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Anyone remember Mariscos Chente pre-LAT review?

I am so happy for Sergio and family...they have a hit, make that a homer.

Unfortunately two different parties -- whom I have brought there several times over the last few weeks -- went this weekend and have reported to me BIG, BAD problems. Lines, long waits for food and -- horror -- running out of snook.

Hopefully this will be short-lived.

Thanks, Thi ;(

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  1. i reviewed it a while back:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/314987

    post gold reviews there is always a spike in visitors that tapers off exponentially.

    1. I guess thats the price you pay for star status.. It was a sleepy fishing village and now its a major port.. I assume since the procurement department is not that of a chain with their point of sale inventory systems, the owners will make a bigger buy this week, however that depends if the fish are biting :) On a serious side, I think this is good for all.. even with the star status.. In todays economy it great to see the little guy make it! This should ensure chente will be there to cater to our mariscos whims for the fore"sea"ble future..

      1. Well, the positive thing about running out of snook is that Sergio will not buy local fish to just be able to serve the pescado zarandeado.They were not ready for the huge crowds that came post Thi, and even had to be told that they were in the Times.

        Magdalena, the owner had to send a family member down to Mazatlan last week to get more seafood.They were going every other week and have had to adjust to the demand.The good news, even fresher fish from the turnover.They will not compromise on quality.We were there before the rush on Saturday, around 4-6PM and had a divine pescado zarandeado.In the meantime, there are no misses on this menu, so try another dish and bear with the current influx.As was mentioned,it will settle in to a more reasonable crowd enventually.Even the most mundane sounding plate on their menu will surprise you.

        CiaoBob, have you had the pescado zarandeado yet?I was very happy to see the lines, as you are, and was definitely glad to have arrived early.But, they will figure it out.

        1 Reply
        1. re: streetgourmetla

          Oh yes, SGLA, I have had it 4 times in varying kilo sizes 1,2,3 and 2...it is sublime.

          And I agree that even if they are out of pz, there are plenty of other fine choice: I adore the Camarones Borrechos , and Chicharone. I will go earlier, I will survive as will MC!

        2. I went last Friday for lunch and while there was no line, the place filled up quick. I was lucky to arrive when I did because when I left, almost every table was full. It was still too early and they weren't ready with the diablo sauce for the shrimp, so I ordered the garlic one. Delicious.

          Another bit of good news: They now take credit cards.

          1. My wife and I went for lunch on Saturday (approx 1 pm). While it was encouraging to see the they are doing well, the wait was a nightmare. Ultimately, after waiting for our food for over an hour we had to cancel our order in order to return home to prepare for guests that evening. We like the food and will be back but clearly they need to staff up in order to handle the crowd.

            1. Same here. Went last week and there was a line out the door around 7pm. Looked like one waitress was handling the entire crowd and people inside looked a little weary, we waited for a while and figured best to come back at a later date at an earlier hour. It really is a double-edged sword. We were happy to see business up, but dissapointed it's more difficult for us to eat there now.

              5 Replies
              1. re: SecretHeadquarters

                Magdalena was talkin' about getting another waitress and had some extra help on Saturday.They were told on Wednesday afternoon that the article came out, and they were happy but didn't know what that meant.Their quiet restaurant completely changed overnight.It went from an all Mexican clientel in Inglewood last year, to a 25% non-Latino crowd from chowhound in Mar Vista to a full on westside stampede after the article.It was great to see all the mix of cultures, the regulars with their cocktails and chelas, the chowhounders with their savy orders, and the Times readers with their Porsches and BMW's.It's beautiful to see a Porsche mellowing to some adult contemporary parked alongside a Durango bumping some banda.And, they both had a mojarra frita and a cocktail!!

                Those of us who will still be there after the hordes will just have to go on off times, or make on an evening of it.

                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Let's also mention to those complaints of long waits, even before the onslaught, the food --especialy the pescado zarandeado -- takes some serious TIME.
                  I was there one Sat. afternoon with a party of two, an empty restaurant and a 2 kilo pz on the grill...we got it about 45 minutes after ordering.

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    Yes CiaoBob, let's not rush that pescado.

                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      45 minutes.. thats nothing compared to the 3 weeks I have been waiting to try it out.. glad to hear that all is well with those guys.. I love a sucess story.. the good part is the beer is soo cold there it will help with the wait and the chips and salsa are very good too. I would get a warm up dish too while waiting for the main act..

                2. re: SecretHeadquarters

                  As Yogi would say, no one goes there anymore, it's always busy

                3. yes the kitchen was slammed when i was there the night of the review and the following saturday.

                  they even ran out of menus. i found myself ferrying menus from table to table so that the newbies wouldn't get disgusted. . .

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: westsidegal

                    As always, you performed like a true Chowhound - hats off to you! I was planning on going for dinner last wednesday but after seeing Thi's article in the Times, I decided to pass for now. I know you are there frequently - have things settled down at all, or at least is there a pattern where one could slip in some time during the day without psycho pinball madness?

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      I was wondering too, because I'll be passing through Mar Vista right about lunchtime on Thursday -- but if it's going to take me an hour and a half to eat I can't swing it.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Was there Saturday a little after 4PM, no problems.Tables were available, the place was about half full.The whole center section was empty, but while distracted drinking away we saw the line forming around 6PM before we thought we should give up our table to the newcomers.

                        So, in between lunch and dinner?Pre-lunch?Mondays?The weekend is going to be busy for a time.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          thank you!
                          try around 2pm on any weekday, you should be safe then. it was empty at 2pm today.

                      2. Uh... you're welcome?

                        Thoughts:

                        1. In my experience with the reviews of others, the spike falls off fast. I normally avoid places for a few weeks a review, but I remember when Green Village got the Gold review - I was so into it that I was going weekly regardless. The day of the review: packed to the gills, first time a heavily non-Chinese audience. Kitchen was freaked, and the food was worse. Week later: a bit of a wait, a few non-Chinese tables. Two weeks later: one other non-Chinese table, little week. Three weeks later: seated immediately. After a month: about 10% larger size then normal, on average, and typically one other non-Chinese table, no wait. Year or two later: closed.

