4532 S. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90066 | Map
Mariscos Chente on the corner of Gilmore and Centinela just a few blocks south of the quickly-gentrifying stretch of Washington Blvd. specializes in seafood from the Sinaloa-Nayarit regions of Mexico. It’s a mid-size place, unprepossessing from the exterior and with the simplest of decor on the interior: a few serapes, a trophy fish, neon beer signs, a couple of flat screen TVs permanently tuned to soccer games.
The food is what draws the crowd, a mix of locals and foodies tipped by the outsize number of blog posts and reviews the restaurant has attracted. It’s a family enterprise, started by Magdalena Garcia and chef/son-in-law Sergio Penuelas, but according to press reports and the blogosphere, Penuelas now largely cooks at the Inglewood location run by his father-in-law (and there’s a third, in Lennox, owned by another relative).
Seafood is purported to be brought in from the Mazatlan area, which explains why the specialty of the house, Pescado Sarandeado, is a fish called Snook (or, sometimes, robalo), filleted, then marinated and grilled to a honey color and served with onions on a huge cafeteria-style platter.
There are large shrimp cocktails and three kinds of ceviche mixed with octopus, shrimp and crab or scallops and shrimp classically marinated or with red sauce. Also a highlight is shrimp aguachile served with the heads on and deeply marinated in lime.
Cooked shrimp are prepared a half dozen different ways, with chipotle, with garlic and butter, marinated and served with green sauce, fried, sautéed with jalapeno, cheese and sour cream. Our party was delighted with the camarones borrachos – drunken shrimp sautéed with tequila, diced garlic, cilantro and crushed pepper.
Fish is also on the menu in a number of different preparations – fried, grilled, sautéed and baked. Another unusual preparation, enormously tasty and satisfying, is the fillet empapelado; it’s a fillet stuffed with garlic, octopus, shrimp and cheese that’s wrapped in aluminum foil and placed under a hot broiler.
Most entrees arrive with rice and vegetables, though the veggies sometimes just amount to a few cucumbers and onions garnishing the plate.
The fish tacos sometimes feature marlin, sea bass or halibut, depending on what got shipped into the restaurant overnight. Prepared traditionally with shredded cabbage, a creamy salsa and some melted cheese, they are known as tacos gobenador.
It pays to pull together a group to eat at Mariscos Chente, since the portions are ample and it’s fun to order a number of dishes for the table. Prices are very low for seafood and service is very friendly, if not always prompt.