Scouting Report: Tijuana-Style Carne Asada Tacos at Carnitas “El Veneno” in East L.A.

Mesquite Grilled Carne Asada Just Waiting To Be Taco'd up and Devoured in East LA
Mesquite Grilled Carne Asada Just Waiting To Be Taco’d up and Devoured in East LA

*Originally published on LA Times Food’s Daily Digest Foodblog on September, 25 2013

Name of restaurant: Carnitas El Veneno. A weekend-only, nighttime food truck.

Concept: An old school taco truck from the neighborhood’s carnitas restaurant. It is only open on weekend nights in East Los Angeles, and specializes in Tijuana-style juicy carne asada tacos grilled with mesquite wood.

What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The Tijuana-style tacos de carne asada. A few things make these unique in the hazy world of East L.A. street tacos. First, their signature Tijuana trademarked cone design, wrapped tightly in wax paper not unlike an overstuffed Greek gyro or spicy tuna hand roll. This specific method of wrapping each taco is the only way these crisped-up pair of chewy tortillas can hold the excess of chopped, subtly smoky, juicy beef and Tijuana’s signature scoop of mashed up avocado — not the usual runny taqueria guacamole sauce. This is a delicate taco.

Runners-up:  Tacos de lengua doused in the restaurant’s Veneno spicy salsa. Their beef tongue is boiled for hours and then a heaping portion is briefly seared on the plancha right before taco-ing it up. It’s drizzled with a toasty salsa that accentuates lengua’s slightly offal, yet meaty texture and flavor.

Who’s at the next table? A very dedicated and loving wife who drove out on a Saturday night just to order 10 takeout tacos de asada con todo for her lucky husband, who stayed at home to watch the fight.

Appropriate for: The well-read taco enthusiast who abides by L.A.’s taco lifestyle and knows all about Baja California’s bountiful fresh food culture, but for one reason or another hasn’t made the trek down south yet.

Uh-oh: Both the salsas can be fiery. If you are sensitive, opt for poquita salsa nada mas (just a little bit) or just opt out. Also, the creamy guacamole paste is purposely unseasoned and benefits from a strong squeeze of lime.

Service: It’s a small operation that’s only been open for about six months. If there are a few people in front of you, be patient.

What are you drinking? Many aguas frescas are available inside the restaurant.

Info: 514 S. Indiana St., Los Angeles. (323) 264-4762. Open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight

Silver Lake is About to Get Duro! The Full Scoop on Ricardo Diaz’s New Taco Dorado Shop

Duros: A New Kind of Taco Dorado in Silver Lake
Duros: A New Kind of Taco Dorado in Silver Lake

 

*Originally appeared on LA Times Food’s Daily Digest Foodblog on September, 25 2013.

Ricardo Diaz continues to uphold his family’s legacy of Mexican food hospitality (Diaz’s family is responsible for L.A.’s quintessential Mexican seafood family restaurant franchise: El 7 Mares). Slated to open in four to six weeks near Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction is Diaz’s Duro, a joint project with his  brother-in-law Patrick Aguirre, former head baker at Bouchon Bakery in Napa; and his sister Stephanie Aguirre, responsible for the Michelin-rated La Taquiza Fish Tacos in Napa.

Duro will be a strictly taco dorado housewith a menu of about a dozen or so contemporary and classic takes on the folded-over crispy taco variety and the rolled-up flakyflautas. Each will be served with a different salsa and topping meant to highlight the filling, including smoked chipotle orange crema and even arugula on some tacos. The menu combines the experiences of Diaz’s refined homestyle classics and Aguirre’s fine dining skills. Expect fillings such as pickled pigs feet, a creamy brandade using a house-cured Mexican fish instead of the traditional salted cod, a duck guisado,Diaz’s homemade chorizos and veggie options such as Mexican spice-intensive sautéed garbanzos. And yes, there will be a chimichanga, though served with a spicy broth for dipping.