                        2. How did the other new patrons seem? Was anybody freaking out because stuff was too weird? I mean, the first time I had it, *I* was freaking out because of how weird it was to me. It took me at least a full visit to twist my mind to some of the Heavy Cucumber Use. I mean, they're like the Black Sabbath of cucumber. Cripes!

                        3. I actually have a theory I want to test out, but it requires gathering data and I need y'all's help. I've done 3 reviews so far. Simon's Cafe: went from mostly quiet (to the degree that I worried about it closing) to reservation only. Mariscos Chente: the madhouse as described. La Pupusa Loca: when I walked by at dinnertime the other day, it seemed like a few more tables were full, but zero madhouse. I felt like... I dunno if I'm the one to judge, but I love all three, and tried to put love into the article. So my guess is that it's another factor. Is it cultural appeal? Are people just not interested in a perfect plantain empanadas, no matter how hard you try to sell it? The relative exoticism of it? Or is it *just location*"? Is it that La Pupusa Loca is in East Hollywood? Is it just that Mariscos Chente is *so close* to the Santa Monica/Westwood/Beverly Hills complex? Is it that the further out and east you get, the least a review will matter?

                        4. In the end, I'm pleased. I know there's a certain sense of... surrendering a private gem. I mean, partially I'm pleased if it makes it any less likely that one of my favorites will close. But also... you know, one of the hopes and pleasures of Chowhound for me was, along with acquiring all sorts of new food awareness and food sensitivities and learning new ways to appreciate food, the thought that I might bring such an awareness to somebody who might not have had it. I know there are probably people going there and being alienated... but if a few people learn to make the weird twist to be able to *feel* that particular, weird mix of serenity and fire and descent that's in the camarones aguachiles - then I'm happy, and I'll be willing to wait in line.

                        As a side note, I ate at Mariscos Chente about 12 times in a very close period of time (partially because, of all the things I've tried to write about - including every Chowhound post ever, this was possibly the single *HARDEST* to describe thing I've *EVER* worked on - I had camarones aguachiles *each and every* one of those times, would go home and write about it, go back and taste it, and go, "F$#%!!!! I got it wrong!" It's just... an alien to me. Far off the map of things I knew how to describe. Like I just made love to an octopus for the first time, and people are like, "How was she, compared to all the other girls you've known," and I'm like, "Dude, I have *no* idea where to even begin... I mean, she doesn't even have a *spine*." ). And you know what? Reading this thread, I want to go back again. Getting an e-mail from a friend congratulating me for it - I think, "That's really nice of her... oh god, I could really use some zarandeado right now." I actually wanted to go back the night after I submitted the article. Aguachiles and chipotle under my skin."

                        And westsidegirl - you're my *hero*. A freaking superstar. Ferrying menus for the newbies, indeed. Eight gold stars for you, my friend.

                        20 Replies
                        1. re: Thi N.

                          Two more data points on #3, above. I mentioned both Olimpus Juices (Jaliscan brothers with a smoothie stand at La Brea and Sunset) and Viet Noodle Bar (perfect chicken pho in Atwater) in the Natural Fusion article. Olimpus: went from empty to lines out the door, though it died down. Viet Noodle Bar: no perceptable change in my two post-review visits. None. Is it the food? The location? Olimpus is right in the *middle* of things.

                          This is an interesting data point, because they were mentioned in the same *article* - I *know* everybody who read about them read both of them.

                          Greatest disappointment: went to Pho Minh, still the favorite pho place I've ever found in L.A., after years of searching, two days after it showed up in my asian breakfast article - and it was still empty. Terrifyingly empty. Is it because it's in El Monte? Or it just - given the Viet Noodle thing and the Pho Minh thing - that people aren't interested in pho? Or that I'm particularly bad at writing about pho? The latter is just as likely as the former. Maybe impossible to tell. Apologies for rambling.

                          (I had one older food writer tell me that some places he wrote about got mobbed, some places never saw an extra soul, as far as he could tell, and as far as he could tell, there was *no pattern* at all. Whims of the public. But right now - looking at what I just wrote, it's almost a direct correlation - the further from Santa Monica and West L.A., the less impact a review has. It seems almost linear. That's my working hypothesis right now - though up for disproof.)

                          1. re: Thi N.

                            Frankly, Thi, having read your recent articles, your Mariscos Chente article made my mouth water a lot more than your Pupusa Loca article. It might be that I'm way more into pescado zarandeado and camarones aguachile than pupusas and curtido, or the fact that I am absolutely nowhere near the Westside, but I honestly think the writing was better in the MC article.
                            Then again, mine is an opinion you paid nothing for, so value it as you will!

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Thanks, Das Uber - I'll take that comment. I'm far too close to the article to tell - all I see is the distance between words and tastes. Maybe I'm finally adapting a little to the difficulty of not writing in the first person.

                              Incidentally: I will welcome any and all criticism from anybody about the articles. Don't worry about the ego. No one here could possibly be as harsh as my dissertation advisor. Really.

                              Also: Das Uber, would you please e-mail me at rorschah@REMOVESPAMBLOCKyahoo.com? I have a question to ask you about some LA food.

                              Criticism and commentary can also be sent to that e-mail address. Be brutal. The goal is to get people out of bad restaurants and into good ones, in Los Angeles. If you need to hurt me and make my ego bleed, so be it. Thank you, and have a nice day.

                              1. re: Thi N.

                                I live in the Westside - I'll drive across the county to San Gabriel for some good eats whenever I have at least a few hours of time to do so. But driving to somewhere like Hollywood or Koreatown is torture to me. The time taken from point A to point B is about the same but the effort needed can be extraordinary.
                                It's like taking a nice 6-mile jog along the bike path or around UCLA versus a harried 2-3-mile run down Hollywood or Olympic.

