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Jul 3, 2012 10:25 AM

MARISCOS CHENTE - please remind me, what the deal is with Sergio?

On my only visit, we went to the Mar Vista location several years back and had a really ordinary zarandeado.... realizing only later that Sergio must not have been there. I've always been rather foggy on the details of his schedule.

Today we've got some friends from Italy arriving at LAX right around dinnertime and I'm hoping the stars are aligned.

What's the current state of affairs with Sergio and MC? I called the number at the Inglewood location, but my Spanish is clearly not up to the task, and I hung up confused. (310-672-2339)

Thanks 'hounds. Hoping tonight will be the night. If not, we're open to suggestions for dinner around 7:30 at LAX. Remember, the Italians are here to "experience America", so Pann's comes to mind, of course.

Mr Taster

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  1. I think he is there full time nowadays.

    We went 2 Fridays ago and found him in fine, fine form and the place bustling (to my great joy). Enjoy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ciao Bob

      Sweet i noticed the look of their menus changed and got much fancier too.

      any, new dishes that you enjoyed there ???

      1. re: kevin

        I love thwe PZ, Ceviche marinara, chicarrones pescado

      2. re: Ciao Bob

        Great to know. Thanks Bob.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Ciao Bob

          Also, is Vincente as good as Sergio on the grill? Will one or the other (or both) be there tonight?

          Mr Taster

        2. you don't need to know spanish to find out if sergio is cooking.
          when the phone is answered just slowly ask, "Is Sergio cooking tonight?"

          3544 west imperial highway
          inglewood ca 90304

          if sergio is not cooking the food will not be as good.

          18 Replies
          1. re: westsidegal

            westsidegal, rudimentary communication across languages is good for broad concepts or small talk. But trying to nail down the details in a language you're unfamiliar with? That's always a problem.

            So, I did call. I spoke slowly. It sounded to me like she said that Sergio isn't working, but I wouldn't swear to it. Maybe she thought I meant right at that moment. Either way, I got off the phone unsure of how to plan my evening.

            I employed the linguistic talents of a Spanish speaking coworker, and he got Sergio on the phone. Turns out he is, in fact, cooking tonight. Hooray! So, miscommunication averted.

            Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                i'm THRILLED that you got it sorted out!
                the technique i gave you is the one that works for me (and i don't speak spanish).
                maybe they know the sound of my voice by now because i won't get in my car before confirming that he is going to be the one cooking.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  And sadly, my Italian guests were so tired from 24 hours of flying that we came straight home from LAX. *sigh*

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    i've always found sitting on a plane to rank just below "climbing 465 stairs" and "eating a pancake breakfast" in the exhausting sweepstakes.

                2. re: Mr Taster

                  Buenos días (before noon) / buenas tardes (before dinner) / buenas noches (after dinner), ¿puede decirme si Sergio está en la cocina esta noche, por favor?

                  Sí + many words = yes

                  No + even more words = no

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    It's not normally the "asking" that is a problem. It's typically all about the "Sí, pero..." followed by a rapido string of unknown vocabulary and verb tenses that come flying back at me, that have me scratching my head and hanging up in confusion...

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Das, you're also no stranger to non-native communication, so I'm surprised you're on the trolley with the oversimplifiers.

                      I've had countless entertaining encounters all over the world with people speaking the gamut of languages. I'm no stranger to throwing myself in there, as long as it's all in good fun and there's some learnin' to be had. I've got a stack of translation dictionaries lining my travel book shelves.

                      Those cross-linguistic encounters are interesting and entertaining as long as you're not trying to accomplish something specific. And you should know that whatever difficulty already exists in these cases is magnified exponentially while communicating over the phone.

                      Take for example my experience in Viet Nam, trying to get the bus back to Saigon from Nui Ba Den by intense dictionary page-pointing and wildly gesticulating pantomimes. This is only entertaining for those uninvolved locals watching the drama play out from afar (and for my recounting the story 6 years later!)

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        this is a lot simpler than getting a bus in a foreign country.
                        i know at least 8 people other than myself who call before going to Coni'Seafood and ask "the question" in english and get an "understandable enough" replay.

                        none of us speak enough of any other foreign language to get a bus in a foreign country.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Add me to that list...never had a problem ascertaining the chef’s presence.
                          My problemis when no one answers the phone at all...for weeks at a time!

