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Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente

I received a tip today from Maricos Chente supporter WestSideGal, that Sergio Penuelas has left Mariscos Chente on Centinela, permanently.

I was able to reach him and he confirmed this news. He is currently cooking at the Mariscos Chente at 10020 Inglewood Ave, Inglewood CA 90304. The founder of the restaurant, Vincente Cossio had recently took over the kitchen at the Inglewood location due to the poor performance of the cooks that were working there. I originally learned about Sergio when he was cooking at the Inglewood restaurant, while the family waited for the Mar Vista location to clear health inspection. The place had been closed due to a kitchen fire in 2008.

Sergio is going to be there Thursday through Sunday, when he's not there, Vincente is also a greta cook and the kitchen has been solid there since he took over.

As for the Mar Vista location, can't vouch for the kitchen anymore. Westsidegal said he hadn't been there for over a week and the food wasn't any good, and it was nothing like Sergio's cooking at all.

So, I guess I'm going to Inglewood from now on,

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Mariscos Chente
10020 Inglewood Ave, Lennox, CA 90304

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  1. SGLA and WestSideGal, thanks for the heads-up. We were planning on heading over to the Centinela eatery this weekend with a bunch of folks in tow. Sounds like Sergio needs a serious apprentice or three.

    1. I was wondering if something was going on. I went there last week and they seemed so disorganized. My food was ok, but nowhere near as good as previous visits.

      2 Replies
      1. re: annapurna7

        Sounds about right, because Angie is with her husband.Without Sergio there it's just not the same place at all. I mean, they might hire a decent cook at some point, but it will not be the place that many of us have come to love.

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          Interesting; had no idea.

          On my visit this past weekend, the ceviche was good, but not as sublime as on a previous visit. 2 outta 3 tacos were excellent.

      2. Bill - who is cooking with Conchita's operation in Gardena near El Camino College?
        Any Sergio influence there?
        Not that any location is convenient to Sherman Oaks, but just in case.....

        3 Replies
        1. re: carter

          Conchita is Angie's sister, and she runs the original operation on Imperial Hwy, and the newer location in Gardena. Conchita is cooking over at Imperial, and she's a fantastic cook, different from Sergio, but solid. I think someone else is cooking at Gardena, but she might be there on the nights they have live entertainment.

          If Conchita is in the kitchen, things are fine.

          The cooks that work in this circuit are very individual, and don't have the type of static kitchen that trained chefs maintain, with proper training and following a recipe.

          Vincente taught Sergio many years ago, but Sergio cook different. Conchita learned from her father and cooks more like him. They were both at the Imperial Hwy location for many years before Vincente moved to Ingelwood Ave.

          I will have time next week to go around and see what's going on THIS week. Good grief, carnales.

          1. re: streetgourmetla

            BTW carter, Conchita's restaurants are called Mariscos Chente's, on Imperial and in Gardena.

            Vincente Cossio and Sergio Penuelas are at the independently run Mariscos Chente in Lennoxico.

            Magdalena Garcia, Vincente's ex, Angie, Sylvia, and Conchita's mom, remains in her Mariscos Chente in Mar Vista.

            IT'S DYNASTY!!!!!

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              Shit, say it ain't so. I really liked that place, though I haven't got out there in a couple months.

          2. Hi streetgourmetla,

            Tragic news. :( Please let us know if you find out where Sergio is going to permanently settle to. Thanks.

            1 Reply
            1. re: exilekiss

              Well, for now, go see Sergio on Inglewood Ave. in Lennoxico/INglewood.

            2. That's a terrible shame.
              About the new staff, I have a tidbit.
              I ate one of the best fish dishes I ever had there on Wednesday 3/31. The mojarra frita...it was excellent.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Ciao Bob

                on wednesday 4/7, i was served a lousy shrimp and octopus coctel.
                the fish seemed fresh enough, but was overcooked.
                the quantity served was far less than normal (i know, i know, it's like the line from a woody allen film "the food was terrible and there was so little of it.")
                and the broth tasted like dishwater.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  >>the quantity served was far less than normal (i know, i know, it's like the line from a woody allen film "the food was terrible and there was so little of it.")<<

                  LOLing!

                  Great post, but I'm now back at, "Do not pass Go, do not enjoy PZ, or coctels." :(

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    it appears to me that the kitchen is in a state of flux--different people cooking at different times and the various cooks/chefs not necessarily being able to turn out a consistent product.
                    at some point maybe it will stabilize.
                    if it does stabilize, i'll try it again to see where things stand.
                    as a general rule, i don't like to play craps with my restaurant money. . . .