Keeping true to the chef’s passion for fresh craft beer, about four to eight rotating local craft beers will be on deck. Diaz is making a strong effort to bring in some of Mexico’s emerging craft breweries to L.A. Mexicali’s Cucapá is confirmed, and maybe a few beers from Ensenada Brewing Co. will be available.

This soon-to-be crispy taco haven is replacing the family’s restaurant at the 7 Mares complex, but its outdoor “La Playita” ceviche stand next to it will remain untouched because of its popularity among  old school and new school clientele.

The new eatery will seat about 50 and will have a “reclaimed” feeling to it. Meaning that its minimalist tables, chairs, rusted channel letters and simple counter will be reclaimed from the old 7 Mares restaurant. It will also be the first restaurant where Diaz displays some of his own “impressionistic human figure art,” in addition to some barrio-rooted murals. The name Duro translates to “hard” in Spanish and is not only a nod to the restaurant’s namesake crunchy antojito but to the hard-knockbarrio lifestyle of Diaz, who grew up in Highland Park, Boyle Heights and East L.A., and to Patrick Aguirre’s rough upbringing in Montebello.

Meanwhile, Diaz said that Chorizo Amor is a dream distant-future concept of a bigger house-made Mexican sausage and beer company, but for now he’s focusing on Duro, his newly opened Colonia Taco Lounge and Bizarra Capital in deep Eastern Los Angeles.

A Taco Dorado de Ternera for The Soul at Birriería Aceves (Mercado de Abastos: Guadalajara, Mexico)

“What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?” is a question that every food writer gets every once in a while. And while I tend to brush it off due to the mere impracticality of the bold question, I’ve been thinking about it recently.

First of all, for such an answer to even exist, there are usually a number of undisclosed intangible factors in the food that comes to mind: the nostalgia, the cultural aspect, the significant others eating with you etc. Secondly, we all must eat three (or more!) freaking times a day, multiply those three times however days old you are and you’ll understand why the question is a little far-fetched.

Well, all this is basically true until — you actually eat that best thing you’ve ever eaten.

Taco de Ternera

What this is, ladies and gentlemen, is that best thing: A taco of Birria de Ternera from Birriería Aceves in the Mercado de Abastos in Guadalajara.

I think the fact that this was the only food stand with a ten minute wait among a dozen others open gave the awesomeness of this place away. The guy dry-roast’s chunks of fatty ass veal, then throws a fucken ladle-full of umami-laden birria broth on top of the crisp-skinned tenderness. And to finish it off, wraps the roasted baby cow  in a sturdy handmade tortilla that is then pan fried ’till brown and crisp. It produces this kind of Xia Long Bao pork belly-like lipid anarchism in your mouth. Squeeze a little lime on it with a few tablespoons of table-oxidized minced raw onion (no cilantro!) and you get “the best thing you’ve ever eaten.” Apparently, this style is common in Jalisco and is recognized as “Birria tatemada,” which translates over to a combination of blackened and/or smoked Birria.

Yup, blackened and smoked fucken Birria made from local Mexican veal.

And the intangible factor for me this time around? Scarcity! My significant other had inhaled her half and I was taking turns between my half of the beauty and a bowl of roasted goat Birria in broth to make the decadence last. Then, out of nowhere, the cutest little girl came asking for money to buy food. Naturally, my table-mate handed her my half-taco on the premise of burgeoning Mexican capitalism and being able to afford another taco.

We obviously did not know the greatness of Birríeria Aceves, they had sold out of all food right after we ordered ours at 11 AM sharp. The little girl nibbled on her winnings and ran off to another patron who didn’t spare even a quarter of a lime.

birria tatemada
At least I had a 1/2 bowl of Birria.

And that was that, the best thing I’ve ever eaten. As a consolation, I did eat a pretty decent quesadilla a couple of food stands over. It was griddled in the same manner but instead, stuffed with pickled squash blossoms and queso Adobera, a local cheese with a similar meltability like Monterey Jack. With a side of nopalitos and guacamole, I was good. Plus, the Tianguis de Tonalá was our next stop and there was plenty of munchies and drinks to be had there too,  I was sure.

quesadilla at mercado de abastos in Mexico City

For dessert, we stopped at a dulceria attached to the Mercado and picked up a sugar-free Mazapan made of pepita seeds. Oh well, on to the next best thing to eat.

