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REVIEW: Mariscos Puerto Esperanza, Orange

I tend to view mariscos restaurants with a jaded eye -- the Valley, where I used to live, is absolutely chock full of them, and all the food usually tastes slightly muddy -- the same three sauces (a la veracruzana, al mojo de ajo, a diabla) on the same four proteins (red snapper, shrimp, octopus and squid).

So it was with guarded (at best) optimism that I followed georgempavlov's and streetgourmetla's suggestion to head out to Mariscos Puerto Esperanza, just down the road from my house.

We walked in -- it was 12.30 on Black Friday, with zillions of shoppers all up and down Tustin Avenue -- and the place was dead. There was one other couple in there, and one guy who came in while we were eating. Not encouraging -- no, sirree, not encouraging at all. Yet the hostess was gracious, and service was quick, and you can see the food being made so there's no question of the staff just sitting around. When we sat down we were given chips (thick and non-greasy) and salsa (excellent) and mugs of lobster stock with salsa cruda in it -- rich and delicious. When was the last time you got an amuse-bouche in a Mexican restaurant (and we're not talking about chips and salsa here)?

I ordered langostinos zarandeados ($14.95) -- a version of the classic Nayarit dish of grilled fish with chile and roasted tomato sauce, only with rock lobsters instead of fish (the restaurant also serves robalo [whole bass] zarandeado). It came with green rice and grilled vegetables and, upon request (though untraditional with seafood) beans in their pot likker.

My wife ordered a lunch special ($7.95) of chicken -- which turned out to be two chicken breast halves, grilled, with a simple salsa cruda ("pico de gallo" to English speakers, which means something quite different to Mexicans), plus two enchiladas with chicken, green rice and beans. Hers came with a salad of lettuce and jicama with vinaigrette and grated cotija cheese.

Let me tell you something -- as boring as that lunch special sounds, and as unsuited for a seafood restaurant, it was STUNNINGLY well-done. The chicken was slightly smoky but still moist inside, with the salsa providing just the right hit of tomato and chile and lime. The enchiladas were absolutely fantastic. No cheesey melty orangey Las Palmas-type sauce on these -- no, these were done RIGHT. Tortillas dipped in a smoky guajillo salsa, filled with more chicken, with an avocado salsa and crema mexicana drizzled on top, and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. AMAZING. The only thing that would have made them better would have been if they had been handmade tortillas (they're not). And even the salad -- the humble salad -- was so good I thought about ordering a bowl of it for myself.

That would, however, have meant that I had less room to attack the gigantic platter of grilled rock lobsters -- langostinos in Spanish -- with a smoky, dark, slightly orange-flavoured (I think) sauce. Six -- yes, that's right, $14.95 gets you SIX of these things -- split in half, grilled until the legs char (don't worry, there's no meat in the legs of a langostino) and drizzled with this sauce. I made a royal mess of my shirt because I wanted desperately to suck the heads of these things. SO. GOOD. It's also worth mentioning that the vegetables were also grilled -- and better than your usual variety. Grilled broccoli, red bell pepper, green beans, zucchini and carrots, very tasty and healthy.

We refused dessert -- we really were both very full, despite sharing our lunches with Die Ubergeeklette, who approved of the entire operation and downed everything we gave her -- and headed out.

The bill was not painful at all -- two very large meals, a bottle of Pacifico and a can of Diet Coke came to $31.

I haven't been this excited about a Mexican place in a very long time. While I do love Babita (that veal cheek, my GOD) and La Huasteca (white mole and pipian rojo, mmmm), this is more exciting because it's not trying to be 'alta cocina', it's in an anonymous minimall in a very non-trendy corner of Orange County, and of course there's the whole 5-minutes-down-the-road thing.

This place should have lines out the door and chest-butting matches for parking spots. Go and enjoy some very simply-cooked, excellent Mexican seafood, because there are not many places that do it this well. You can't eat like this in a Newport Beach den of seafood for less than $60 a head -- but you can eat well at Mariscos Puerto Esperanza for well less than half that.

Perhaps you'll run into me -- I'm already planning my next visits.

Mariscos Puerto Esperanza
1724 N Tustin St, Orange, CA 92865

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  1. Hi Das,

    Another great review! :) Thanks for the strong recommendation; I was planning on trying it after reading george and streetgourmetla's posts, but haven't had a chance yet.