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I appreciate your honest assessment. Like most, we really loved the original incarnation. Our problem is that we haven't been in a few months. We were hoping to come back to it in a big way.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        i'm in a state of bereavement.
                        you'll recognize me because i'll be wearing black until i find a new 'food home.'
                        (i wonder where my friend's old italien grandmother bought the black lace head-covering that i need to complete the outfit.)

                        i plan to scope out the inglewood avenue place this weekend.

                        my gut feel is that there is no way that mar vista can possibly right itself to be able to consistently turn out excellent food in any short period of time.
                        this is going to take months, at least.
                        the learning curve, to be the only chef with the labor-intensive menu they have, is a daunting one. everything was made to order. the stamina, cooking skill, and organizational skills that are required to do this take time to develop.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          I feel for you. Your posts have shown how much of a loyal customer you've been - particularly since you're a very discriminating pescatarian. I know how much you love this place. IMHO, properly preparing seafood is one of the more difficult things to consistently perform in a kitchen. It's one of the true tests that indicates whether a master is at work. I'm curious to hear about your assessment of the Inglewood Ave eatery. In the mean time, I can't risk shooting craps either, as our close friends are bringing a visiting relative who really knows and enjoys seafood as well.

                      2. re: westsidegal

                        Not gonna find many Sinaloan or Nayaritan chefs around town that alone can grill, cook, and cocktail. The next best cooks have cooking and cocktailing, but no grilling expertise. In Mexico, and in many of these restaurants around town there are three or more cooks at least, for each discipline. That's something that sets Sergio apart from everyone else around.

                        The second and third best pz's in town have no allure for me, they aren't even close. That was the signature dish at Mariscos Chente. And, there are no recipes around for anyone to follow.

                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                          and, i believe that the inglewood/century location does not have a grill, so sergio's grilling skills can't be utilized there for the moment.

                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                      Dishes like the mojarra frita are going to be solid regardless of the location. They use a big tilapia, that's very fresh. Magdalena Garcia can cook, although I don't know that she will be in the kitchen, but it's going to be a completely different restaurant. Sauces will be different, the zarandeado won't be the same.

                      Safe bets? Mojarra frita, oysters, ceviche, maybe the cocktails? westsidegal said her cocktail wasn't happening.

                      Service wise, Angie had done a lot to improve the service which was still not quite porfessional, but her and Silvia made a big difference. I think the service will not be as good anymore. I will stop by and see what's up soon. It's too bad.

                    2. Thanks for the heads up SGLA. We went to the Inglewood location on 04/17 for a late lunch. Sergio was there, and needless to say the food was as spectacular as we were used to in the Mar Vista location.

                      However, the pescado zarandeado was not available, because the grill is still in the Mar Vista location, and I was told, they should be able to move it and start offering pz by the start of summer. Secondly, the Inglewood location is small (3-4 tables for 4 persons/table, and 3-4 bar stools). So when the word spreads around of Sergio's transfer, get ready for long waiting times :(

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: losfelizhound

                        I guess having the grill at the Mar Vista location is pointless now, but this makes me commiserate on the thought of this act being the final nail in the coffin. This brings a definite finale to Sergio's trajectory. And with such a small eating area at their Lennox location, I'm in serious doubt that I personally will be venturing over there now. Aye Dios mios...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          i prefer to see it as a bump in the road, as opposed to the end of the road.
                          did ya look at Mike Bee's post below?

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            I just saw it and your nominee immediately came to mind. You beat me to it - and rightfully so...

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I certainly hope this is a small bump. With Sergio's talent, they will need a bigger space, sooner than later.

                              BTW, on that note, they don't serve the fish/shrimp tacos/soups at the Inglewood location. It is the "original" Mar Vista menu, minus the pescado zarandeado.

                              1. re: losfelizhound

                                just returned from the inglewood ave. location, and saw the kitchen turning out lots of bowls of soup--shrimp and mixed seafood.

                                also, according to clara, the very friendly and helpful waitress at inglewood av, sergio will be cooking there EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.

                                to reiterate their info:
                                310-672-0226

                                10820 Inglewood Av
                                Lennox CA 90309

                          2. re: losfelizhound

                            in addition to the 25 seats inside the restaurant, there is a covered patio that can seat about 15 more people.

                          3. Something tells me that the problem with this place is not the cook, but rather the management. I really doubt that the reason Mariscos Chente wasn't more popular related to the cook, and suspect it had more to do with the fact that the place is a depressing dump.

                            -----
                            Mariscos Chente
                            4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: aventinus

                              gee,
                              i never found it depressing nor did i see it as a dump.
                              the place was always clean and spacious.
                              the waitstaff was always friendly and nice to me.

                              dunno why it depressed you. . . .

