Mariscos Chente (The Mark Twain of Restaurants) "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"
I have say that the story of Sergio's departure, as broken by streetgourmetla right here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7014... was a sickening blow to me.
However, I have visited Chente twice subsequently and have found no decline in quality at all.
I chowed with 5 friends on Saturday and was treated to nothing but goodness.
I ask you; where else on the Westside (that's easy) or in the whole dang town could one enjoy a meal like this, with 3-4 beers for about 30 bucks each?
-- Salsa Verde (hot, HOT, HOT) with fine chips
-- Marlin Tacos 5 tacos
-- Shrimp Tacos 4 tacos
-- Camaron/Pulpo Ceviche
-- Chicharron Pescado
-- Mojarra Frita (large and sooooooo gooooood
)-- Camaron Pimienta
-- Camaron Borrachos
What about the snook (pescado zarandeado) you ask? Well, I was scared off, to be honest, by the loss of Sergio. I won't be again.
I stared a PZ down -- HARD -- it was on another table. I stared so hard that I may have scared some other diners. I tried to pick-up the scent (close, but no cigar). It looked exactly the same as Sergio's, as did the amazing grilled/marinated onion mixture that comes astride the beast. The folks taking the sucker down looked mighty, mighty happy.
I'm all for chef devotion, but NOBODY is irreplaceable. NOBODY.
4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066
I've been kicking myself since the big hitters reviewed this place, a few years ago I lived four blocks away, drove/walked by it often and kept saying, "that place looks fun, I need to try it sometime"
Sunday night, needing somewhere local and low key for dinner and having had a friend rave the snook to me last week, we finally hit it up.
First impression? we were a bit stunned at the spice level zing of the tomatilla salsa and by the end of the meal I was loving it. i think we would have both enjoyed a tomato salsa to go with and just provide an alternate, but it was only the tomatilla and onions for condiments.
we ordered the tequila shrimp and the zarandeado. the shrimp were average, not mindblowing, just shrimp. the sauce was decent, the rice was different, sweet but a good match to the rest of the dish. Loved the touch of cucumbers to kind of bite the heat. there were about a dozen shrimp in the dish, we didn't eat the heads, I've eaten shrimp heads before when ordering live shrimp sushi, but these didn't strike me as appetizing or edible.
The pescado was delicious. It was not mind blowing but it was pure comfort food to me, reminding me of the fresh water fish my family would catch and cook in the summer when I was growing up and we were at my grandparents farm. Of course we didn't prepare it at all the way the zarandeado is, but that was the flavor impression I got from the snook, sort of like Anton Ego at the end of Ratatouille. The onions were phenomenal and a good combination with the fish, but honestly I'd have rather eaten the onions separately and the fish separately and just ignored the tortillas, though I wound up eating most as tacos with some of that crazy zingy tomatilla salsa.
I love that it's a place that just absolutely invites sharing everything with everyone. I want to go back and sample some more shrimp dishes, the cocktails, and especially the tacos. Probably won't order the pescado zarandeado very often, just not spectacular enough.
It struck me as a very nice mom and pop type eatery, but hardly a destination for those looking for great eats. rather, it's a comfy place to grab some nosh level cuisine before a game or during halftime.
the problems with inglewood are:
1) sergio isn't always there and he is not the 'master' of that kitchen
2) they don't have the grill that is required to make pescado zarandeado
3) it's a small place, and although my larger group would fit there, it wouldn't be a comfortable fit.
nevertheless i go there when it's just me and a friend or two and we get the coctels or the mojarra frita (sp?) or the camarones a la diabla. i normally call before going to be sure sergio is cooking that day.
Noticed a decline on my visit to Mariscos this week, sadly. The shrimp in both the tequila sauce and diablo were not the great fresh ones i'd had on all my previous visits. I stopped ordering the ceviche b/c it was gross the last time I was there. This time it was the shrimp that left us wondering if we'd go back. They didn't have the tomato salsa and the snook was still quite good.
The owner seemed like he knew he gave us less than perfect food. He looked at us in that WAS THE FOOD OKAY kind of way as if we didn't notice. I wasn't the exuberant customer this time. I'm not sure if I'll go back. Maybe just for the snook. Mediocre seafood is rather disgusting.
i will say i've been twice in the past couple of weeks. my parties have had:
ceviche mixto w/o octopus
pescado a la diabla
coctel de camaron
shrimp and octopus in the cheesy sauce (name escapes me)
only thing not as good was only on one visit and that was the ceviche which lacked in flavor. otherwise, despite the fear of el diablo in my throat, nothing was like i expected.
Most of my visits there are by myself or with just one other person. Since I like having a variety of items, I don't get the snook often, have to wait until I'm with a big party. I've only been there once since Sergio's departure and got the agua chile and the pimenta. I didn't notice any difference.
I will note that I haven't been enamored with their fried items in the past, the chicharron Pescado nor the Mojarra Fritta. Blanking on the name, but the fried shrimp dish was inconsistent for me too even when Sergio was there so I stopped ordering it. I usually rotated and stuck with the non cheese sauce shrimp dishes.
So it could be just like with any other chef, the current one has his own strengths and weaknesses. Even with Sergio cooking the snook, I had a couple of just average experiences out of the dozen plus times I ordered it.
I've also been back twice and have had mixed results with the Coctel (Found the broth not as flavorful) and the Lagostinos Zarandeado (A bit overdone). But the Camarones Agua Chile and Caldo de Camaron were still in top form.
Next time I may just get Botana de Camaron and Pulpo (Not so brothy) and another shrimp dish or the Marlin Tacos...
Although I will say, a chef brings a certain TOUCH to food, the quality of the ingredient and the care that people are trying to put out are still there...