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Aug 2, 2011 08:50 AM

Mariscos Chente - So Long Centinela, Hello Imperial Highway

I have to admit I have been wrong...very wrong. After several years of championing the post-Sergio Centinela branch of MC, I now see the grave, and lazy, error of my ways.

The great chef Sergio left Chente-nela a few years back; though saddened I continued to patronize it, usually with pretty good results. The marlin tacos seemed unchanged, the shrimp dishes held up well as did the mojarra fritta. Perhaps the pescado z was over mayo-d and the ceviches no longer as "zippy," but it was pretty good.

A good friend of mine always says, "Life is too short for pretty good, Bobby!"

This Sunday I whipped up my trusty margaritas, salt and limes, packed 'em on ice, and headed down to Imperial Highway and a date with perfection. We were just 2, so we could only handle a camarone/pulpo ceviche and 1 kilo of the pescado z. The ceviche was served in a new sauce, I believe he called it "marinara," it was freaking extra-ordinary...all funky (in the most righteous way) with chilies, Worcestershire, cucumber and mango. The pescado was a dream come true.

There really is no comparison. None. It is fine on Centinela, if you can live with fine. It is heavenly on the Highway, and you most definitely want heavenly.

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    1. Linking:

      Mariscos Chentes/Coni'Seafood
      3544 W Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, CA 90303

      1. They're open for lunch, right?

        1. i always call to make sure that sergio is cooking that night before i get in my car.
          here's the number:

          14 Replies
          1. re: westsidegal

            i'm (hopefully politely) curious: when's the last time you ate there when sergio wasn't cooking? is the food so vastly inferior? assuming they would be using the same product, are his techniques so difficult he can't teach his 'staff' to come anywhere close to replicating them?

            1. re: linus

              I ate there one night that Sergio was not there and it was an incredible difference. I was willing to be that the fish they served that night was not a Snook. It looked different and had a different consistency. I would agree that its only worth going if Sergio is working. Based on my experience, if Sergio is not at the Inglewood location, you are better off going to Centinela.

              1. re: carln

                from what i understand, the chef that took over the kitchen at centinela when sergio left there was part of the mass exodus that took place on centinela a few months ago.
                from what i hear, for the most part, both FOH and BOH left.

                1. re: carln

                  I'm in LAX area for two nights. Just called over and was told that Sergio is not working tonight. And, likely not working tomorrow night either. What should I do?? I really don't want to skip it, but I don't want to wait 25 min and pay upwards of $20+ if it's not going to be worth it.


                  1. re: new2nyc

                    i wish i knew what to tell you.

                    i have no Plan B for the pescado zarandeado.
                    the last time i was at the centinela location they couldn't even get the shrimp cocktail right, so i surely would not expect them to be able to pull off a pescado zarandeado.

                    for the mojarra frita
                    you could go to Chinois on Main in santa monica and order their fried catfish, which is always delicious. of course, it will cost MUCH more per ounce because Chinois is a high end restaurant: part of the wolfgang puck group.

                    there is another deep fried fish that i've been meaning to try, and that is the one served at Lukshon in culver city. it costs approx $35. caveat: i haven't actually tried it, but when i watched those fish being carried out of the kitchen tonight they looked gorgeous, and i know for sure that the other fish preparations i've had at Lukshon have been terrific.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Also try the deep frid snapper for 2 - $44 - at Tar and Roses. It is quite large and quite wonderful! Make sure it is on the menu - it comes and goes

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        re: "the last time i was at the centinela location they couldn't even get the shrimp cocktail right, so i surely would not expect them to be able to pull off a pescado zarandeado."

                        But what about the Inglewood location... maybe they've learned from Sergio? Certainly some of the positive reviews of the dish that are out there have been on meals cooked by someone other than Sergio... right? (rhetorical question meant to make me feel better about possibly going tomorrow)

                        1. re: new2nyc

                          please report how it goes.

                          i'm sorry, but i have no personal experience with which to answer your question.
                          fwiw, there really isn't a "they."
                          this is a very small operation.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Well, I went for dinner tonight. I got there at 6pm and the place was totally empty (of customers). I ordered the pescado zarandeado and waited about 25 min. It was definitely good. Was it great? No. Was it worth the $26 (incl. 1 can of soda)? Sure, to try it. Would it have been better if Sergio had cooked it? Based on everything in this thread: yes.

                            But I did think it was very tasty. The bites with the outer crisp were obviously better than the bites with just white flesh. The onion mixture was outstanding.

                            1. re: new2nyc

                              when you get the bites with just white flesh, that's when you heap some of that onion mixture on top of the fish!
                              so glad you had a good experience.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                That's what I did :) and wrapped it in the flour tortilla!

                              2. re: new2nyc

                                Did you go to Ingelwood, or Culver/Mar Vista?
                                I think most items on the menu (ceviche most notably) suffer quite a bit without Sergio. But, the PZ - perhaps - not so much. I have enjoyed it (and, my God, those onions) without him.

                    2. re: linus

                      1) he really has no "staff"
                      this is a mom 'n pop place that is owned by his sister in-law.
                      the servers are generally family members.
                      this is the antithesis of a corporate "staffed" restaurant.

                      2) the cooking techniques are complicated and delicate.

                      to really answer your question, look at Ciao Bob's post that started this thread.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        We removed a bit off off speculative arguing about how the restaurant is / isn't and should / shouldn't be operated. As always, we ask that you stay focused on the current state of the restaurant's food and service, and steer clear of attacking one another's points of view. Thanks.

                  2. Yes, thanks for the reminder. I live six hours away. Sergio and became friends in a short amount of time. I often think of CONI' SEAFOOD. You sure are lucky to have a great chef cooking his food for you. If I lived in your area I would be there weekly.I ate at the Centinela location for my first visit, I found out that I was doing it all wrong.