Fish Taco DEATHMATCH: TBE vs. El Taco Nazo
So yesterday, I was done a little early and wanted to head home. A friend of mine who happens to live in Orange County and work downtown was doing the same thing at the end of the trading day.
"I have an idea," I said. "You stop at Tacos Baja Ensenada and buy us each a fish taco and a shrimp taco, get some of the peppers. I'll stop at El Taco Nazo in La Habra and do the same thing. Meet me in the parking lot of the gas station off the 5 at Lakewood/Rosemead and we'll settle which is better for once and for all."
By some miracle we both arrived within about 30 seconds of each other.
There we were, two grown men in shirts and ties, leaned over the hood of a BMW X3, scarfing fish and shrimp tacos and peppers, sipping horchata.
Tacos Baja Ensenada -- the fish was dry and rattled around in the fried batter. The shrimp were better. If you've never had them, the batter is very thin and is obviously fried at very high heat, because it's almost like a thin skin. The flavour was generally good but it needed a lot more salsa to provide heat. The cabbage was shredded more finely and the crema was fresher. The peppers were "cool" today, meaning that they weren't so high on the capsaicin charts. The seasoning on the peppers is much tangier than ETN's.
El Taco Nazo -- their batter is more like a tempura, much crunchier than TBE's. The fish was, again, a bit dry -- perhaps because of the time between purchase and consumption. The shrimp were outstanding -- juicy and wonderful. The crema was a little "old" for my taste (a bit sour) but the salsa was much better. A hit of lime was all this taco needed. The peppers were hotter (capsaicin, not temperature, they were all stone cold by the time we ate them) and the lime powder on them was better, but not as tangy as TBE's.
Overall: fish tacos, no clear winner -- the dressing was better at ETN but the fish was better at TBE. Shrimp tacos -- ETN by a landslide, no comparison. Peppers -- ETN, but only because they were spicier.
In any case, both of these places, as well as Señor Baja, blow places like Wahoo's and Rubio's clear out of the water. You will do well to eat at either place, and trying to crown a winner is like trying to pick which sense you like better.
Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Blvd. (btw. Atlantic Blvd. and Goodrich St.)
East Los Angeles, CA 90022
El Taco Nazo
121 S. Beach Blvd. (just south of La Habra Blvd.)
La Habra, CA 90631
Alright, just went back to Tacos Por Favor for their fried fish tacos and...I gotta say it, prefer them to TBE
It's the crunch factor, and their salsa roja. Sure, it's probably not as authentic. Hell, the fish may not even be as good. I'd have to do a side by side for that one. It's clunkier. Larger tortilla. It's not the light, delicate taco that is TBE. But the crunchiness of the batter in every bite, slathered with the clove-scented red chile sauce is just heaven to me. 3 of these washed down with a couple beers is pretty close to perfect for me.
Just went to TBE last night. I had only been once before a couple years ago.
Incoming major blasphemy, just a warning.
They were good, don't get me wrong. Batter was light, crispy at the ends. A little bland and underseasoned, the taco as a whole was in the "good" category for me. Crema and hot sauce were fine, didn't add a whole lot. Also got ceviches de pescado y una de camaron. The shrimp ceviche was very very good. The fish was...not un-fresh, but not as fresh as it could have been. However yesterday was a Sunday. TBE doesn't serve beer. The horchata was excellent.
Here's where I'm afraid I'll get flamed. I like the fish tacos at Tacos Por Favor better. The time I had them (I'll go very soon to confirm my taste memory) they were crunchier, just as light, flavorful. They probably aren't as authentic. This thread might go into a authentic=good argument (a concept I almost always am a proponent for) but this time I think I just like what I like, and I like TPF fish tacos better. I like pico de gallo. I like their salsa roja. I did like the chiles amarillas at TBE with the chile salt, those were tasty. TPF is closer too...and sells beer.
Taco Nazo wasn't bought out, apparently there was a split in the family. So now there are Senor Baja locations were there were once Taco Nazo stands. From what I understand one side wanted to stay small and the other side wanted to expand at a faster pace.
I have yet to try TBE, it's impossible to find parking in the area on weekends. I think I am going to have to park in the shopping mall and walk.
Interesting and instructive - thanks.
But I have abandoned Taco Nazo since they seem to have taken a major dive about a year ago - I am told they were bought out. For several years, their fish tacos were so good that I would go way out of my way to get them (noon only - other times were irregular). In fact, on a taste bet a group of us got them to give us a plate of the fried fish only, which was a revelation - the tortilla, crema, and greens only detracted. But alas, no more. Less than fresh fish, a tad greasy, and an overall letdown in 3 (no more to come) visits in the past year: Claremont, Azusa, and Pico Rivera. Stick to Senor Fish in Eagle Rock.
Ya know there is a Senor Baja on Washington Ave. in Pico Rivera, just across the street from the shopping mall. Ya could have bought the tacos at both joints and met up somewhere in Montebello. The food would have been warmer, gotten a better sample of thier real taste.
Just a thought.
Senor Baja USED to be Taco Nazo, until the split.
Heh, love it... thanks for the post, I'm gonna try both now. So far, I've been pretty much sticking with Senor Fish, where I had my first fish tacos over 12 years ago. Maybe it's nostalgia that keeps me heading back to Eagle Rock for fish tacos?
Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to trying TBE and ETN - I've meant to for a while now.
nice description there. although i think ETN is even cheaper than TBE. so you can throw that into the equation.
yup i always get the shrimp at ETN. personally I've never had a better one. not even in Mexico. that ETN is the best location i've been to.
(I have a dirty little secret though. There is one in santa fe springs attached to a bowling alley that has these cubed cucumbers swimming in hot sauce and lime next to the salsa's. they're spicy even for me. think of them as an appetizer. the place is more of a dive though.)