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Mar 24, 2010 08:33 PM

Mariscos El Teto's,Sun Valley, CA-Baja Cuisine Beyond the Fish Taco

All the juicy pics

For the past year, one of the most audacious food trucks has been parked 7 days a week near the northern tip of Lankershim Bl. in Sun Valley. This desolate strip of Boulevard proudly hails from the well-heeled Weddington Park neighborhood south of Ventura Bl. to its northern bitter end of no-tell motels near the Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, where Lankershim diverts into San Fernando.

There are some good street food options to be found in this industrial patch, but today that turned into a brilliant flash of Baja cuisine unprecedented in Los Angeles.

Teto is from Ensenada, but there are two women who run his truck, or trailer. The menu has seafood, and also meat options. These cooks have originality combined with many traditional foods found from the taquerias and stands from Tijuana to Ensenada.

A table sits on the curb with the necessary hot sauces and tostadas for your marisco needs. There are no sodas here, pure aguas frescas:jamaica, pineapple, horchata, and lemonade. As the warmer weather is upon us, I think many an afternoon shall be spent at this table. A day at the beach in Sun Valley awaits.

A salsa concierge keeps delightful salsas and extras cool on ice in the radiated, asphalt plains of the San Fernando Valley.

Roasted jalapenos, pickled onions, lemons, and wafer thin radishes awaken your inner taquero. Hmmm, what to do with all these goodies?

A stinging salsa habanero,chunky jalapeno salsa, pickled jalapenos, and a cool nopales salad give this trailer true Ensenada street cred.

Cahuamanta, a traditional soup from Sonora and Sinaloa, brought to Baja by these two migrant groups, where it has become a staple at seafood restaurants, stands, and the odd truck in Baja, more so in Tijuana. The soup used to be made from tortoise(Caguama), which is currently on the endangered species list, so someone started preparing the soup with manta ray(Mantarraya).Hence the name, caguamanta, the tortoise soup made with manta ray.

This truck has its own take on these foods. The caguamanta comes with baby octopus, black olives, cilantro, and onions. It was not as good as the incredible versions I've had in about a dozen places in Tijuana,and in the state of Sonora, but it's still a solid offering. Manta ray has a strong fish flavor if you've never tried it, making it a treat for those who love their seafood to taste like seafood.

What struck me at the core of my pleasure centers when I first walked up to the window to order was the smell of an Ensenada fish taco stand. Hot lard, crema, and fried fish.

The Ensenada fish taco here comes fully assembled. In the throes of my fish taco fervor I missed the salsa cart and just grabbed one of the hot sauces from the table and dove into this fine specimen. Guess I'll have to go back correct my foolhardiness. This is a top 2 fish taco in LA. It think it's the only true contender for Ricky's Fish Tacos.The tortillas are hand made, and the soulful taco is an afternoon stroll on Avenida Gastellum. These are made with basa, the genetic equivalent of a catfish that is imported from Vietnam.

The manta ray finds its stride here in the taco, prepared with black olives, bell peppers,tomotoes, and garnished with cilantro and onions. This is about one of the best taco experiences you'll have in LA; a stewy, tangy delight.

Conchas(shells)preparadas are seafood prepared in a shell. The most alluring of these is the sea snail(caracol). This is a rare appearance of real sea snail at a mariscos stand in the Southland, matter-of-fact. it's the ONLY Mexican seafood stand, or restaurant in LA that carries this bonne bouche . Here they prepare it on the grill, jacked up by the low grade umami of a volcanized Kraft single. Sea snail has a cheese, tinged flavor that is amplified by this party crasher, but the kind of unexpected guest that sets the party off. The Kraft single with the sea snail is like that obnoxious guy that starts the conga line. You shake your head in disgust and wonder "what the hell is this guy doing here" only moments before you take your place at the tail end, kicking it harder than all those in front of you.

This is a dynamic appetizer. It's costs in the neighborhood of $8 for one of these, but it's real sea snail you are paying for.

If the Kraft cheese is an irreconcilable ingredient, just ask for some Monterey Jack, which they used in my shrimp mulita. The mulita is a Mexican pizza made with two tortillas. The protein, cheese, tomato, cilantro, and onions are stufed in between. They also have mulitas of chicken, steak, pork, as well as seafood. Carne asada is always a good call.

Mulita de camaron, the real Mexican pizza

But, the best way to experience this rarity, sea snail, is in a ceviche tostada. I ordered the mixed ceviche with cooked shrimp, octopus, and the sea snail. The sea snail has a firm texture but such a delicate flavor, earthy and somewhat like a salty cheese.The tostada is a heaping pile of oceanic goodness and plenty enough for two people. If you want to live large, order the sea snail, but it will drive up the cost of this plate. I think it was around $16 with the snail, but split among two or three as a starter it's not much of an indulgence. If you go full on sea snail that will of course run you a little more. Fish is also available besides the aforementioned seafood options.