                                I don't feel so frazzled after driving out to Mei Long Village or Sea Harbour. But after the traffic, the parking issues, etc., in some "closer" parts of LA, I just feel like turning around and going back home. Thus, I can totally relate to that aspect of your suspicions on how different places are affected by media exposure relative to their location. Throw in the niche factor, which also can be affected by geography (e.g., best pho place in SGV or Little Saigon vs. ONLY great pho place in the Westside - still waiting), and places like Mariscos Chente will explode in business after an article like yours.

                              2. re: Thi N.

                                Pho Minh - went there today - Friday March 26, 2010 - (perhaps our 5th or 6th trip since reading Thi's review) - and it is still devastatingly empty! Perhaps 1/4 or even less of the tables were occupied.

                                The young man is very nice and we always talk to him and he recognizes us. We told him that he should possibly consider moving - our ideal would be old town Pasadena which lacks a proper pho place. More likely if they moved a bit further northwest to San Gabriel they would have more traffic - witness Saigon House - almost always full. Specially Fridays at lunch you would not see many empty tables there.

                                -----
                                Pho Minh
                                9646 Garvey Ave, South El Monte, CA 91733

                              3. re: Thi N.

                                Mariscos Chente is absolutely in a prime location to capitalize on your review.It's surrounded by far less interesting Mexican options, has the appeal of a different kind of mexican seafood place, and the Westside is really ripe for another exciting restaurant.Again, were talking Porsches, BMW's, and news anchors, obviously from the environs.

                                This wouldn't have happened in Inglewood, not to the extent I saw this past weekend.I can't picture the Porsche in the parking lot at Inglewood and Century Bl.For me, there's not a restaurant doing this style of regional cuisine that is even close, so crowd or no crowd I'm in.

                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                  Yes. It's a "niche" business. And when you have are the only game around the west side of town your business should do well once people discover you.

                                2. re: Thi N.

                                  I suspect there are many principles at work in regards to a resto's business bump and the press it gets.

                                  In LA there is a powerful East/West vector but there are others at work such as,

                                  a more-accessible-cuisine/less-accessible-cusine vector
                                  a more-expensive/less-expensive vector.

                                  Salvadorean food wouldn't get the crowds running east like Japanese, Chinese, and Thai might. Korean, other than BBQ, is similarly less accessible.

                                  When I lived in NYC 15 years ago there was less at work -- ANY place that got a favorable NYT review was finished-for-the-forseeable-future, and often forever! Thank god that won;t happen with M. Chente.

                                  1. re: Thi N.

                                    thanks so much for the compliment!

                                    i was there around 2 this afternoon for lunch. (i know, i know, tuesday is sergio's day off, but i NEEDED a shrimp and octopus cocktail--actually ended up having 2 of them; they were SO delicious).
                                    it was quiet as it usually is on weekdays around this time. i'm going on the assumption that all weekdays at 2 will continue to be a slow time for them (the local office workers and the local mexican tradesmen tend not to eat at 2).

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      You know - I like the Tuesday night cook about as much as I like Sergio. It's *COMPLETELY DIFFERENT* - lusty, powerful, pungent. The camarones chipotle is more chipotle and salt than cheese - *intense*. I love it - it's like a totally different Sinaloan restaurant - still great.

                                      I have heard an unverified report that it's an older generation member of the same family cooking.

                                      Sergio is delicacy, subtlety, and low-swirl. Tuesday-cook is powerful, throaty, sexy. It's Wes Montgomery vs. Grant Green. I'll take both, please.

                                      1. re: Thi N.

                                        i believe that it's maria's mom who cooks on tuesdays.. . .

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          You are correct, la duena, Magdalena, Maria's mother.She can cook, for sure.

                                        2. re: Thi N.

                                          Here's my thoughts:

                                          Mariscos Chente is more accessible since it's on the Westside, easy access from some of the freeways. Also, the seafood and shrimp dishes are generally well-liked by a lot of people. chente is almost that gourmet hole in the wall, with hole in the wall prices to match ($11 for most of the shrimp dishes which are loaded with shrimp) is pretty awesome.

                                          also, i don't have much experience with sinaloan/nayarit cusines but if there only a couple to a few in LA, then customers will throng to those few even if they are not that great. chente would be the exception and makes it busier.

                                          as far as pupusa loca goes, the review read more as a dessert-oriented restaurant for some reason to me. call me crazy, with the sweetened drinks highlighted as well as the aforementioned Twinkie gone to gourmet school, or sweet emapanada. the thing is lots of people might be scratching their heads and say all right it's an empanada, but it's a really great version of the best Twinkie possible? lots just don't care for twinkies to being with even if it does happen to be the apotheosis of a Twinkie. it's still just a twinkie. or maybe i just read it all wrong. also, there seems to be a lot of pupuserias around town.

                                          as for simon's, i don't think there are too many moroccan joints in la (i side from moun of tunis, koutubia, marakesh, and chameau, which is all i can remember off the top of my head) but also all the other moroccan joints are fancy,shamncy affairs complete with the integral belly dancing schedule. simon's cafe fronts as more of a cafe hence calling it a cafe rather than a haute joint. customers may be attracted to that factor. also, i still think simon's is a very unique restaurant from the weird stewed eggplant (reminscent of persian quince jam) to the almost masala dosa-like Pastilla to the feathery, fluffy like a marshmallow Falafels, which are like none i've ever had before.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            There are a grip of Sinaloa and Nayarit seafood joints in LA, but they are almost all in the hoods.Their customers are puros mexicanos, just like Marsicos Chente used to be in Inglewood.When Marsicos Chente first opened in Mar Vista the customers were all latinos.

                                            I can't imagine the average westsider going to Lynwood, Huntington Park, or Cudahy.I know there are people here that would go but I've been hitting these places hard in the past year, and there's not a non-latino in sight.

                                            $$ haven't changed,Kevin.