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                I would say that it has little to no discernible ambiance, (plain to the point of starkness) but it has always been clean and with a nice, open feel that means the tables are spread out and consequently gives everyone a little more breathing room than most other places these days.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  AND since most of the tables are booths, the seating is extremely comfortable, much more comfortable than the wooden chairs that so many restaurants at this price point jam into their space.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    I love drinking in booths... I love eating in booths... I could practically live in booths.

                                    I agree with Sir Vorg's assessment but with an emphasis on the points that you mention as well. Open, comfortable, lots of booths, clean, and service that is accommodating and unhurried.

                                    Yeah, they could use some minimal dressing up in there, but to be honest, once the food arrives, who's looking at walls? :)

                              2. re: aventinus

                                the place is fine and dandy. it could be a lot worse. it could look like baja fresh.

                                1. re: aventinus

                                  Personally I never went because I never thought there was anything for me to eat there. I like fish, but I'm not really a fan of shrimp or octopus.. fish marinaded in mayo doesn't leave me too excited.

                                  If they had a fish ceviche (maybe they do, but it hasn't been mentioned much) or ensenada style fish taco's you could count me in.

                                  1. re: AAQjr

                                    >>fish marinaded in mayo doesn't leave me too excited.<<

                                    You really should try it first. I don't know the culinary history/timeline on the PZ, but I would guess that a person of simple means but with a lot of creativity and a deft hand at the grill invented this - this is probably the case in the vast majority of dishes that we all have come to love. I'm sure Sr. Penuelas makes no apologies for using mayo or anything else that he uses in his kitchen - it works is all I know. And having eaten seafood in so many forms all of my life, I can easily say that the PZ is one of the most memorable seafood dishes I've experienced. I urge you to give it a whirl.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      i'm pretty sure you mean that AAQjr should give it a whirl at the inglewood av location, with SERGIO doing the cooking, after they get the grill installed there.

                                      fwiw, while sergio was cooking at mar vista, i brought several groups of people there and ordered this dish. only one person didn't go for it, and that was because she's a strict vegetarian. every other person who tried it loved it.

                                      also, the pz doesn't taste of the mayo like the fish that was served to me at the fancy-dancy tower restaurant downtown many years ago did (it was located on the penthouse floor of the towers that housed Transamerica insurance co). i can see, if you've had that experience, you could harbor a certain cynicism going forward. sergio's pz is NOTHING LIKE that horrible dish

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        Hi westsidegal,

                                        Yes, I neglected to specify that the PZ is now at the Inglewood Ave location. Thanks for catching that.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          PZ "will be" at the Inglewood location (grill installation willing and the creek don't rise)

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            can someone repeat that address on the inglewood location and also please report back if you visit, i'm more look forward to that collection of shrimp dishes.

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              There is an existing place link on this thread (upper right corner of the page) with that information.

                                    2. re: AAQjr

                                      The marinade isn't mayo, but the fat used on the snook in cooking. You need a fat, butter, olive oil, or mayo can be used to keep the fish from drying out. The fat gets cooked off, just enough for moisture, it's not a dressing.

                                      I've seen Sergio do this. He breaks apart the fish, butterflies it, applies his marinade and puts the fish on the grill. I've had this dish a few times, and never tasted mayo. But, if you'd like, I could recommend some places around town that inexplicably do pz without any fat. Not so great.

                                      There are fish dishes, the pescado empapelado, awesome, there's grilled fish. Tell Sergio you like fish and I'm sure he'll hook you up.

                                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                                        What other grilled fish dishes do you recommend at other places, Streetg? The closer to the Westside the better.

                                  2. I went by the Inglewood location yesterday and ordered a ceviche mixto to go right before the hockey game. Service was prompt, but I found the ceviche to be overly salty and the pieces of octopus were too small and very chewy. I'm hoping it was a fluke. I'll try again in a few days.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: annapurna7

                                      did you notice who was doing the cooking?

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        It was definitely Sergio. He took my order and went straight to the kitchen to make it. :)
                                        I'm sure it was a fluke.

                                        1. re: annapurna7

                                          this is very troubling.
                                          when he was cooking at mar vista, i never experienced a fluke.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            "when he was cooking at mar vista, i never experienced a fluke."

                                            Me either. I always expected a snook... ;-D>

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Me threether, and of course that snook should be sans the HOOOK.
                                              And man, Sergio can COOOK. :)

                                          2. re: annapurna7

                                            Don't be afraid of telling Sergio your previous experience, and I'm sure he'll correct it. In Mexican culture criticism doesn't exist, it's just how we say hello. "This is my daughter, isn't she fat?"

                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                              ROFLMAO! Wow, I'm guessing Mexicans don't need to shrinks like the rest of us - this is life - embrace it! Well said, mi amigo...

                                              1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                I will. I ran out of there ASAP to get to my aunts house (also in Inglewood) for the game, so I didn't get the pleasure of eating the ceviche in-house.

