Mariscos Martin: Vallarta Hardcore

Oh, how stoked I was to find out I would be featured in L.A Weekly’s Meet Your Blogger column…until I saw it. The degree of distaste in the comment boards made me feel sick inside, a feeling of angst-ridden distress that my food writing had helped me overcome with the creation of my blog in my teen years, in the first place. I had never seen “Blogger Dinners” with such capitalistic, hexing eyes.

For me, getting invited to these events were simply seen as just awesome…period. I would imagine myself in the third person and still be awestruck of how far I’ve come along. A 20 year old guy who lives with his parents in a one bedroom apartment in East L.A, barely having enough to take the bus to attend these dinners that would sometimes cost the same amount of money that my family would spend on food in a week.

P.R dinners were just things I would brag about to my homies while drinking a tall boy with them, things that I would pull up if I wanted to impress a girl or something…

I couldn’t believe some of the
ill contrived statements that were made. “Cabral’s blog is dominated by course-by-course accounts of PR dinners hosted by restaurants for bloggers”? Really? Having my foodblog for 4+ years, three of which I couldn’t even afford a camera–let alone get invited to these press dinners–must not mean much to skimming eyes.

But if its one value my first passion (punk music) has instilled upon me, it it to truly not care of what people think. And like my dad always told me, “A golpes se aprende” (With hard punches, but one learns).

Besides, if it wasn’t for inglorious interviews, I would had waited longer to finally experience Mariscos Martin. I hadn’t even realized I hadn’t had lunch that day because of all the drama, but a good friend of mine thought it was best to discuss the matter over lunch, so we did.

Actually pointed out to me by another close Compa of mine after brunching sick on clandestine backyard Barbacoa the day before, I’m glad I took him up on it as fast as I could…

Chickens Know They Don’t Have Anything To Worry About Here

Mariscos Martin is owned by the Robledo family and specializes in seafood from Puerto Vallarta, a coastal city in the state of Jalisco. Predominantly known for its sunny resorts and tourism. Although whenever I think of it, I think Huachinango (Red snapper), Shrimp…Seafood versions of usually meat-based dishes.

This place is no secret to locals, they’ve been here for 18 years now. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, those same chickens are dodging frantic cars trying to find parking, be prepared to wait up to an hour then.

And for 3:30 PM on a Monday–a time most other places close because of inactivity–Martin was quite cracking. A group of wandering musicians go table to table trying to score at least one request, single guys with Chivas caps catch up over huge piles of growing lobster shells while sipping Bud Light, they all look like they’ve been here before…

Can You Guess Who Came With Me?

To start off, I order the Agua Mineral Preparada. Mineral water that is prepared with a lot of lime and salt and served in a thick, chilled salt-rimmed glass, kind of like an unflavored cocktail. A pretty common drink all over Mexico, I’ve only gotten this at the Colima fangled Mariscos El Tejado in Boyle Heights. It’s a treat whenever restaurants have it, usually drank to get rid of hangovers but its limey sip goes great with spicy seafood.

tehuacan preparada
Lime, Salt and More Lime and Salt: Agua Mineral Preparada

It was apparent Martin was not like the rest of the generic “Mexican Food And Seafood” places that dominate L.A as soon as I spotted Albondigas De Camaron ($7.95), a regional soup comprised of meatballs made from chopped shrimp and bounded by egg yolks, shrimp instead of ground beef is common in a lot of coastal towns around Mexico.

Fish Soup, Shrimp Soup, Shrimp Meatball Soup!

albondigas de camaron

Cooked fresh to order, the order came with several ample and uniform shrimp balls that snapped at the bite and a generous amount of neatly sliced carrots, celery, potatoes, onion that were cooked until just tender. The tomato based broth was clean, light and subtle with shrimp undertones. Cilantro and onion is served alongside and has the same enlivening effect that sprouts and basil do for Pho. My friend couldn’t believe that this is traditionally eaten as a main soup course for one.

