Aguachiles – marinated with lemon and green sauce; Borrachos – cooked with tequila, cut garlic, cilantro and crushed pepper; and Al Ajillo – prepared with cut garlic, cheese and sour cream. Cheese and sour cream on shrimp? No thanks. Instead, we selected Camarones A La Diabla ($12), plump shrimp tossed with a lip-stinging red chile sauce and sweet-spicy onions. The flavor built in intensity with each bite, but was never overwhelmingly spicy.
Tacos de Marlin (3 for $11) weren’t on the menu, but we knew to order them thanks to Esparza’s review. The flavor profile was similar, but the marlin tacos were more impressive at Mariscos El Mazateno in Tijuana, but it was still cool to see the rare dish in L.A. Mazateno’s version was smokier, not nearly as funky, and Chente’s version was kind of waterlogged, but they were still better than the overly-crusty version that existed at bygone Badiraguato in Huntington Park.
From now on, every meal at Mariscos Chente will involve at least one kilo of snook. It will also be fun to systematically devour the rest of the shrimp selection. As for my initial visit, the only regret was ignoring the advice of the posters that read “Try Langostines!!!”