Lupita’s – Fish Taco

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The Grand Central Market on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles is in the process of gentrification. You can now buy an egg sandwich for $13 or grass-fed beef for $35 a pound, but some of the old-line food stands are still there. Thank goodness.

I recently stopped Lupita’s, and was pleased to find a classic Baja style fish taco. Perfectly fried fish fillets on warm tortillas, smothered in shredded lettuce, crema, pico de gallo and hot sauce, with a dash of squeezed lemon, they can be the perfect lunch.

Let’s hope they don’t get forced out of the market by the trendy new places.

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Tacos Punta Cabras – Scallop Tacos

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With the grandfathered exception of The Border Grill, I never expected to find serious tacos in Santa Monica. Out for a walk on Santa Monica Boulevard, though, I had a feeling about this small, casual spot, and decided to give it a try. It also helped that I was hungry at the time.

The menu is very specialized, in the form of an order sheet with boxes to check. Tacos are limited to fish, scallop, shrimp and tofu. There are also seafood cocktails and tostadas. And that’s kind of it. They give special consideration to gluten and nut allergies.

I went for a fish taco and a scallop taco. There were no surprises when they arrived, basically baja style tacos with fried fish and scallops, shredded cabbage and a dash of crema on soft tortillas. The surprise came when I took my first bite. Perfectly cooked, beautifully balanced flavors and wonderful textures, these aren’t the quick comfort food we’ve come to expect of tacos…

This is serious food!

Here’s the address: 2311 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 917-2244

Shrimp Tacos – Mariscos El Jato – East Los Angeles

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I spotted this East LA seafood restaurant on a Sunday afternoon a couple of months ago. The reason I noticed it was the large number of customers, but that was the very reason that kept me from trying it that day. They were just too busy. I was in the neighborhood today, and had much better luck.

The menu has photos of the food, and my mind was made up the moment I saw the 5 Tacos de Camarón con Ensalada. It turned out to be 5 huge tacos buried under slices of avocado and a sour cream cole slaw. The tacos were filled with grilled shrimp that seemed to be lightly breaded, and a dash of pico de gallo, fried until they were crispy. I rarely encounter a crunchy taco, but the robust combination of seafood flavor, textures and even the warm and cool temperatures delivered on the promise I had seen in the photo.

I spoke with the owner, El Jato himself, a friendly, outgoing native of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, near Guadalajara. He told me that he created most of the dishes on the menu, and all of the plates I saw whizzing past me looked delicious. I saw beautiful tilapia fried whole, gigantic fish tacos, and big seafood-cocktailish looking dishes called chavelas.

So there are at least three more visits in my future, before I go for a repeat on the shrimp tacos.

Here’s the address: 2936 E. 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033

Phone: (323) 264-6590

La Huasteca – Lynwood, CA – Shrimp in Red Chile Salsa

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One of the highlights of the AltaMed East LA Meets Napa fundraiser in July was the shrimp in red salsa served by La Huasteca.

La Huasteca is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, as you can see from some of my earlier entries in this blog. They are super-friendly and make some of the best moles I’ve ever tasted, and now I have an idea of the magic they can do with seafood. It’s really worth the trip to Lynwood.

Here’s the website: http://www.lahuasteca.com/

Mr. Lobster – Mazatlán – Fish Ceviche

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Mr. Lobster is a bright, cheerful place in an upscale area just a few blocks north of the Malecón.

As you may have gathered by now, I do enjoy ceviche. There was a choice of ceviches, and I went for the fish. I’ve never seen it served this way, minced with tomato, cucumber, carrots and onion, and it was a refreshing treat on a hot afternoon. Several bites in, I realized I was violating an important traveler’s rule by eating the unpeeled tomato, but I figured it was to late to change my mind, and went ahead and ate it with great pleasure. There was no problem in this case, but I still try to be careful.

Definitely a nice choice for authentic Sinaloa style seafood.

Alagua – Mazatlán – Aguachile de Camarón

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This is a wonderful ceviche dish that I just discovered recently. Alagua is one of the best seafood restaurants in Mazatlán, and they do a spectacular version of the famous Sinaloa dish.

The freshest of shrimp are shelled raw, “cooked” in lime juice and served with chopped cucmbers, onion and a jalapeño purée.There couldn’t be a more perfect dish to eat right at the beach with the warm breeze on your face.