    1. Oooh, langostinos.Well, since you are at ground zero, we expect more of your fine tasting notes as you familiarize yourself with the menu,DU.Did they use mezquite and properly zarandeadoed the langostinos?Smoky, I'm guessing this was the case, que no?

      Also, I'm curious about the orange flavor.Zarandeado usually is lime, butter, soy sauce, pureed garlic in olive oil, and salt, of course there are a million variations.Maybe you can hit 'em up.One of the best preps I tasted was the aforementioned combination in Sinaloa earlier this year.

      1. I hate to say it Mr. Geek... but I think you would accrue lots of great karma if you go around Yelp, Cityguide and all the other crappy review sites trying to pump up some attention for this place... otherwise you might have to say RIP

        1. Another vote for this place. We had the most incredible grilled fish I have had in my life. The lobster broth wasn't great when we were there - a bit watery. Everything else was incredible, the staff were friendly and professional, and it was worryingly empty. We're going to be regulars now, although I don't think we alone can keep it open.

          1. Based upon the reviews here on Chowhound (especially DU's which I always heed), I went to MPE last night with my Dad. I got the langostinos zarandeados mentioned in DU's post - they were amazingly good. Split in half and grilled perfectly. The meat was tasty and succulent. Perfectly cooked and not dry like shrimp and lobster can get if not cooked at the proper heat. The sauce was one of the tastiest and unique things I have had in quite some time. Slightly sweet with a hint of orange flavor. It went great with the langostino. Dad got the grilled striped bass (he ordered the red snapper but the waiter said they were out). The fish was cooked really well (notice the trend?) - charred lightly on the outside and really moist on the inside. It was served with a red sauce on the side that was slightly sweet and smoky. Really well done. Both dishes came with green rice and nicely grilled vegetables. Dad's also came with a pot of beans. We spoke with the owner after our meal. He asked how we found out about his place and I let him know about Chowhound - he knew about it the site and that his place had been mentioned on it. He was VERY appreciative of the recommendation. He definitely needs the business (Dad and I were the only customers). He sad business was good when he first opened but has been down around 40% the last few months. He has worked at several restaurants throughout OC. I was very impressed with his passion for food and the quest to serve fresh things only. You could tell he cares a lot about the food and not just the bottom line.

            This was a really great meal. Please stop by and give this place a try. It's exactly the kind of place we need more of....

            1 Reply
            1. re: HB_Jeff

              I enjoyed your review and will be checking this place out by the end of next week. It is hard right now for most to eat out but as foodies, we save (at least I do) and cut back so we can dine out. A great dining experience is the very best entertianment dollar spent. IMO

            2. These are warm and passionate people at MPE.I stopped by and had the langostines, couldn't put down a whole fish at the time, and ordered an aguachile rojo.

              The flavor in the sarandeado is crema Mexicana, tomato sauce,a small amount of chipotle, and orange juice.It's not traditional Nayarit or Sinaloa, but the chef's own version, and was great.His grilling technique and execution of sides, grilled vegetables and arroz verde, were excellent.The lobster base for his caldo Michi and other soups, addicting.

              The aguachile, the chef''s version, didn't work.Wrong quality of shrimp, too much lime and over spiced, to the point of pickling the cucumber and white onions(should be purple), and the plating attempted to be interesting but was more of a mess.He said this was Zihuatanejo style.Some might even like this, it is quite spicy, but an aguachile is one of those simple dishes much like sashimi where the ingredients are of paramount importance.Mexican white shrimp, crisp purple onion and cucumber, lime with sea salt, and whatever chile spicing but subtle.Let the Mexican sashimi shine.

              The restaurant is a destination for grilled seafood and traditional dishes done in an alta cocina presentation and style.I'm very glad to have a restaurant like this in LA, and will return.The soups seem like they are very good, too, based on the flavor base.

              I wouldn't order the aguachile again,but there are plenty of wonderful items on the menu, and the chef has 28 years of experience along with a passion for food.I will be going back soon for the Huachinango a La Talla! Thanks again to Georgempavlov for the find and DasUbergeek for this report.If he can get some clients in there, I can see this place getting even better and better.