                                          3. So went down to have a lunch meeting at Mariscos Chente in the Centinela locations today...

                                            Well, I actually went a couple of weeks ago and saw Sergio was not in the kitchen. I didn't raise too much alarm as it was lunch time and didn't always see him there when I'd go pick up something in the past... We had a Coctel de Camaron and Pulpo and noticed the broth wasn't quite as bright or flavorful as before. But it wasn't bad, plus the shrimp and pulpo was pretty decent, so I just added a bit more ketchup and hot sauce that usual, and I was GOOD. We also had the special, Langostinos Checos... They came in slightly overdone. Again, I just brushed it off, they tasted pretty good and it's hard to cook langostines without ruining them in the first place...

                                            A few days later, before my vacation, I happily set up this meeting.

                                            I come back from my vacation... and I see this post...

                                            DARN!!

                                            Well, the person I was meeting with is pretty clued in to food scene and has a really good palate, and she was game to still going, so I decided to keep the local, just to see... how much had REALLY changed...

                                            So today we walked in and saw the same young man who was manning the kitchen a few weeks early. So we kept it simple,

                                            We ordered the Agua Chiles, which is as simple as you can get. The salsa still the same as all the visits and the shrimp still fresh as all get out. Whew! So still, all good...

                                            The next up was one of my favorite dishes in the CITY. If they had ruined this dish, I would been crying all weekend long... The caldo de Camaron...

                                            WHEW!!! Still excellent... the broth was balanced, not too salty. just enough cilantro so that it's there, but not annoying (this is CRUCIAL in Mexican soups!) . The shrimp again, fresh, sweet and perfectly cooked...

                                            *WHEWWWWWW!!!!*

                                            I must say however, I do believe my first experience a couple of week ago does show a slide in the most 'complex' dishes (And the broth in the cocktel is completely different from the broth in the soup) BUT (and this is a BIG BUT!!) Marsicos Chente was so superior to any Mariscos place on this side of town... heck even Mexican places in general... that it's hard for them to completely crash and burn in my eyes.

                                            So while I am glad Sergio continues to knock it out in the Inglewood location and will love to visit him there. Sadly the local is a bit too far for my usual lunch visit and as of right now, I still plan to do my occassional Coctel pick ups in this location this summer... and if that changes, believe me, I will let you know...

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Dommy

                                              Good to know.

                                              So you've completely 86d the Centinela location?

                                              1. re: vinosnob

                                                Herm! I didn't notice the link... my post was about the Centinela location...

                                                --Dommy!

                                                -----
                                                Centinela Cafe
                                                4800 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                              2. re: Dommy

                                                This, without me having gone since Sergio left, seems to be spot on. The young man who is now cooking was Sergio's prep, in other words he was dicing and peeling cucumbers, taking out the trash, and preparing stock, etc.

                                                He was trained as much as anyone is trained in these kitchens, the aguachiles should be in tact, and simpler preparations will be OK. Regulars will notice this slide, Dommy is speaking of. The range of sautees will not be the same, the prep learned these but there was no measuring. Sergio's grilling was excellent, any grilling here will not be the same. Sergio was also more than a chef, he ran the kitchen, and put his foot down when he needed to, regularly. The very quiet, and nice young guy, will not be in a postition to protest, resist, or run the kitchen.

                                                Magdalena has always been committed to quality ingredients, so the slide shall be substantial, but, not entirely a disaster if you order safe. I wish her the best, and I'm sue I'll be stopping by for a beer and say hi to her and Angie, who is still working there, and I will be hitting Magdalena up for her shrimp tamales.

                                                For mariscos? See ya in IngleWOOD.

                                              3. well...this is my 2nd visit..last being july 2009..great zarandeada fish..so.we arrived at approx 1oclock.a bit busy but treated to superb and warm service by sylvia...we ordered smoked marlin tacos..KABOOM..! flesh delicate...the cheese perfectly melted on a slightly charred(good thing) corn tortilla...and as we are watching nba playoffs slyvia suggested habanero on tacos! no problema just drizzle it for maximum punch.keep in mind iwanted to see if this place could hit back to back grand slams..next the fried shrimp ..great crunch ...golden brown and good size!...lastly sea bass with red salsa on top in a line...my goodness..sweet...spice perfecto....bass when cooked perfectly brings chorus of joys to me...ill go back no doubt......way to go chente!!!!!!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: yummychomp

                                                  Yea, that sea bass fish taco is killer; your shrimp taco sounds way better than when I went two weeks ago.

                                                2. Precisely. I went this week and the food dropped several notches. I didn't know why. Lousy shrimp, for one.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: epop

                                                    epop
                                                    thank you for taking one for the team.

                                                    (when sergio first left, i had that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that it would come to this)