                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                              but the hounds will always go to far flung areas to achieve deliciousness.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                yes, i, as a hound, will go to far flung joints for good food, BUT
                                                i won't go to far flung joints three times a week.
                                                the fact that MC is six minutes from my house has allowed me to take up residence there.
                                                (on the other hand, i was willing to head to Ibex in inglewood fairly often as well.)

                                        3. re: westsidegal

                                          on a side note, have they increased their prices? or is it still relatively bargain basement? now i'm thinking of adding a visit tomorrow esp due to the new practice of credit card acceptance. thanks.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            even if they wanted to increase their prices, i don't think they've had a moment to change the prices listed on the menu.
                                            i recommend that you go tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. . . . .

                                      2. OK, so I finally went. I had a half-day seminar in Woodland Hills and figured it was reasonable to come home at midday through Mar Vista.

                                        I was really disappointed.

                                        I remember people talking about huge portions, so I figured I'd get an appetizer and a main and take some of it home, but the only thing priced like an appetizer on the menu was a taco de marlin at $3. I just wasn't into a taco de marlin, and certainly not hungry enough to eat a pescado zarandeado, so I ordered camarones en aguachile ($11).

                                        A basket of chips hit the table, and a bowl of... aguachile. The same aguachile.

                                        When the shrimp arrived it was thirteen raw shrimp, heads still on, tails removed and splayed out, alternated with cucumber slices, covered with red onion and green chile and lemon juice, looked just like Francine Orr's picture in the LA Times. Tasty and hugely spicy, certainly a good value, but the menu said it came with rice, which would have cooled the fire better than salty fried chips, and I got no rice, no nothing. When I asked I got told that rice came with dinner, but not ten seconds later a plate of rice and a warmer of tortillas went to the guy across the restaurants from me. ¡No me bajaron del cerro a tamborazos!

                                        The other problem -- the other big problem -- was that of 13 shrimp, maybe 6 were clean, 3 were partially cleaned (had the vein dangling) and 4 weren't cleaned at all. I cleaned the shrimp onto a tortilla chip (ew, I know) with my fork and then ate the food with my hands, coaxing aguachile onto the shrimp and onions and cucumber with another tortilla chip. If you're going to clean the shrimp, clean the shrimp. If you're not going to clean the shrimp (ew), then don't bother, but don't equivocate and clean half the shrimp.

                                        I didn't cause a scene about the rice, I didn't do anything of the sort, I just ate and went, still sort of hungry (no idea why, 13 shrimp is plenty of food, but I was still hungry), home. I stopped in South Gate and had a scrumptious torta ahogada from La Chiva Loca (and stopped at Streit's for a slice of strudel for later), but the whole way home I was just feeling utterly let down.

                                        I didn't make this a separate thread because I'm hoping it was an accident, or I ordered wrong, and I don't want to write a place off on the basis of one dish, but I can't help feeling like I don't get to the Westside so often and I wasted a meal.

                                        EDIT: I miscredited the picture -- it was Thi's review but Francine Orr's photo. If you're reading this, Francine, my apologies.

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Hey DasUbergeek.The menu might say that all dishes come with rice, but rice is never served with an aguachile.Rice is not served with mexican raw seafoods.

                                          The cooked dishes come with rice.Cleaning the shrimp is not normally done as well, in Mexico, and here in LA.The "cleaned" ones might have just come off during the prep.I eat these delicious shrimp without flinching:) The table salsa is ubiquitous at Sinaloa/Nayarit style places and share the strong lime presence but is different.You can ask for a less spicy aguachile, I never thought Sergio's to be very spicy at all.I like it with chiltepin, even hotter.

                                          Beer is the best partner with an aguachile of a ceviche.Should have had a Pacifico. But the taco de marlin, luscious, wrapped in a flour tortilla and cooked on the plancha with cheese beneath the marlin.Have you had this before?

                                          This is the Cadillac of aguachiles, as far as shrimp quality, and an excellent fire water prep.We need to remedy your experience for sure.

                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                            Hm... I can't be the only one misled by the menu. That should be corrected for sure -- even if it had said it in Spanish ("mariscos crudos no se sirven con arroz" or some such thing) it would have been OK by me.

                                            I think the lemon and salt were what made the aguachile seem hot.

                                            And I did have a Tecate (no Pacifico today, no Modelo Especial), which helped immensely, but it kind of washed the strong flavours down my throat instead of absorbing them.

                                            I haven't had tacos de marlin -- I've honestly never seen anyone actually EAT marlin, I thought it was strictly a sport fish, meant to be displayed up on the wall of someone who likes dead animals as decorations.

                                            The shrimp were very fresh but the veins just bothered me.

                                            At some point when I'm back I'll go with other people so I can try more things. I didn't see tacos de camaron on the menu. In fact other than beverages the only other thing below $10 was the taco de marlin. (Lest anyone think this place is expensive, it really isn't. The only thing above $14 was pescado zarandeado at $18/kilo -- and a kilo of fish is a shockingly huge amount.)

                                            OK, I'm glad to hear I wasn't cheated, but I still wish I'd eaten something different.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              Right across the street from MC is Taqueria Sanchez - perfectly cooked tacos de camaron for $1.75 (I think). Give them a whirl if you're on Centinela again, then walk across the street to MC.

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                Kare Reisu gave us the great honor of a tour of San Diego last summer and one of the great highlights was a taco of smoke marlin... REALLY extrodinary...

                                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/dommichu...

                                                In fact, when I went to Chente I specifically asked for it and sadly it was unavailable that day... I hope to try it soon...

                                                --Dommy!

                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                  I tried the marlin taco at Mariscos Chente but it is deefinitely not for me. Way too pungent and fishy like the most fishy anchovie and smokieness known to man. But maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. I still like their shrimp cocktail and cooked shrimp dishes. I did not have the veining in the shrimp problem at all.

                                                  and street is most likely correct in not offering rice with a cold, raw shrimp dish, but if you really wanted it they should have more than offered it with the dish you were eating.