              1 Reply
              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Hi streetgourmetla,

                Great report back. Thank you. I've tried this place once already and enjoyed it. I can't wait to go back to try other dishes. :)

              2. My sister and I have gone here a few times in the past couple of months, and each time, we've had nightmares that we'd see a 'CLOSED' sign upon pulling into the parking lot. For the amount of good reviews it's gotten, it's sad to see MPE completely empty every time we've gone.

                Although many of the menu items are a bit pricey, understandable since this is seafood, the lunch specials are a STEAL. Soup/salad + entree = $7.99!!!

                Since no one's posted pictures from their respective trips, here are some of mine...hopefully they're enough to entice more people to head on over...

                Pic1 - Cilantro Salsa
                Pic2 - Tortilla Soup (came with lunch special)
                Pic3 - Pasta Playera (lunch special | for some reason, we were given the seafood version at no additional cost)
                Pic4 - Camarones del Puerto (bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp)

                2 Replies
                1. re: yangster

                  Second trip. Each time we've gone, we've had a different type of salsa to go with the chips...each good in their own right.

                  Pic1 - Salsa (more typical with the tomatoes instead of cilantro...mild)
                  Pic2 - Jicama Salad (came with lunch special)
                  Pic3 - Dos Sopes (lunch special | masa tortillas w/ grilled beef)
                  Pic4 - Langostinos Zarandeados (I was given five instead of the OP's six, but I felt it was still worth the price)

                  1. re: yangster

                    Third trip.

                    Pic1 - Salsa (similar to trip2, but darker and spicier)
                    Pic2 - Vegetable Soup (came with lunch special, the white stuff is cheese, not cream)
                    Pic3 - Tampiquena (lunch special | grilled flap meat w/ veggies and cheese)
                    Pic4 - Salmon Yucatan (achiote marinated salmon w/ roasted corn and cactus relish)

                    Hopefully MPE is here to stay, but at the rate things are going, it'll be gone before you know it. So, follow your tongues and stomachs...you won't regret it.

                  2. Went there and had a Seafood Pozole that was really good. My family likes to eat Pozole around the holidays so I thought I would give it a try. Also had the Ceviche that was very tasty. The service was very friendly too.

                    But, again, we were the only customers there. I really encourage people to give this place a try. I think part of the problem is the location. By the time you see the place, you've passed it.

                    1. Thanks to DU’s review the girlfriend and I decided to give this place a shot.

                      We went last night around 7pm and it was actually a bit easier to find then I thought it would be. Just pull into the shopping center with the Chevron station. The place was a bit empty with about 3 tables finishing up dinner and one that sat down about halfway through our meal.

                      We ordered a ridiculously gluttonous meal of -

                      Quesadilla de Camarones con Chorizo y Salsa Fresca (6.95).

                      Cheviche Mixto- full order (5.95)

                      Langostinos Zarandeados (14.95)

                      Camarones a la Diabla (12.95) asked for this one extra spicy.

                      Note - I wanted to order any of the whole grilled fish options but unfortunately none were available at the time since they had sold out.

                      When we first sat down we were served a coffee mug half filled with what tasted like a light shrimp stock with fresh tomatoes and cilantro. It was a great example of the flavors of all the dishes to come. Clean, understated and very fresh.

                      First off the Quesadilla. This was much larger than expected. Two quesadillas made with corn tortillas FILLED with oaxacan cheese, fantastic chorizo and shrimp cut into triangles. Crema was drizzled on top as well as some sort of semi-sweet chili sauce. This was great, nothing was overbearing and this was surprisingly not greasy as a lot of chorizo dishes tend to be. After this we knew we ordered to much 

                      Next the cheviche. We love cheviche but only tend to make it at home because it is either a canned tomato sauce and frozen shrimp mess. Or it is good but the portion is the size of a ramekin for $13+. This cheviche was fantastic and it was again much larger than expected. It was probably about the size of a 20oz beer goblet. We were not expecting that for a bargain price of $5. The tomatoes were bright and flavorful, the shrimp, fish, calamari that was in the ceviche was all cooked perfectly by the citrus, very tender. The broth had just enough acidity that stopped just short of being sour. I could drink that stuff. This would be a perfect light lunch.

                      Langostinos Zarandeados. DU covered everything to be said about this dish. I made a mess of myself sucking the heads of these bad boys. Only difference is that my order came with 5 which is still plenty.

