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.
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 the same seafood gastronomy.Sinaloa, is the source for much of the seafood in Mexico, especially shrimp with the largest commercial shrimp fleet in Latin America.
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.
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 accostumed 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.
ceviche de camaron
camaron al ajillo
4532 S. Centinela(at Gilmore)
Mar Vista, CA 90066
also in Inglewood
10020 Inglewood Ave
Inglewood CA 90304