                                                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  Das, before chowhound and the LA Times, Mariscos Chente was 100% mexicanos as a customer base.No explanation was needed.Again, I think you need it less spicy, or another dish.Smoked marlin tacos in Sinaloa are ubiquitous, and smoking houses are entirely devoted to this.There's a great Sinaloan pate de marlin.My friend's wife is from Rosario, SInaloa and smuggled marlin from TJ so she could make some pate.Oh, empanadas de marlin.Stop me before I digress into a Bubbaesque filibuster.

                                                  As far as this cuisine is concerned, it does not get any more real than this.No, it's not Taqueria Sanchez.

                                                  There are the Mex savy like Westsidegal, who got this place instantly, and the methodological and dedicated Thi N, who went 12 times to grasp this radically different flavor to him, and agonized over how to describe the aguachile.It's not a typical LA Mex seafood house.I've hounded throughout Sinaloa, the Sinaloa/Nayarit seafood joints and stands in TJ(largest internal immigrant pop. in TJ), and wandered the streets of Southgate, Huntington Park,Lynwood, Watts, South Central, and East Los and have virtually tried them all.This is it.Give yourself a chance to get to know this cuisine a little better.You'll thank us later.I'm glad you're going back for more, I'd expect no less from DasUbergeek!

                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                    My main problem is the distance -- at most times when I could reasonably get there it's a good 90 minutes away... so I will need to get there as I can.

                                                    I just don't know anything about Sinaloa. Never been to Sinaloa, only know of zarandear as the "ambassador" of Sinaloense cooking, most of my Mexican (real Mexican, not fake Cal- or Tex-Mex) has been Yucatan, Oaxacan and the weird blend of cultures in Chiapas. (Oh, and Baja... does that count?)

                                                    We can disagree about the shrimp -- but if you're going to go to all the trouble to splay the shrimp out -- and they were PERFECTLY butterflied -- take the extra five seconds and get rid of the vein. They were so loose you could have plunged them in water (before seasoning, obviously) and jiggled and the vein would have come loose. In a cooked dish I don't think I'd have objected as much but, honestly, I just don't want it in a raw dish.

                                                    I will say this in fairness -- the flavour was outstanding.

                                                    Pre-hype, you're right, no need to explain to a crowd of Mexicans. But it's not just Mexicans now. Thi's review is posted in the glass of the front door. There were exactly two Mexicans out of the maybe twelve patrons when I got there... it may be that the duenos don't know they need to explain it, but even just a word upon ordering... "I'd like the camarones en aguachile, please." "Okay -- it doesn't come with rice, Mexicans don't eat rice with raw seafood."

                                                    Now it could be that because I ordered in Spanish they made the assumption that I knew what I was doing (which is flattering but clearly false).

                                                    In any case, I'm perfectly willing to be wowed... just need to find a way to get there since it's hard to convince my family that we need to drive two and a half hours round trip for Mexican seafood, even if it is the best.

                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      I understand you on the shrimp.I just have gotten used to it as being a pretty standard practice, and while I will clean the shrimp at home, my aguachile pails in comparison:)

                                                      The family isn't online, they have no PR person, Sergio and Magdalena mostly speak spanish and are reeling trying to keep up with fresh fish and shrimp.Maybe when their American born daughters are old enough they'll get the web page up and the user friendly menu, and be informational hostesses.They aren't even aware of these issues.Another shout out to Westside gal, the Sinaloa/Nayarit muse of LA for passin' around menus during the stampede.

                                                      You need a day when you can come with a group, order the fish and some dishes that are to your interest.Then it will be worth your mileage.Hey man, I drive to TJ on a regular basis just to eat.

                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                        das ubergeek,
                                                        i completely understand your problems here, but fwiw, whenever i've been there it has never been a problem to say, "i'd like some rice with this please," and have them respond by simply bringing the rice (or tortillas, or extra plates, or whatever it is that i want that they don't normally bring).

                                                        i'm somewhat shocked that this happened to you because from the get-go they have gone out of their way to be accommodating to me in every way--from translating the menu items (my high school spanish disappeared many years ago) , to recommending which brand of hot sauce goes best with the shrimp and octopus cocktail, to bringing extra plates and silverware, to remembering not to put chips in front of me but keeping my basket of tortillas full of WARM tortillas. ( my dining partner tonight wanted butter for his tortillas, and they didn't say a word--just brought him the butter.)

                                                        i do hope you find a way to give them another chance.

                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          That just wasn't my experience. They weren't unpleasant or rude or anything, but not attentive or accommodating. It's not a complaint -- heaven knows I put up with much, much worse service in the name of great food (looking at you here, Chongqing) -- but your description doesn't ring true for me at all.

                                                    2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      Das,I stopped by today for lunch.Angie is going tomorrow to submit to printers the menu in english complete with descriptions of the plates, and I mentioned to her that she should separate the three dishes that don't come with rice, the aguachile, camarones ahogados, and the ceviche de camaron.

                                                      They will also be adding some new things to the menu like camarones costa azul,grilled bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese.

                                                      This will take about another week, but the problem should soon be remedied.

                                                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                        o.O

                                                        shrimp...bacon...and cheese...

                                                        DO WANT

                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                          Streetgourmet, that is fabulous – you always have tasty information. I do want to try the new items. Yes I have written about it as well, and I have not encountered "problems". The only problem was the 2nd time when they ran out of octopus (pulpo) for the cevice – and to me that is a good thing, it tells me they probably don't use frozen octopus.

                                                          1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                                                            I read your review, it was excellent and entertaining.But damn, your pictures are killer, like REAL photography.

                                                            Eat Nopal is the real expert on these things and probably could tell us when the Culichi dish came to Sinaloa.

                                                            You're right, it's a great thing when a good restaurant runs out of things and won't resort to inferior products, I agree.

                                                            I know what you mean by the "problems".I see a busy restaurant, providing slow food made to order, and I understand that takes a while.I understand that I may have to wait sometimes, and after seeing Sergio crack the whip the other day trying to get the girls to keep up with the orders, it's very clear they understand the need to give quality service and really want to make the new customers happy.