                      Camarones a la Diabla. I only was able to taste a small bit of this dish. When I took one of the very large (16-20 range) shrimps on my fork, the woman snarled like a poodle guarding its favorite toy and stabbed my hand with her fork. I was forced to then use trickery and point out the beautiful salmon wrapped in banana leaf with achiote sauce on another table and grab a shrimp while she was distracted. What I can tell you is the ONE shrimp I managed to finagle was cooked perfectly. Slightly sweet and smoky with a touch of heat. Not spicy at all. This was unfortunate but we do have a high heat tolerance and most places don’t believe us when we ask for it spicy, so it is not unexpected. I really enjoyed my ONE shrimp and would order this again in the future.

                      We will be back many times and I hope it does not close, this place is a true gem and a paradise of well done seafood.

                      1. Went there last night with a date after reading the post and I think this place would do very well in a better location. There were a few other people there... seemed a little empty for a Friday night. Im impressed - everything we ordered was wonderful with the exception of the bacon wrapped shrimp which had a ton of cheese smothering what would have been crispy bacon over a wonderful sauce. But really what Im trying to priase is the lobster... once you're finished with it they take it away to chop the head and bring back a delicious smokey, creamy lobster soup. We had a great meal - reasonable price and warm, relaxed staff. I love this place and will return soon!!!

                        1. I am fraught with guilt that I have not posted about this place myself. Had two meals here - best Mexican seafood ever in the US, no hyperbole. Try whole grilled fish, salmon. Shrimp cocteles are fine and taste just right. Horchata is served over shaved ice. Consome is brought out before the meal as amuse. These people deserve to be better known. Arellano should review them instead of the usual tepid gabacho places he goes to.

                          1. does anyone know if their quality varies a lot during the week? i know fish is freshest tue-thur b/c of the fish markets. would eating there on a saturday or even sunday be inadvisable?

                            also, is it nice enough inside for a birthday lunch/dinner? doesn't have to be fancy at all, anything nicer than your typical fast food interior would probably be fine.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ceviche

                              The interior is several steps above your typical fast food interior. I would liken it to Enrique's in Long Beach if you've ever been.

                              1. re: ceviche

                                I don't think I've had any quality consistency issues. Stuff has been 'off' the menu, which leads me to assume that if they can't get an ingredient of sufficient quality, they don't get it and they don't make the dishes that contain it.

                                It's perfectly fine inside, a slightly "beachy" feel with carved dish on the chairs, etc. It's not at all like your typical fast food place.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  "Perfectly fine" doesn't quite do it justice - it's a DELIGHTFUL, very colorful environment with a tropical motif. Three faux arches grace one wall and within the arches are (painted) tropical ocean views with a raised texture - really nicely done. The chairs are backed with colorful sea creatures - that's the connection to "Enrique's" decor with the carved tables. But Enrique's is much more "cozy" - this place has at least twice the floor space and no booths - a very open and airy feel - lively and fun.

                                  Apparently word is getting out - I was there for "lunch" at 2:15 and there were about six groups of people there. Since the lunch menu period had expired I ordered the chile relleno appetizer for a light lunch for myself and two entrees "to go" which we'll enjoy tonight. The chile relleno was delicious, but if you're squeamish about seeing tiny octopus, don't order it.

                                  The only drawback was the electronic towel dispenser in the lady's room. It wasn't working (jammed?). Happily, both the restroom and the eating areas were just about spotless, and you can actually see the cooks at work. Oh, and if you sit right at the window, you can feel a lot of vibration from the door - but I don't think it's noticeable elsewhere.

                                  This would be a great place to take a group of friends who like seafood in a casual setting. Ceviche asked about a birthday party - If you're looking for tablecloths, fresh flowers and sourdough bread on the table, stick with Walt's Warf. Otherwise, this would be a great party spot. You might want to carpool though, as the parking lot is shared by a lot of other businesses during daytime hours - might not be any problem later in the evening. I left about 3:00 and two more groups had come in for meals by then. Perhaps they're just busier on Saturdays, but I took it for a good sign that they may be able to "hang in there" despite the current economic downturn.

                                  Yum yum yum - can't wait for dinner . . .

