OK folks, I had been waiting a very, very long time to eat at the establishment rated number one Mexian restaurant by Los Angeles magazine, and today was my opportunity.
I arrived at 2:30 PM today (Saturday) and parked right outside the establishment. I went inside and joined the line, which had about 15 people in front of me. I was happy to be jostled around as patrons navigated between the salsa and pimento bar and their tables. I knew I wanted the number 1 combo, since it is the fish tacos which everyone raved about.
After about a 20 minute wait I placed my order, paid and waited with anticipation. No tables or outside counter space was available, so I floated around between outside and inside, waiting for my order.
Full disclosure: I am a guero! I speak Spanish well, but since even many locals were speaking English to the staff, I did so as well.
Finally my plate arrived. Two thirds of it was obviously standard fare: white rice and pinto beans, stewed soft. OK, no problem, with lime juice and hot sauce, that is what I expect with my Mexican food.
The tacos: two double-tortillaed stacks of fried fish, shredded cabbage and a white sauce not too distant from ranch dressing. I went ahead and grabbed the package and bit into it. The fish was tender, not fishy tasting. The batter was crisp, not too different from some higher-end onion rings I've had. All in all a tasty, respectable thing to nosh.
BUT COME ON PEOPLE!!! BEST MEXICAN IN LOS ANGELES??????
I'm not sure if fish tacos, and this preparation of them in particular, has just become so fetishized and overexposed in the media that there was no way they could live up to their reputation, or if people truly find this plate to be the highest expression of Mexican cuisine in LA.
What about Guelaguetza or La Casita for Lord's sake???? You are telling me that fried fish tacos hold a candle to rich and complex moles, wonderful pipian sauces or sublime poached guayabas?
Someone please explain to me. If you say that Baja Ensenada is a sentimental evocation of the comfort food reminiscent of youth, of road trips to Mexico, of the cheap thrills of fast food, I will understand. But fine Mexican food this is not.