                                                            I am willing to go at off times or wait when it's busy, just like at a Torihei or another place that is popular and dedicated to quality food.

                                                            Anyways, I had the camarones ahogados the other day and am close to having had everything on Mariscos Chente's menu!

                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                              I'm going back again next week and the first thing i'm asking for anything off the menu. the whole 'ahogado/a' (drowned) thing – i've been paying attention to it more since i first ate a torta ahogada. definitely sounds great. i also tried a few other shrimp dishes, which i will add to my posting once i get the chance. loved the pepper/oil shrimp and the fresh garlic one (checo). thanks for the compliments! and again, appreciate the knowledge you pass on.

                                                              1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                                                                camarones costa azul, bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese and a dipping sauce of homemade "thousand island" style dressing, with jumbo shrimp.Soon as this is on the menu and available, I'm all over it.

                                                              2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                Regarding the Culichi preparation for Shrimp, Fish or Clams... I haven't been able to find any type of history for it... there is a family here in Hawaii that is from Culiacan.... the tia is in her 50s... and she commented that they existed when she was a young adult... but that in her mom's generation no one cooked it at home... it was more of a restaurant dish... now its a common house hold dish but despite the name that claims Culiacan hedgemony the most common preparation for cooked fish is "Al Vapor" which is a split fish, doused with olive oil or lard, sliced tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, covered in aluminum foil and baked... served family style with a stack of tortillas so that everyone can make their own tacos.

                                                    3. tonight between 5:30 and 6:30pm there were about 6 tables full:
                                                      of those, 4 were a result directly or indirectly of either chowhound or the LAT article. (one of the other tables was filled by my hairdresser who brought in another one of his clients. i think he is on a mission to get all of his clients into this place. when MC has their business cards printed up he will keep a supply of cards at his station and pitch their food to every one of his customers)

                                                      the kitchen was ZIPPING through the orders--not backed up at all.

                                                      1. We were there Friday night (the 13th) as well, at around 8 PM. I was afraid to try this place after reading about the line-ups but we got seated immediately. I don't think there was an empty table after we arrived and some people waited a few minutes but nothing horrible though some people came in and left once they saw a group waiting. The servers were flying around! The crowd was really mixed and LOUD.

                                                        We had the carmarones culiche and the pescado zarandeado. Sorry for any spelling mistakes, When we heard the smallest fish was 2 kilos my husband didn’t think we could eat one by ourselves and thought I was totally crazy when I ordered the shrimp as well but he was the one finishing up every last bit. We were told the fish would take 25 mins but it was more like the 45 mins everyone else reports. The whole meal took 2 hours, a pleasant way to spend an evening.

                                                        The shrimp sauce was amazing and the fish was as good as others have said. We saw only one other table order it. We did find the topping on the fish a little salty so a little went a long way but the meat was so moist and fresh that we can’t complain.

                                                        Thank you so much for recommending this place, as it was a great experience.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: sharonanne

                                                          Camaron culichi, my favorite.Glad you and your husband had a great dinner date.

                                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                            I still love the culichi - and no heads or shells to fiddle with...

                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              can you describe the Shrimp Culichi further?

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                It's a thicker, cream based sauce that gets it's heat from poblano chilies and, while it has heat, it's not as not as spicy as some of the other preparations (like the diabla or even the pimiento (sp?). Here is a link to Street Gourmet LA photo of the dish:

                                                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/15437927...

                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                  Correct, except I believe Westsidegal, or someone else says that Sergio uses jalapenos for this sauce.It's a creamy sauce.There are three on the menu, the camaron culichi, camaron al chipotle(cream of chipotle), and camaron al ajillo(creamy garlic sauce).The first two are mildy spicy and are off the charts in flavor.Kevin, try the culichi and the chipotle, we love 'em.

                                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                    That actually makes sense about the jalapeno rather than the poblano since the sauce is so distinctively green. Have you tried the camaron al ajillo? Now I am having a sudden need to give that a whirl.

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      I saw it go by me yesterday and I flagged down the waitress to say" ooooohh, what was that?" I've had the chipotle the other day and was floored by how good it was.I'm moving the al ajillo sauce up on the cue.If you beat me to it I want to hear about it!

                                                        2. Chente is on the route home so we decided to try it last Friday night. We arrived at just around 7pm. The restaurant was full , but only two parties were waiting and both were supposedly taking food to go. Unfortunately, the problems at this restaurant go beyond popularity.
                                                          We stood there and the women walked by us several times with eye contact and a smile, but never actually acknowledged us. We finally had to ask if we could take a vacant table. By this point, we'd helped ourselves to a couple of beers from the cooler and chips arrived quickly. Salsa was very tasty, though watery. The young woman came pretty quickly to take our order. We asked after about 25 minutes if the Ceviche could be brought out first. She explained that all the food had to be served together. In the meantime, parties seated after us were getting served food. By now we'd waiting almost an hour and the server kept coming by to say that our "ticket" was up next. Long story short, after an hour and 15 minutes of no food and only "your ticket is up next" we got up to leave, paying for the beers of course. We did ask again if the food was ready to be served and were informed that it still wasn't ready. We did NOT order any of the dishes that required lengthy prep.

                                                          We really wanted to like this place, but unfortunately Chente has much to learn about the restaurant business. We eat out 5 nights a week and they could have earned our business, but didn't really care. We'll continue to frequent other Mexican restaurants in the area.
                                                          Dine at your own risk!

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Fresser

                                                            That's too bad.I keep getting lucky and missing these dinner rushes.

                                                            The "runny" salsa is a traditional seafood salsa from the state of Nayarit, many of the Nayarit style restaurants around town have this same salsa.Heavy or thick salsas don't accompany seafood well.

                                                            While they may have blown, they definitely care.They've brought in more servers, are adding english language menu, and are trying to keep up with the new business.I'm avoiding the weekends myself right now, but Sunday afternoons have been working out good, like around 2PM.