                                  1. re: Joani Macaroni

                                    Though if worse comes to worst I believe parking is allowed on Taft headed west from Tustin -- not too bad of a walk. I've never had a problem parking -- the other businesses aren't so busy that it causes a problem (are you listening, Skaf's NoHo?).

                                    The decor looked like a much nicer Rubio's to me -- which is "perfectly fine" in my book. It certainly doesn't detract from the meal the way other places' decor does (hi, Mariscos Colima) and the place is SPOTLESS. Given that decor is about 9th on my list of things to pay attention to in a restaurant, my "perfectly fine" is probably everyone else's "great".

                              2. DU!

                                Great review - could I urge you to please paste your review onto yelp.com, or some of the other sites? They could really use the exposure.

                                Did you guys see the Edwin Goei feature in OC Weekly? When I was in there the other day, Santiago showed me a framed copy of the review, and thanked me warmly for the bit of viral marketing created by the original Chowhound post.

                                Go and see them if you haven't!

                                1 Reply
                                1. And another vote for this place! I had lunch there today and I ,too, started with the Quesadilla de camarones. Wonderful flavor and not too heavy. Followed it with the Chile Relleno del Puerto (grilled poblano pepper, stuffed W/ shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, octopus, and melted Oaxaca cheese). This was even tastier than the quesadilla! Not sure if it is the same sauce they serve with the Langostinos, but it was outstanding. I had to fight the server to leave the plate so I could soak up the last dregs with what was left of my quesadilla!
                                  Same story concerning the lack of diners. I left there at 1:00pm and mine was ticket #3.
                                  C'mon, CHer's. Support a choworthy cause. I know I'll be back.

                                  1. Went back last night (this would be my fourth visit; my family's second). My wife had huachinango (red snapper) a la veracruzana (tomatoes, green olives and capers), "green" rice, and grilled vegetables. I ordered a tostada de ceviche de camarones and a chile relleno del puerto. We traded plates halfway through so we could all try everything. (My daughter had a chicken taco with salsa cruda, lettuce, and the salsa from the chips.)

                                    The snapper was really well-done. I might have chopped the tomatoes a little finer, but other than that and a little salt it was really well-done, flaky and slightly smoky but still moist. With the slight bitterness of a corn tortilla and a splash of hot sauce, it was perfect. Just great.

                                    Not such a fan of their green rice -- just doesn't taste like much to me, but perhaps it's meant to trap the sauce (which made it much better) -- but I really like the grilled vegetables. Squash, red peppers, carrots, broccoli and cabbage (yes, grilled cabbage!), a little smoky from the grill but not dried-out, and definitely a huge improvement over the more usual "steamed vegetable" side in so many restaurants.

                                    The ceviche I liked but my wife didn't. It was a little sweet, and she said it tasted a bit like sour mix (you know, for margaritas). No matter -- I ate it. A huge portion for $5.50, by the way -- well over a cup of ceviche with two tostadas. Tthough I prefer Peruvian-style ceviche (rocoto peppers, lime juice and salt) to Mexican-style (tomatoes and cucumbers and onions and suchlike), this was really, really well-done. I appreciated the cucumbers in the ceviche, which cut through some of the richness. I wish I'd ordered a beer.

                                    The undisputed hit of the evening was the chile relleno, which is on the appetizers section of the menu. The chile was splayed open and topped with calamari (both rings and tentacles), mussels, shrimp, fish and bay scallops, plus melted Oaxaca cheese (that's a very tangy string cheese for those who don't know) and some kind of sauce that absolutely just made the whole dish. My wife used the tortillas from her snapper to wipe up every last drop of the sauce -- I've got to find out what it was. The pepper was surprisingly hot (are people just growing hotter chiles pasilla these days??) but it was necessary to the seafood and cheese. Just great. One of those and a nice cool refreshing salad and you've got plenty of food for a dinner.

                                    I counted up the seats (not including the "bar") -- 46 seats. When we came in maybe four tables were seated. When we left, around 7, we were one of two tables. It's definitely busier at lunch, but not what I'd call "busy", and definitely not as busy as they should be given the impressive cooking coming out of Chef Santiago's kitchen.