                      2. re: Das Ubergeek

                        The Italians came back from their month-long Great American Road Trip throughout the western US (LA, SF, Yosemite, Mono Lake, Tahoe, Reno, Yellowstone, Salt Lake, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon & environs, Death Valley and back to LA) and to celebrate their return and departure (along with the serindipitous arrival of my sister-in-law from Taiwan!) we tried Coni' Seafood last night.

                        I printed out Das' Spanish script and gathered together our international cadre. I steeled myself for an bilingual interchange of epic proportions. A man answered the phone. I couldn't hear if he spoke in Spanish or English. I balked.

                        "Is Sergio cooking tonight?"

                        "Yes, I'm Sergio."

                        "OK, thank you."


                        Wow, that was hard.

                        So with a table full of hungry international travelers, we ordered our Sinaloan feast.

                        It's worth noting that several years ago I did order the zarandeado at the Mar Vista location, and although I don't recall much about it, I do remember that we were entirely unimpressed. These were the days before I understood the importance of Sergio's presence in the kitchen.

                        In addition to the zarandeado, we went with the server's recommendations and also trying to balance out the methods of cooking to ensure variety on the table. We had char already covered, so we went with a raw (ceviche marinero, served oddly in a black sauce with mango), fried (chicharrones de pescado, deep fried tilapia nuggets), and sauteed (shrimp in black pepper and butter sauce).

                        After we had already ordered, the server came back and told us they only had the 2 kilo snook, and asked if we still wanted it. The menu lists the pescado zarandeado at $22 without specifying a weight. I asked how this is different than what's on the menu, and she said the $22 snook is 1 kilo, and this would be double the price. With all the other dishes, it was a little more (in both food and $$) than what we anticipated getting into, so I told her I'd come back at another time for it. "Well, he's already started cooking it, so I'll just charge you the $22." Instant tip increase.

                        Chips & salsa: the mild green salsa was bright and fresh with plenty of lime juice and served with the chips. Our Italian guests are averse to too much spice and this salsa was a welcome change from El Chamuco, the habanero salsa that we tried at Antojitos Carmen the night before. Although not served warm, the chips were thick and crunchy with that slight chew in the middle that marks a fresh, well-made chip.

                        It will be no surprise to anyone here when I say that the fish was truly spectacular; it was outrageously moist, rich in flavor and smokiness, covered with raw onions and sliced cucumbers, sauteed onions (in butter) and a side of guacamole and corn tortillas. Good lord, man. By itself the fish was spectacular, fragrant and succulent, but building it into a taco brought all of the flavors together in a brand new way. Our Italian friends (no strangers to seafood) dove in immediately for the head and maw, instructing us to "suck on the face with passion!" And there they went, digging out the fish cheeks with their tongues, and sucking the juices out of the grey dental gum tissue and spitting out the teeth.

                        The ceviche marinero was quite different from other ceviches I've had. First, the shrimp were served in rather large pieces, with some served entirely whole. The mango was a really welcome addition to the ceviche, adding an extra layer of sweetness and complexity. The black sauce was quite unusual-- when I asked our server what it was, she simply said "it's a black sauce". It was a bit sour, but there was something else going on other than lime juice. It tasted a bit like they mixed A-1 steak sauce into the marinade. I'll need to explore this more on future visits.

                        The chicharrones de pescado were quite interesting. Dark brown nuggets (roughly 1 inch pieces), extra dark of the edges. A little dry, but not so much so as to distract from our enjoyment, especially when lubricated with the dark, flavorful dipping sauce that it is served with.

                        Lastly, shrimp sauteed in butter and lots of ground black pepper, served with a small scoop of rice, a few raw onions and sliced cucumbers. It was essentially a black pepper scampi. Unfortunately, the shrimp were ever so slightly overcooked, but the sauce was rich and delicious, especially when eaten with the rice. "You must suck out on the heads of the camarones!" declared our Italian guests.

                        The total bill with tax came to $75. Overall a spectacular meal. We complimented Sergio and I shared my prior bad experience with the snook at the Mar Vista location, but quite frankly he seemed more interested in the Olympics than in us (though we did get a smile from him when my Italian guest loudly cheered when the Italian swimmer beat the Mexican swimmer in last night's Olympics competition.