                                                            One thing they haven't been able to articulate is the fact that everything is made to order.Mexican restaurants in the area have ready bins of food to plate.Other seafood restaurants send out ceviches with wilty vegetables that have pickled from sitting in a tub.It's defintely slow foood, but that isn't excusing your party being ignored.

                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                              We've eaten at MC once, and taken out twice. We went today around 1145, hopefully to beat any potential queues. We walked in and I believe it was Angie who said to sit anywhere we chose - only two tables were occupied. It was tuesday, but Sergio was manning the grill. Angie promptly brought over a basket of those hearty chips and the Sinaloan-style salsa verde.

                                                              We ordered a couple of Modelos and the Camarones Borrechos, as well as the Camarones Culichi. Both dishes came out about the same time. Both came garnished with fresh cucs and red onions, and a side of rice. Both were very tasty but galaxies apart in style. The C. Borrechos was nicely sauced and sauteed with whole shrimps where the body portions had been expertly peeled. This dish has just enough flavor and heat to accent the camarones, which I like. It doesn't overpower the freshness factor that MC rests its reputation on. Also, if you're a true shrimp lover who likes to suck the juice out of the shrimp heads, this is IMHO the one to order. Again, because the saucing is more reserved then dishes like Diabla or la Pimienta, you can truly taste the sweetness of the shrimp.

                                                              The C. Culichi reminded me of something I might get at an Italian restaurant - never approached anything exactly like this in Mexican cuisine. I'm guessing that this is Sergio's bit of magic. Angie initially described this dish as having a creamy green sauce - I was expecting something like a pepita-based sauce. Cheese and cream are the main components in the sauce, with probably chiles, maybe some cilantro and garlic to round it out. The shrimp in this dish are peeled and deheaded. Very tasty, but very filling. I found the two bottled sauces that were from Sinaloa and Nayarit - La Guacamaya and Salsa Huicol - to go perfect with this dish. Just one or two drops on each bite of shrimp acted as a nice piquant accent to the unctuous sauce. And yes, I was scooping up the remaining sauce with the chips, the cucumbers, the rice, my fingers, etc. Just a heads-up: you don't want to order this or at least eat it all yourself if you're planning on staying awake for the duration of your work day.

                                                              I was a bit surprised that no huge lunch crowd showed up. We left around 1245 and still no crowds. I think just three more customers showed up while we were there. Personally, I was glad to walk in and sit down so easily. But I'm hoping that business remains good for them. They are good folks who truly offer a fantastic unpretentious eating experience where it's all about the food.

                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                Great to hear, bulavinka.The cream sauce technique dates to the reign of Maximillian, the Hapsburg who briefly ruled Mexico in the name of France.He brought a celeb chef at the time, Tudor, and a staff of experts in various disciplines.They soon collaborated with the indigenous cooks to create many Mexican classics.There's a famous Mexican dish called crepas de huitlacoche con salsa poblana(crepes of huitlacoche with a poblano chile cream sauce)The sauce uses milk blended with poblano chile, crema mexicana, and butter.The French had a profound influence on Mexican cooking.There's also a chicken breast with poblano cream sauce au gratin.Sergio's sauce is not his invention.Culichi refers to the people of Culiacan, Sinaloa, and that dish is a little Sinaloa in the Nayarit mix, and from Sergio's home state.Like many things in Mexico, this is a dish that emanates from D.F., and got altered a little on the way up to Sinaloa, where Sergio uses jalapenos as they do in Sinaloa.All cream sauces in Mexico are from the French technique.Great comfort food, the al chipotle and al ajillo also are cream sauces at MC's.

                                                                Nice call on the Modelos!

                                                                1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                  SGLA, thanks for the seriously informative background on that incredibly rich and flavorful sauce. This sauce seems conducive to cooler weather. Do folks in Mexico crave this when there's a bit of chill in the air?

                                                                  I can see that style of sauce working with a lot if dishes. As I was preparing a simple omelette this morning, I was thinking of that Culichi sauce. If I had the sauce available, I'd fold a little chorizo into the middle of my omelette and finish with the sauce on top with just a little cilantro. Add a few warm tortillas and a nice warm cup of champurrado and I think I'd be set on these cool mornings.

                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    Yes, it's comfort food, and great for a night in Culiacan.Sinaloa has a hot climate but parts inland can get the kind of chill you are talking about.

                                                                    Yeah, you're on to something with that omelette.The sauce isn't very hard to make, and a variety of fresh green chiles will work.You could also do a cream of cilantro or chipotle.MC does the cream of chipotle(al chipotle)I really wish more Mexican restaurants would do the cream sauces.

                                                                  2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                    do you write for wikipedia? ha. that's stellar.

                                                            2. Went today for lunch, very quiet, though by the time i left there were about 10 people seated...couldn't have been happier with the food and service, loved the aguachile salsa and have to add my recommendation for the camarones a la diabla - spicy for sure, but not overwhelmingly so

                                                              re: other comments on here, I asked for more rice so that I could soak up all of the delicious sauce, and they brought it right out...def. recommend for a late lunch, can't wait to go back with a group to order the pescado zarandeado

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: hboy

                                                                i walked in there last friday night at 8:30pm with 8 people in my party.
                                                                the place was about 3/4 full.
                                                                we ordered a wide variety of dishes (including quesadillas for the vegetarian in the group).
                                                                the kitchen was humming--everything came out in a timely fashion.
                                                                the service was fine (they had three servers working).
                                                                the food, as always, was terrific.

                                                                all in all. they learned from the LAT onslaught. they were up to speed.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  Good to hear. I've been staying away but dreaming of MC daily.
                                                                  One question, please, westsidegal -- are they staying open later these days? When they first opened I went a few times around 8:30 and felt like I was keeping everyone up late/overtime by not finishing until after the clean-up was done. They did not say anything but I felt I'd overstayed my welcome.
                                                                  Thanks
                                                                  Bob

                                                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                    before the LAT article, when the restaurant was empty at night, they would close early, rather than stay open with an empty restaurant.