pescado zarandiado
La Especialidad De La Casa: Huachinango Sarandeado

But the real reason that this place had interested me is their Pescado Sareandado (Shaken Fish), a whole fish that is rubbed with an abundant amount of either butter, mayonnaise, adobo or a mixture of all three and grilled openly in a fish basket under direct wood/charcoal driven high heat. Here, they use whole Red Snapper cut into three sections, the scarce middle spine section and the two surrounding thin fillets. A crimson, chile-dominated Adobo is used here, producing an umami intensive Sarandeado of the spicy, charred, crispy skin and
meaty fleshed variety.

rice n beans
Close To Home Beans

The order of Pescado Sarandeado has a three pound minimum (7.50 a pound) per order. It comes complete with two orders of home-y tasting (thick) freshly refried pinto beans and some savory, Knorr bouillon tinted short grain rice, just like how I would eat it at home.

salsa zarandiada
Salsa Sarandeada

To complement this leaner style of the Sarandeado preparation, a rich Salsa Sarandeada also is standard.
Here, oil is infused with several kinds of ground toasted chilies to create this nutty, spicy sauce similar to the heat intensive Chili Oil found in some Northern Chinese restaurants. I pestered at least three waitresses trying to see what kind of chilies they use in their adobo/salsa…but they all would not peep a spice.

It was my last bite, a perfectly balanced forkful of beans, rice, fish, salsa and lime, that made me completely forget about everything that had happened and just relish the invigorating interplay of tastes, textures, smells…the reason why I got into food in the first place.

Mariscos Martin in Los Angeles

Mariscos Martin
13430 Valley Blvd
La Puente, CA 91746
(626) 330-5722

AH-JA-JAY CHIQUITITO, 100% ZACATECANO!!!!: Birrieria Chalio

My dad…well, let’s just say he’s from another time, yeah. Born and raised in the urban and suburban archaic provinces of Zacatecas, Mexico, eating whatever without reallly paying any attention to it. For him, food is just food, no matter what, where or how. And as you can imagine we’ve had our fair share of fights, arguments and endless disputes because of that. I still don’t know how my “passion” for food even got a chance to ember.

Birria Estilo Zacatecas…could I finally bring my dad some joy by maybe, just maybe…showing him that talking, thinking and writing about food is much more que un “capricho” (a whim)?

And for the first time…ever, in my life…I made him happy! “Just like back home” were his exact words. The gamy mutton meat tamed by moist Maguey leaves and the right spices. Baked in ovens to deny the lean meat from toughening up and allow the juices to drip off into the chile-based decoction. Ridiculously Strapping CORN tortillas almost as big as big as the flour tortillas used for standard lonchera Burritos. And most importantly of all…a plate filled to the brim with that soft, fragile stewy meat with no fillers in sight (rice and beans).

AH-JA-JAY CHIQUITITO, 100% ZACATECANO CABRON!!!!! (sorry, ate a little too much of their house made Habanero salsa)

Birrieria Chalio
(323) 268-5349
East Los Angeles
3580 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90063

Mercury Binge in Baja

We actually did end up going on a “happy family vacation trip” in triple digit weather, no air conditioner and my grumpy old dad. just like the one’s in Movies and on T.V. It was actually my first time too.

And you know what i found out? In the midst of all my obsessive gourmet fascination. I forgot my roots and how great, good and complicated good ‘ol Mexican Food really is.

Oh, did i eat my way in this trip. Should i start with the 20+ tortilla chips with salsa, 2 tostadas de fresh ceviche, about 4 Camarones “Al Mojo De Ajo”, and even this raw shrimp dish called “aguachile” served in a Molcajete, and the oh-so-good, “Pescado Sarandiado” with it’s sweet, salty, smoky, tender taste(about 6 tacos), all washed down with 2 coronas WITH MY PARENTS 40-50 ft away from the water in Popotla or almost getting stung by a bee in a Dulceria in Tijuana eating “Camote Enmielado”(Sweet Potato braised in Honey).

I guess this family trip actually came out to a “happy family vacation” after all.

Note to self, don’t ever eat in the Ensenada Black Market again, had nothing on the heavenly, light fish tacos on Whittier and could do without all of the bombarding fish taco mongers screaming and badgering you to eat in their taco huts.

Oh well, This is how you learn.