                                    Service has, incidentally, been excellent every time. Our waiter asked us last night what sort of things we wanted on the chicken taco (when he mentioned that the salsa cruda had chiles in it and she asked for it anyway, he was surprised); he didn't hover but was there when we needed him, and -- this is a nice surprise -- he cleared the courses correctly, meaning I didn't have to sit there with an empty plate while my wife finished her dinner.

                                    Dinner last night -- a chicken taco, a chile relleno, a huge portion of ceviche, a snapper and a can of Diet Coke -- was $32 plus tip. I was absolutely full to brimming when we left, and we had enough for lunch today.

                                    I repeat -- where else in OC are you going to eat seafood so well for so cheaply? Beat a path to their doors!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      DU, you must have ceviche at Mariscos Chente, and the aguachile .The problem with MPE and their raw seafood is that they over spice and drench the fish or shrimp in their lime and chile mixture.The aguachile at MPE was not good.Raw Mexican seafood should have fresh crisp vegtables, not lime soaked and wilted. I know exactly what flavor your wife is talking about, it was in the aguachile I had.

                                      Fabulous service and people, great grilled fish, get out there OC.Order to their strengths, though, for sure.

                                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                                        Yeah, unfortunately I can count on one hand the number of times I've been to Mar Vista in the last five years... it is a HUGE trip from Anaheim. Eventually I'll be up there and will make a point of going.

                                    2. OK, headed there tonight (PLEASE BE OPEN). The Langostinos look like a must, and I can't resist trying the ceviche, despite the mixed press...any other must-dos that I can report back on? It all looks so wonderful...

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: que ball

                                        Chile relleno del puerto. CHILE RELLENO DEL PUERTO.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          DU, thanks for the heads up...overlooked it in the voluminous reports! I LOVE a good chile relleno, can't wait!

                                          1. re: que ball

                                            I have to post a picture of the SCRUMPTIOUS horchata I had yesterday... seemingly made with horchata ice so it doesn't dilute as it warms up!

                                      2. Thank you so much DU.
                                        Cheked out MPE tonight.
                                        Shared grest langostinos, striped bass, a wonderful Chile relleno del puerto and 2 shirimp tacos. Just me and my SO finished all of the food. We could only blame the size of our stomach.
                                        The funny thing is that Mexican is not our choice of food.
                                        There was only one thing that bothers me a lot.
                                        Not enough customers. We counted only 5 tabels occupied from 7 to 9pm on Friday.
                                        CHers check this place out. You will be pleasantly surprised.

                                        1. All these fantastic reviews make me want to try this place out, especially since my parents are in town this week. Just gotta convince them to try Mexican seafood, which is different from the standard Mexican fare that they are used to.

                                          1. My apologies for not getting back sooner, especially with all the recommendations made! Went last Wednesday, everything was excellent! Had the recommended chile relleno, certainly an unusual presentation, and it was loaded with seafood that was all fresh and tasty. I had seen some debate on the ceviche, but my dining companion and I thought it was superb- got the mixto, and again, it was loaded with great bits of seafood. The recommended langostinos also very good, six of them in a tangy sauce. I am usually a pretty big eater, but after the chips and splitting each of the aforementioned dishes, we were both at our limit- great portions for the $. The broth presented at the start of the meal was well made, but I thought a little bit of it went a long way.
                                            Sadly, there was only one occupied table at 7:30 when we arrived, and we were it for the remainder of the night. Chef Santiago came over and chatted a while- he was a very nice fellow, and seemed passionate about his food. I hope many are encouraged to try this place- it does not dissapoint.
                                            Special thanks to DU for the find, as well as the good recommendations!

                                            1. Your review is spot on! Great seafood salad with grilled shrimp and octopus, and seafood soup on our first visit. And, don't miss the hand crafted michelada!! (beer, clamato, lime, hot sauce, salt and fine peppers on rim) Ymmm! Astonishingly affordable. Clean, clean, clean. When it gets discovered, you'll have to wait for a table.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: blterman

                                                Been there and thought it was terrific. One should support this place, but avoid the calamari tacos.

                                              2. i took my wife & parents on sunday for lunch, and everyone thought it was great. i had the langostinas zarandeadas, and really enjoyed them. their green rice was a little dry and wasn't very flavorful, but aside from that i have no complaints. even the grilled veggies on the side were tasty!!!