                                                                    certainly that wasn't what was going on last friday night.

                                                                    i dunno if it's just been word-of-mouth, or if it's a result of the LAT article, but since then they've had business in the evenings.

                                                                    still, i call first if i'm expecting to arrive after 8-- just to be sure.
                                                                    their number is:
                                                                    (310) 390-9241

                                                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                      We went tonight (Thurs) and all the booths were full when we left @ 830.

                                                                      1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                                                        But they had closed by 9p after we returned from our walk... this was a Thursday...

                                                                        --Dommy!

                                                                        1. re: Dommy

                                                                          9pm is their normal closing time.
                                                                          are you saying that all the people cleared out between 8:30 and 9 or are you saying that they 'closed' the door and put the closed sign up at 9?

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                            I drove by around 9:15 on Thursday, and there wasn't a customer to be seen.

                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                              We left at around 8:30 and walked down to Vons and back... when we came back it was 9 and they had a closed sign up and the lights low...

                                                                              --Dommy!

                                                                  2. I guess I should ask, then, what time should I come by?

                                                                    I have tomorrow off so I could come by at anytime...

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                      2PM will avoid the crowds, Mexican lunch time.Or, go after 8PM and don't worry and stay until you finish, you'll be fine.

                                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                          on friday, we arrived at 8:30.
                                                                          my guess is that we left at about 10ish.

                                                                          the food and the beer kept on coming. . . .

                                                                      1. i dont know where to start!!! first let me thank all of you for just being there....i am brand new to chowhound, and its like ive died and gone to heaven...im from philly, but i love good food, of all kinds, with value for dollar being my mantra...ive lived here for 20 yrs., but thanks to you guys, youve opened up a whole new world of gastromomy to me, and i will always be eternally grateful, particularly to my favorite peeps; gourmetinla, westsidegal, bulavinnaka, kevin, nosh, ciao bob, jeetjet (SINCE HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO MENTIONED THE WHITE HOUSE IN ATLANTIC CITY AS THE GOLD STANDARD OF CHEESESTEAKS WORLDWIDE!!!).. boy is he right, and ill elaborate another time...but i digress...back to the post at hand, on the marvels of MC which, thanks to you all, and thi n in particuar, i frequented for the first time last night!!!
                                                                        first, i had a res at 630, and IT WAS TOTALLY EMPTY!! we were the only people eating for the rest of the night!! so as many of you have said, it looks like weeknights will be cool now that the huhah has died down a little ( in a way, i hate to give MC more good pub, but i tink all you chowhounds know about it by now)
                                                                        second, as to content, ill just ditto everyones opinion of the food..it is UNBELIEVEABLE, from the ceviche to all of the shrimp dishes....kudos to maria, sergio, and the mariscos of mazatlan...i didnt want to write pages on this, because im not a great writher, and youall have done a much better job!!! BEWARE, HOWEVER, THAT ON THE SUBJECT OF CHEESESTEAKS,HOAGIES, AND BAY CITIES I WILL BE BACK!!!
                                                                        thanks again for just being who you are, and keep on writing!!! JR

                                                                        1. Horrible. Went there a few weeks ago and the snook was rotten. shame on them for even serving it.

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: doncorleone

                                                                            Rotten? Well, I know they go to exhaustive efforts to bring fresh snook all the way from Sinaloa, and I've seen Sergio show me the eyes of the fish, he was explaining how you can tell the fish is fresh. He also won't get anything frozen.

                                                                            I've been eating pescado zarandeado here since they opened in January of 2009 on a monthly, if not bi-monthly basis and the consistency has been remarkable. Many others here have consistently rated the pz very high as well as a ton of bloggers and food critics.

                                                                            But, if somehow their efforts to serve fresh fish didn't deliver, you certainly should have alerted the chef, and I'm sure he would have taken care of you, or answered any questions.

                                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                              They may have had an off night, it happens, I guess.

                                                                              But then again I have no experience with their pescado zerandeado.

                                                                              I just always order the shrimp dishes, which are great, but sometimes I'll say this, they are a little too heavy on the oilyness, and afterwards I'm just too tired to do anything of merit.

                                                                              And this thread reminds me that I'm overdo on a visit.

                                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                                Magdalena says, "comemos greasy". It's a slogan I can get behind. Provecho, Kevin.

                                                                              2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                                i have it more frequently than you do, streetgourmetla, and it's always been very fresh.

                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                  I have never had a bad one either.
                                                                                  I must say that I have noted Sergio and Maria taking more nights off.
                                                                                  I was quite nervous twice recently (and both times were not on Tuesday's which was his day off in the past) when neither were in attendance. But the food was perfect, even the new dishes.
                                                                                  I also got burned after the Superbowl, when I walked in at 7:30 and they were closing due to the slowness of the day for them.
                                                                                  Nothing's perfect, but Chente is close.

                                                                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                                    Sergio and Angie will be off on Tuesday's and Wednesday's for a while due to family obligations.

                                                                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                                      basically, this family is keeping a restaurant, that serves terrific food, open for two meals a day seven days a week.
                                                                                      this is beyond exhausting.

                                                                                      i believe their 'normal' closing time monday through thursday has now been changed to 8pm, but they will close earlier if the restaurant is empty.
                                                                                      even at that, it is a daunting undertaking. . . .

                                                                                2. re: doncorleone

                                                                                  I most recently ate there two weeks ago. Quite possibly my best meal (including a deliciously fresh PZ) and service there ever in about a dozen visits. See my post at:

                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684692

                                                                                  1. re: doncorleone

                                                                                    Been there at least a half-dozen times in the past year and have always been impressed with the quality and preparation of their seafood. My parents who rarely eat anything outside of Asian cuisine and are sticklers for fresh seafood were very impressed as well with the quality and preparation there. Sorry to hear you felt the snook was rotten, but the only rotten thing I constantly experience at MC is everyone at the table commiserating that the meal must come to an end.