                        Thanks to westsidegal and all the other hounds for your ongoing support of this place. I'm glad we finally got a change to experience it, and we'll certainly add this to our airport-adjacent rotation.

                        Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Great report, Taster. Glad you enhjoyed it.
                            You really described exactly the way to eat this type of food:
                            <<digging out the fish cheeks with their tongues, and sucking the juices out of the grey dental gum tissue and spitting out the teeth.>>
                            <<suck out on the heads of the camarones>>

                            Next time you may want to try his Mojarra Fritta, and his Marlin Taco's

                            1. re: kevin

                              i've been going to coni'seafood ever since sergio has been cooking there and have always been served the freshest of fish
                              almost always order some form of raw fish at that.

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                I wonder how much you would have been charged for the snook if you had not turned it down the first time.

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    I guess I should have turned them down all these years I've tried getting a one kilo order ad they were always out and only had the bigger one. Instead I just said, ok I'll take it and paid double.

                        1. I really enjoyed getting back to Coni Seafood after a year. Was there Tuesday evening had a great meal, and visited with Sergio. I just showed up around six. Not a problem.. Now I am back home and will miss his food. Thanks again Sergio.

                          1. I have a general question:

                            Excluding sushi -- where the name and skills of the chef are often linked to the quality of the meal -- are their other restaurants around where the specific chef makes as big a difference as it does in the case of Sergio and Coni Seafood?

                            To use an extreme example, nobody actually calls Cut to see if Wolfgang Puck is actually in the kitchen and even if he was, no one asserts that the food would be any different or better.

                            I surely don't go to as many restaurants as many of you, but just using the message board as a guide, I am hard pressed to think of another restaurant where if a certain chef isn't in the kitchen on the night you want to go, the recommendation is to not go and go on another night.

                            In other words, Sergio is the singular attraction at CS. For whatever reason, he has not trained another chef to duplicate his work when he takes a day off.

                            Like I said, other than sushi, I don't recall any other restaurants where the chef is so specifically crucial to the quality of the meal to the point that there is no reason to go on that chef's day off.

                            57 Replies
                            1. re: PaulF

                              You are assuming something based on very little evidence. The assumption is that there is actually a noticeable difference in the quality of the food at Coni' when one person is cooking. How many diners who eat there actually feel that way? And even more importantly, without some sort of blind test in which two chefs in the back room sent out dishes for the diners to rate without knowing who cooked what, I would put down the whole thing to built in "bias"...

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  I can (and have) vouched for the dramatic difference in quality.


                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    And that, along with any other similar reports, falls squarely under the heading of "anecdotal" evidence (which counts for little as far as proving the assertion, one way or the other).

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      most subjective reports about the food served at a restaurant are, by their nature, "anecdotal."
                                      so (nu)??????
                                      that's what most of this conversation on this board is about: "anecdotal" perceptions about getting tasty food.
                                      actually, that is also what professional restaurant critics and wine critics proffer as well: "anecdotal" perceptions about what the food is like.

                                      not seen too many food boards that use any version of the scientific method.
                                      actually have never seen ANY food boards nor blogs that use the scientific method. . . . . .

                                  2. re: Servorg

                                    I get your point, but to get at the spirit of PaulF's question, I'm also curious as to what other examples people can come up with of restaurants with chefs who have reputations attached to them to the extent that that people have actually been discouraged from going if said chefs are not cooking?

                                    In my very short time reading CH, aside from itamae at sushi restaurants (as PaulF smartly requested be excluded), and the titular chef of this thread, I'm not able to recall another example off the top of my head.

                                    Actually, one example I can think of is that I've heard people say that, when the veteran taquero at Tacos Leo is not there, the al pastor is not as good. Can't say I've tasted a difference (literally, as I've only been once).

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      "Actually, one example I can think of is that I've heard people say that when the veteran taquero at Tacos Leo is not there, the al pastor is not as good. Can't say I've tasted a difference (literally, as I've only been once)."

                                      I had the exact same experience for the al pastor tacos at Tacos Tamix. The cuts are all messed up, don't line up in the taco properly, and pineapple is all jacked

                                      1. re: PeterCC

                                        I had a very average meal at Providence, in the kitchen dining area, when Cimurusti was absent.