                                                1. I finally got back here for the second time on Sunday night. The place was a bit more busy (huzzah!) but quickly emptied out after about 7:30 (boooo!).

                                                  Ordered the Chile Relleno which was every bit as good as DU's description. The sauce on it was unreal. I want a few pints in a thermos to carry around for various uses. Dip french fries in it, dab a bit behind the ears, replace my morning coffee with it. You know, the usual.

                                                  Had the Ceviche again. It was slightly different this time around. The broth was a bit less tomato-ummmm –ish and had more citrus. Still great but I am a Ceviche manwhore and therefore my opinion on this topic should be taken with a grain of salt. Try it for yourself. I mean its only $6 for a giant meal sized mug of it.

                                                  Fresh oysters were ordered that I didn't try, but were fresh and tasty by all accounts, they came with a nice fiery vinegar sauce which I liked by itself.

                                                  I had the Pescado Zarandeado Robalo. This was fantastic. Whole bass grilled and topped with many veggies, somewhat pickled I am thinking, the viniger/citrus was nice counterpoint to the grill smokiness. It was cooked perfect- light and tender, not dried out at all from the grill. Very light and refreshing dish.

                                                  The Salmon Yucatan was also ordered. This was basically Cochinita (or Puerco? Same thing?) Pibil but pork replaced with salmon. The achoite sauce was nice and citrusy with that classic earthiness that went really well with the richness of the salmon. Visually impressive as well. The fish as usual here was cooked perfect.

                                                  I fear for the life of this place please keep spreading the word!

                                                  1. After reading so much on this board about this place, I finally made it here for lunch. I'm happy to say that I found all the positive feedback about it right-on ! My friend and I shared an order of ceviche mixto, and it was soo fresh and flavorful, it was probably the best ceviche I've ever had. I also had the shrimp wrapped in bacon, in a chile sauce with a Oaxacan cheese (IIRC), that was killer !

                                                    The house-made, blended horchata was delicious, too.
                                                    I can't wait to come back, to try some of their other dishes, esp. the langostines.

                                                    I was relieved that there were a number of other diners in the house, though it was by no means full. Our waiter said that things have been picking up lately, and was aware of the online buzz and was very appreciative of that.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: mikester

                                                      Went again today with a few coworkers, the ceviche was excellent again, and we all enjoyed everything we had (langostine, striped bass, and I had the fried catfish (catfish was HUGE and really, really good - the skin was soo crispy, with simple salt and pepper but it reminded me of good fried chicken skin.))

                                                      Oh, be aware that the fried catfish is served whole - head and tail included, so be prepared for that. I was fine with that, but one of my co-workers was not expecting it.

                                                      1. re: mikester

                                                        On the last visit we noticed the menu quoted some of the fish dishes at a price "per lb." and we figured it must be because they are serving you the whole fish (which would vary in weight), not just a certain portion size or cut. One of the party ordered a whole fish and really enjoyed it (wasn't the catfish) - thankfully she's not the squeemish type. As with any fish dish with bones, be extra careful and take small bites.

                                                    2. And so we went, as the Chowfollowers we are. I think it was the combination of rock lobster, fresh horchata & chile rellenos that convinced me to convince Mr OCAnn to give MPE a try. And six lobsters for $15?! Unheard of!

                                                      Well, things were going well. While the chips most likely came from the bag, the salsa was understated and yet full of flavour; we both adored it. The also surprised us with an amuse of fresh, tasty lobster soup. The fresh horchata, isn't only fresh, it's fresh BLENDED horchata ($3). Mr OCAnn had a couple 2 Equis ($4 each) and we started off with the Chile Rellenos ($7). Those CRs were stuffed with seafood; it was very good, but the slight sweet flavour of the red sauce caught me off guard.

                                                      The wow of the night was the pescado zarandeado ($24). As mentioned in many of the posts above, it's perfectly well done. Full of flavour, moist, just nicely done.

                                                      What surprised me the most, and what brought the dining experience down a few notches were the lobsters. I thought it came grilled in butter and garlic sauce...simply done. However, it had the same red sauce from the chile relleno on it. =( I didn't really get that sauce and was slightly disappointed to find the langosta smothered in it. What helped redeem the plate was the butter and the fried bits that was served on the side to wash off the slightly sweet red sauce. This was absolutely delicious; if I could dip EVERYTHING in sight in it w/o feeling too greasy, I would have. But what really nearly ruined the meal was the bill. I was thinking a half dozen small lobsters for $15...but it was one bigger lobster for $45!