Toritos are a street food item in Baja, usually a bacon wrapped chile guero(blonde), but here they use the neon green anaheim pepper. The bacon is loosely wrapped and stuffed with sauteed shrimp, well-seasoned, and the gooey Kraft single. This is not a choice of economics, but one of flavor. The torito is outrageously delicious.

Bacon fat gives the chile a vibrancy only matched by its medley of savory components. This dish has been engineered for addiction.

There are also cocktails, clamatos(street cocktail prepared with Clamato juice), mulitas, burritos, and meat tacos. They have chuleta(beef chop) on the menu. This is the very prized meat of the Baja carne asada taco, and one of the few times a carne asada taco in LA has a distinctive cut. There is still so much more to try here.

At Mariscos El Teto you can get a real taste of Ensenada style seafood, which used to mean just fish tacos here in Los Angeles. It's about time. You also might be dining at the best food truck in Los Angeles.

Mariscos El Teto
8854 Lankershim Bl.
Sun Valley, CA
7 days a week
10AM-6PM, or later if you're still buying.
12PM-6PM on Thursdays due to street cleaning

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  1. Great review! Is Tacos y Cemitas Chavez (or is it "Chave"?) still near that location?

    Tacos y Cemitas Chavez
    Lankershim Blvd Neenach St, Los Angeles, CA 91352

    4 Replies
    1. re: Peripatetic

      Hello Peripatetic, I believe so. I haven't been to Sun Valley in the evenings recently but I'm due. They are just a little farther up the road, almost to San Fernando. Hope they're still there, great stuff.

      1. re: Peripatetic

        Spotted and tasted this evening, Tacos y Cemitas Chave. I had suadero and cabeza with nopales, my friend had a suadero quesadilla from the new member of the stand from Michoacan. They're doin so good they added a quesadilla lady and have purchased a picnic covering and have more seating. The tacos were fantastic.

        I saw the taquero removing the tongue casing off while we dined, what a show!

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          Thanks for the update! I take it they're never there at the same time: El Teto during the day only, then Chave during the evening only.

          1. re: Peripatetic

            Teto's hours are above, and Chave is Thurs -Mon 6pm-12am, maybe later on Friday and Saturday. They were very busy last night when we grabbed a bite and on the way home from Arleta a little later. The word is out.

        1. re: SauceSupreme

          I hear you. I've been going everyday this week. Bring an army of eaters.

        2. Awesome streetgourmetla!!!

          This is a truck I have been curious about for the longest time. It's not too far from my regular huarache vendor just a few hundred yards away. I'm usually there early Saturday morning and was hesitant to try having not seen any customers, probably just getting setup that early in the day.

          Will definitely be hitting it next time I'm in the area.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Sgee

            They are still an off the radar spot. They have local customers, regulars that drop by, and mostly for shrimp cocktails, etc. A friend of mine told me last night that he had written a Yelp post back in October, I went and looked, and no one ever followed up or responded. He also told me he missed the items that I had written about and had only tried some fish tacos.

            The menu is pretty big, and there are special items in the window that are hand written like the manta ray.

            A flock of customers is definitely one criteria, but I always at least take a peek. Ya never know......

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Ok made it here this afternoon after dropping by Birrieria Apatzingan this morning. Ordered the fish taco, very nice, brought back fond memories of seafood tacos I had in Puerto Vallarta. Fish was clean and fresh, with a light thin batter. I did make sure to top it with the selection of salsas, pickled onions and nopales, delicious.

              I was then offered a complimentary cup of clear seafood soup, sounds lot like the cahuamanta you described above, but did not detect any olives in it. Very simple but tasty and again no fishiness, just a clean briny seafood flavors.

              Unfortunately they were out of caracol today, so I just ended up ordering the mixta ceviche tostada. Good version. Beware though, they use habaneros very liberally.

              While I was waiting for my order, ended up chatting with the very friendly young assistant clearing the tables. He mentioned there has been a more varied clientele of late :-), I'm sure it's courtesy of this post.

              Great spot. Will be back soon to check out the other items.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                that's just to far from me for now, isn't sun valley near valence or even further away north.?

                maybe once i can play hookey illl get out there, in a few weeks.

                1. re: kevin

                  It's five minutes north of Burbank. It's nowhere near Valencia; it's south of San Fernando.

            2. Tomorrow this place will have marlin tacos, I tasted the tender fresh smoked marlin whole today, awesome. The owner will soon have real crab and Pismo clams, the Cadillac of Mexican clams. You can get the tacos anyway you like here, just ask.

              Today the sea snail on the shell was bathed in a clam sauce instead of cheese, nice. I also ordered the empanada de camaron, big enough for two.

              1. Well I'll be going here for lunch shortly, that's for sure!

                1 Reply