                                      2. re: Servorg

                                        I will weigh in here and say that while the pz is very good when Sergio is not in the house, it is only ethereally good when Sergio cooks it.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          See previous "bias" idea as the reason behind that apparent difference. And as far as the idea that (as WSG put it)

                                          "that's what most of this conversation on this board is about: "anecdotal" perceptions about getting tasty food.
                                          actually, that is also what professional restaurant critics and wine critics proffer as well: "anecdotal" perceptions about what the food is like."

                                          There is normally a very discernible difference between two different restaurants serving the same dish based on ingredients, technique and preparation variables

                                          On the other hand I believe that, if you are talking about the same kitchen turning out the same recipe on any given night, depending on who is cooking, that any discernible difference is so negligible that it very likely comes down to diner bias/belief of one chef being "superior" to the other.

                                          I would be very interested to see that tested in a place like Coni' where both chefs would be in the back to cook your dinner (without you knowing that the other "B" chef was back there) and you were told that "A" chef (the one you preferred) had cooked your dinner, when the "B" chef actually had. I think the diner would think that they had just had the "A" chefs cooking.

                                          You see this sort of bias playing out in wine tastings that have run such experiments.

                                          Bias is a very powerful mind control set.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            I think I agree with you on this one.

                                            Hmm, or maybe I'll have to ponder it some more.

                                            But I definitely feel the bias a lot of the time and go on the nights when the chef is there.

                                            I do think this is pertinent to sushi chefs where the main sushi chef is the one you want serving you sushi at the sushi bar, i.e. when you would go to the eponymous Mori back when Mori was still working there and you would want Mori to serve you rather than the other chef or with Kiriko you'd rather have Ken serve you than the others.

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              Of course were I to have a choice, I would want to have the owner/chef of a restaurant cooking (or making sushi) for me, but you didn't speak to whether experienced noticeable differences, or, more importantly, improvements in the quality of the food when served by said owner/chefs.

                                              This might be blasphemy, but I think depending on the cuisine we're comparing it to, it might matter less with sushi, because when it comes down to it, sushi is (or should be) simplicity. It may take a long time to master that simplicity, but obviously Mori had enough faith in Maru, and Ken-san in Tomo/Shinji to allow them to "tend" the sushi bar on their own.

                                              This is just a feeling I have (well, not just a feeling, but from articles I've read and interviews and documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi), but sushi chefs seem to be sticklers about consistency and perfection. :-) Perhaps not all will make their sous-chefs make tamago for two years (or however long it was in the Jiro doc) until he deemed it acceptable, but the general concept seems to be there.

                                              So a fish that the the owner selected at the market may be broken down by one of the other chefs in the kitchen before being cut to be served by the owner later on, or vice versa. At the point of taking the loin or filet of fish out of the cold case and making that one slice on the bias and putting it on top of the shari (which also may have been prepared by a non-owner chef), what makes the piece of sushi you're served be the way it is may have been shaped and influenced by so many things besides the itamae at the bar.

                                              Sorry if I'm rambling. This is just an interesting topic to talk about.

                                            2. re: Servorg

                                              It may seem from my response to kevin that I'm in full agreement with you. I do think bias is very powerful, but I also think that, unlike sushi, for other preparation methods the number of variables goes up, and even if two chefs from the same kitchen are trained in the same way, one chef may be able to adapt to the variables "better" or at least differently enough for a discernible difference to a dish.

                                              These are just hypothetical, but lets say Sergio and another chef in the same restaurant are trained the same way and have both prepared the pescado zarandeado many times using the same recipe. Let's also say the "black sauce" is not premixed but made in the pan with fresh ingredients. Maybe Sergio has found that for a particular fish that looks fattier than usual, he needs to bump up the A.1. (or Worcestershire) in the sauce and cook it at a slightly lower temperature (or something, I'm just making stuff up). Maybe the other chef doesn't make these adjustments but the dishes he produces is still up to the standards of the restaurant. They're both following the same recipe and cooking in the same kitchen but maybe Sergio is just more inspired.

                                              I know these are totally contrived, but my point is that real non-negligible differences can be apparent between chefs in the same kitchen depending on the dish, on how involved the preparation methods are, and on how may variables are present.

                                              Unfortunately, I don't think many restaurant would subject themselves to a blind taste test if it would mean that business goes down when the "star" chef isn't cooking, assuming the results might bear out the perceived difference between chefs. Maybe only a small fraction of people can taste a difference, but even those who can't may be influenced to only go when a particular chef is cooking.