                                                      When I ordered the lobster, I asked how much b/c the menu listed "MP." The waiter said about $30. $30 is double $15, but I wanted to try it anyway. But triple!?! The total, with beverage, meal and tax was $94. I shouldn't have left a 20% tip, but it's a force of habit.

                                                      Maybe I'll feel better about in the morning.

                                                      EDIT: Looking over this whole post, what creeps me out a bit about this thread is a post near the top that I didn't recall writing. It's another OCAnne, but with an "e". Made me do a double take...but for those wondering, we are not the same: I have a cute dog avatar.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                        That's just shocking. The langostinos zarandeados were $15 the last time I went. I'm saddened by that... I hope it's just a miscommunication problem and not something more sinister.

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          After closer inspection of the menu (and a good night's rest), I realise the (expensive) mistake was mine. I ordered it from under the LANGOSTA section of the menu and not the ESPECIALIDADES. Grrrrr!

                                                      2. Had a friend visiting who wouldn't be led out of the OC, so MPE it was.

                                                        I don't know I missed it in the thread, but no one has mentioned the huachinango a la talla, which comes from the chefs home state.I had this last night, only thing was, the bass was substituted since there was no red snapper.Second time this happened, but this time I said "what the hell".

                                                        Eventhough it was the striped bass again, I like this better than the langostino and the pescado zarandeados. The marinade is more subtle and really shows the chefs skills and roots.I also eyed a caldo michi coming out that looked like a dead ringer for the one I had recently in Guadalajara, with a little extra chefs touch of course.

                                                        He's had a problem getting red snappers the right size, but if you call in advance, you can see if he has them and you can reserve your "snappa".It was delicious even without the red snapper, and that caldo michi is next on my list.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                          I debated eating there for lunch today (I was on a BevMo run) but opted for Ay-Chung Noodle instead.

                                                        2. After reading all of the glowing reviews yesterday afternoon, Mr. Umami and I hopped in the car and made the trip up to Orange from Corona del Mar. We usually go to taquerias to get our Mexican food fix but this sounded really interesting and, I will admit, the pleas to support MPE in this slow economy influenced me quite a bit.

                                                          When we arrived at about 7:15 pm there were 5 other parties seated, once of which was a table of 6. There was only one waiter for the restaurant that night. I gather from their website and business card that Chef Santiago's wife is the front of house manager but I did not see her that night so I suspect they were just understaffed this one night. We waited a little while to order but it was not much of a problem because our server did acknowledge us a few times and Mr. Umami was content to watch soccer on the tv in the corner. We loved the salsa that came with the chips, dark and smoky but also very fresh tasting from the cilantro and lime. While we saw other tables receive mugs of what I assume was the lobster broth, we were not offered any and I was a little disappointed. But all was forgotten once that chile relleno arrived! First, I tasted the sauce. Complex and smoky with a hint of sweetness (but no more than any other tomato-based sauce,) it was absolutely addictive. The seafood in the relleno was perfectly cooked and the pasilla pepper was lightly roasted over the fire. We devoured it quickly and then the ceviche de pescado arrived. While I do with it had a little more fish in it, I thought the flavors were great – SO refreshing. Fresh tomato, lime, and cucumber were pronounced. Our last dish was the langostinos zarandeados (5 on a plate). I was really impressed with the presentation of this dish, and even more so with the flavors. I, too, ruined my shirt with splatters of sauce from sucking on the heads. Overall, I thought the food was a terrific value and it was such a pleasure to experience these wonderful flavors. You can tell that there was much thought put into the dining room décor, from the carved chairs, to the wall murals. Food is presented on modern, white square plates and bowls, which make for a dramatic presentation. I would have to say that Mariscos Puerto Esperanza makes places like Taleo and Taco Rosa pale in comparison. Not only is the food undeniably better, but the value is outstanding. They do have a website: www.mariscospuerto.com that has some good coupons for both dinner and happy hour. To all that posted reviews before: Thank you!!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: umami

                                                            The coupons seemed to be expired Dec. 31, 2008. Wonder if they would still honor them . . .?