                                              Rambly again, sorry.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                re: <<the same kitchen>>
                                                since the heat of the grill and the set-up of the grill, as well as all the prep work and how that prepped food is stored/treated, are things that are controlled or supervised by the individual chef, you would need two identical kitchens in which the chefs being compared to each other don't control nor supervise ANYTHING in the "other" kitchen.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  What I'm saying in terms of Coni' Seafood is both Sergio and Chef B are in the kitchen. Chef B prepares the food, but the diner is told Sergio has cooked it. My point is that the diner would say "much better than Chef B" due to perception bias.

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    Honestly, Chef B might just not care as much as Chef A.

                                                    Due to perception bias, I might say "Chef A had an off day" vs "Chef B sucks compared to Chef A".

                                                    @RFT, for instance...

                                                    When Ricky gives me a crappy taco, I say Ricky had an off day (happened a few times). When Ricky's minions give me a crappy taco, I say it's because they don't care as much (happened a few times).

                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                      I really don't understand why this is even open for debate.

                                                      Restaurants are run by people, not machines synthesizing identical plates of food. People have different skill levels and talents. Even in my own home, you'd taste a huge objective difference between a dish as simple as my scrambled eggs and my wife's, and that's not due to any ephemeral, subjective factor like perception.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                          "I really don't understand why this is even open for debate."

                                                          It's debatable to me. And the door was opened (as they say in cross examination situations in front of a jury) because it has been asserted as a "given" over and over and over again on this site. I'm saying I don't buy it and wanted to make my view known as my silence might be misconstrued as agreement, which it most certainly ain't...

                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                              I've made my view known once. And only after prolonged exposure to the other view. How many times do you think you've posted about this?

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                no question, we've both made our views known.
                                                                you've made yours known once.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  So maybe 12:1 with me being the 1...does that sound about right? When the response is "why is this even open for debate" it tends to make my juices flow...kind of like when I smell the shrimp diablo as it arrives at my table at Mariscos Chente/Coni' Seafood...

                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                    maybe i'm too dense to see any juice-provocation in the statement.
                                                                    if you say it's 12:1, ok, it's 12:1

                                                                    (i save my "fury juice" for meals/dishes that are bad.
                                                                    my last nuclear explosion was at a GM of a restaurant at which i had been a regular for years. i explained in excruciating detail how their food quality had declined-- dish by dish. he was ready for a general anesthetic by the time i was done.)

                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                      No fury...all juice (not even any pulpo!). ;-D>

                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                        i really would not have wanted to be that GM at that moment in time.

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          dish by dish.
                                                                          ingredient by ingredient.
                                                                          texture by texture.
                                                                          temperature by temperature.
                                                                          quantity inadequacies.. . . .

                                                                          i did a really complete job.

                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                            this is the main reason i would not want to be a restaurant gm at any time.

                                                                            1. re: linus

                                                                              at least i told him the information in time for him to make a course correction BEFORE the restaurant was in danger of going under.
                                                                              within the week i saw that he put in an ad to hire a new pastry chef.. . . .

                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                like i said, at that moment in time i really wish i wasn't the GM facing WG.

                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                You're right.

                                                                But, since that's the case, why is it so rare that patrons rarely know the names of the actual chefs. We know Sergio's name and that's an anomaly.

                                                                Those who attend dances often know the name of the DJ. Some people know the name of their favorite bartenders -- and follow them from bar to bar.

                                                                Seems like there should be more "Sergio's" out there, chefs whose names we know. I almost wonder why when you approach a restaurant and see the chalkboard of the day's specials, you don't also see the name of the person running the kitchen. I suppose restaurants don't want to market their employees. Employees move on. Employees take new jobs.

                                                                Anyway, just making conversation ...

                                                                1. re: PaulF

                                                                  i actually couldn't disagree with you more. i wish we there were less chefs whose names we know. it's hard enough keeping track of restaurant names.
                                                                  when i go to a restaurant, i think they should serve consistent food regardless of who's in the kitchen.

                                                                  1. re: linus

                                                                    Overall I tend to agree. There's often a sort of breezy informality these days in the way people refer to chefs by their first names, as if they are our personal friends.

                                                                    Somewhere along the line, instead of saying "The uni at Urasawa was great", people started saying "Hiro's uni was great" and to me it always smacked of a sort of uncouth name-dropping, not to mention that such informality in Japan would likely be considered disrespectful.

                                                                    Having said this, and given my prior failure at Mar Vista, I'm not sure how else to help others maximize their experience here without referring to Sergio by name. I certainly don't use his name with any degree of informality-- hell, he was brusque to the point of indifference to us. But all I care about is that he cooks my fish as well as he did on Monday night.

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      i don't know if this has as much to do with a "breezy informality" as it does with the cult of personality in our current climate.
                                                                      people used to talk more about restaurants and less about chefs. now, i think that is often switched.
                                                                      sadly, it seems, in the case of (insert august 2012 name of restaurant here), it seems the word "sergio" must be uttered in order to insure a good meal.

                                                                    2. re: linus

                                                                      You misunderstood a bit.

                                                                      I wasn't wishing there were more "name chefs." I'm just surprised that there aren't more.

                                                                    3. re: PaulF

                                                                      it doesn't serve the purposes of the owners of the restaurants to have the customers' ongoing business attached to a particular employee (be it chef, or bartender, or server, or parking attendant, or hostess).

                                                                      of course, as a customer, i try to be loyal to the bartender, chef, server, hostess, or whoever takes good care of me:

                                                                      even parking attendants make a difference. when my car is full of luggage, i appreciate it when a parking attendant keeps it close to his station and keeps an eye on it while i dine. this influences my restaurant selection when i am on my way to or from an airport.

                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                        "it doesn't serve the purposes of the owners of the restaurants to have the customers' ongoing business attached to a particular employee (be it chef, or bartender, or server, or parking attendant, or hostess)."

                                                                        have you ever broached this (politely) with your pal, sergio?

                                                                        1. re: linus

                                                                          why would i?
                                                                          he knows that i will follow him.
                                                                          i followed him from mar vista to lennox.
                                                                          i followed him from lennox to inglewood.
                                                                          'ya think he hasn't noticed?

                                                                          coni never would have seen my face if it were not for sergio.
                                                                          i didn't accidentally end up there while looking for a restaurant in inglewood. . . . .

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                            why would you? because i assumed you like the food at the restaurant (when sergio is cooking).
                                                                            i assumed you want the restaurant to continue (when sergio is cooking).
                                                                            i assumed you might be pleased if the food was always at your acceptable level (even when sergio ISN'T cooking).
                                                                            frankly, i'm starting to wonder if you like the food, or just like sergio. not that there's anything wrong with that.

                                                                            i guess when you assume...

                                                                            1. re: linus

                                                                              you should know that i am VERY fond of coni AND i have a tremendous amount of respect for her.

                                                                              coni has been in the restaurant business her whole life (as has Chente), whereas i have not been in the food business for decades.

                                                                              i would not be so presumptuous as to give advice to people who have actually stayed alive in such a tough business, when i, myself, have never had to sign my name on a restaurant lease, never had to pass a health dept inspection, never had to pull permits for buildout, never had to get liability insurance, never had to deal with the electric company accidentally cutting off my electrical service for weeks, etc.

                                                                              the last thing she needs is my advice about how to run a restaurant.
                                                                              she was smart enough to lure sergio to inglewood.
                                                                              she is one smart cookie.
                                                                              think about it.

                                                                2. re: Servorg

                                                                  And just to point out the truth in bias I used to collect wine and for fun would pour the same wine from the same bottle in two different glasses. I would then ask the taster which one they preferred. Nobody ever said they were the same wine, there was always a preference, people would say "yes I like this one more". When I would tell people about my little experiment they would say "man, that's cold".

                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                            The conversation has continued on, but I'd still like to respond ...

                                                            My assumption was two-fold. Or maybe' that's two assumptions.

                                                            Yes, I did assume that there were enough people who felt strongly about Sergio's cooking that he had a reputation as being the 'better chef" at CS.

                                                            But, my question revolved more around the notion that I "assumed" that there were even more people who knew Sergio's name. Whether or not he is the better chef or any particular diner or CH poster agrees that he is the better chef is one thing. Knowing his name and that he exists is another. You only have to read the title of this thread to know that the guy has a reputation that people are curious about.

                                                            Let's put it this way: If I did go to CS, I might or might not call first to see if Sergio were cooking. But while there, I would definitely be curious to know if he were in the kitchen. His "celebrity" -- such as it is -- precedes him in this case.

                                                            And I couldn't think of another chef around (with the sushi and celebrity caveats) who had that kind of rep. And in this case, my definition of rep is "people on CH write about him or her."

                                                            There isn't anyone who suggests that Pann's patty melt or Nick's corned beef hash differs depending on who is working in the kitchen. (And that's perhaps a good thing for the restaurant. Imagine if your business actually went down on the night one of your chef's had his day off. In fact, one wonders if the Sergio-love is good or bad for CS, because on one hand people are interested in his cooking, on the other, some people might stay home when he isn't working. I really don't know.)

                                                            So, I was wondering if there were other restaurants where people have developed an affinity for a particular chef, just based on their own experience.

                                                            1. re: PaulF

                                                              Well, I don't think those would be the best analogies, beause Nick's and Pann's deal more with cooks, and short-order cooks, rather than chefs at a mom and pop restaurant.

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                I know -- that was in inside joke for Servorg -- because he likes those two places and he and I have discovered them.

                                                                1. re: PaulF

                                                                  I meant ... discussed them, not discovered them.


                                                              2. re: PaulF

                                                                The more I think about it...

                                                                This happens with chinese/vietnamese restaurants ALL THE TIME. You get massive downhill reports from various sources wondering WTF happened. And then only later you find out there was a mass chef exodus because all the legit guys from asia left to form their own restaurant (or whatever).

                                                                You don't understand WHY the restaurant sucks now, only that it does. You suspect that something has changed, and it has - the chefs that made all that great food are now gone and the replacements are suspect.

                                                                1. re: ns1

                                                                  I actually remembered an example from my past.

                                                                  I once really liked a restaurant called East India Grill. At the time it was sort of a California take on classic Indian food. Definitely not traditional Indian. Anyway, my wife and I loved it.

                                                                  And the chef was Sumant. We got to know him. We knew his brother. We met his wife. And even though he ultimately opened a few branches and wasn't cooking everywhere every night, it was still his food.

                                                                  When he sold the restaurant, the new owners kept the name and for the most part the menu. But it has never been the same.

                                                                  1. re: PaulF

                                                                    similar thing happened with Vinny's pizza, near my house.
                                                                    Vinny's kid took over the place, and when Subway moved in next door the kid and the kid's wife sold the place to people who pledged to use the exact same recipes.
                                                                    of course, as time went on, the new owners changed suppliers, they changed the recipes, their process for inventory turnover got awful, and the pizza got awful too.
                                                                    the whole transformation from ok to awful took a couple of years.
                                                                    sort of like death by a thousand cuts.. . . . .

                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                      glad i skipped out on there, it sounds like the vinny's next to the bristol farms, right ?

                                                                      btw, have you ever tried Kanpai across the street, the menu looks very expensive (i.e. some intricate sounding toro-dishes at high prices) and a good variety, but it's stuck in the middle of Westchester, and has long hours which leaves me slightly skeptical.

                                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                                        My sister's been to Kanpai (with a cert) and said it was good. I've heard from others that it can cater to the casual and the hardcore sushi folks, kinda like Kiriko does with their more affordable lunch sets and spicy rolls.

                                                                        As to not derail this thread, I'll link to one where I discuss the restaurant with sablouwho and provided some links to omakase reviews/pics at Kanpai:

                                                                        Oh, I called them once and asked what their omakases started at, and they said $60, so not too costly to give it a try.

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          i haven't tried Kanpai because at those prices i'd rather go with a sure thing, sushi zo, than take a chance to find out whether or not kanpai is worth the money.

                                                                          and you are correct about Vinny's; it is located in the same shopping center as Bristol Farms.

                                                                      2. re: PaulF

                                                                        For what it's worth,I'm pretty sure he runs the India Jones truck now

                                                                2. re: PaulF

                                                                  if i walked into Fig and saw that Eric was not there, i'd probably not be ordering cheese. . . . .

                                                                3. Wow, I wish I had a chef like Sergio with his great food near me. I have to travel a long distance to have this kind of seafood.Bottom line. He is a great chef with great food. Good luck when he is gone. Enjoy the only person to make these dishes. He works his ass off. As I said before. How much longer will he keep going. Then what.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: emglow101

                                                                    if you end up inducing him to go to santa cruz, i may just have to drive the 6 hours to have dinner.. . .