Birriería Aceves
In the Mercdo de Abastos of Guadalajara.
Between Calle Nance and Mandarina.

The Great American Al Pastor Taco myth busted at El Carboncito and a walk along El Malecón (Puerto Vallarta)

My poor little blog, it got me tv shows and writing gigs and now — I have neglected it. My bad, to any Glutster readers, if there are are still any out there. The problem has been an internal one for me, trying to juggle and take school seriously while trying to hustle in the paid food writing world. To write and make some gas money or write for myself (SANS-EDITING) and feel awesome about it?

Well, what ended up happening was just me pretty much half-assing everything and not coming through successfully on any front, nor academic or writing. I failed math my math class yet again and fell behind in writing. But thanks to a recent “WTF” epiphany, I’ve realized my lazy ass ways and will now strive to change them. Yes, Gustavo Arellano, if you are reading this, your wish has come true for more Chicano bloggers as you and I type!

El Malecón
El Malecón” in Puerto Vallarta, bustling

That being said, I’m going to base my next series of posts on my recent discoveries of awesome food in Mexico, San Francisco, Portland and wherever else the tasty will take me. In other words the pitches and stories about food, booze and music that Saveur didn’t buy, haha. Oh, the joys to write so freely and with so many grammar and syntax mistakes. Now, if I go broke, that is all your guys’ fault!

For all the right reasons, I found myself in the lovely city of Puerto Vallarta this last new years eve. I was introduced to the local people, food and traditions of such an underestimated part of Mexico. Vallarta is not as corporate as Cancun, at all and in terms of regional authentic foods and drinks, it’s pretty much undiscovered as fuck with some pretty eccentric street foods readily available. Even at El Malecón, the city’s Universal Citywalk of sorts complete with a Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and all, you will find drinks such as Tuba, a fermented coconut fizzy drink sprinkled with pecan and apple pieces that made its way from the Philippines during the Spanish conquest — now accustomed in the costeño tradition because of all the dang coconuts that grow everywhere.

tuba nayarit
refreshing Tuba

Walk a little deeper into La Zona Romántica and ask for the locals price on such things as local oysters from the neighboring coastal state of Nayarit or Ceviche de Calamar, local calamari treated with ketchup paste, lime and cilantro. The ceviche, in Vallarta fashion, is made with tons of shredded carrot and finely ground fish, although no Tilapia here, think Dorado or Red Snapper fish caught earlier that day. Yup, tis’ all common street food in the city of Bugambilias flowers blossom pridefully. As a matter of fact, there is a small CANIRAC walk of fame dedicated to Puerto Vallarta for it’s awesome hospitality and local cuisine

canirac ode
local ostiones
Local oysters from Nayarit for about $6 US for half about a dozen
tostadas combo
Tostadas de ceviche: Street Food in Vallarta

But as the night gets deeper and the beer and tequila munchies start to creep in, there is really only one place you need to know about. El Carboncito in the north end of downtown on Honduras street. This place changed my life, ie. my beliefs in the al pastor taco system.

Tacos del Al Pastor at El Carboncito in Puerto Vallarta

The tacos I grew up in Los Angeles, the city of Mexicans of every generation a’ plenty — was not this. In Los Angeles there are trompo’s, the prized vertical spits in the Lebanese Shwarma style that every self proclaimed taco expert swears by. But they are seldom ever sliced directly off the spit into a tortilla to eat directly as is. No, they are usually finished off in a pan, just like any other standard taco meat, right? As long as there is plenty of caramelized onion, achiote and citrus flavor?

Well, not really, a real taco de al pastor is three or four paper-thin slivers of pork on a tiny tortilla with a squirt of salsa, dash of cilantro, onions and lime. They are less flavorful things in this world that can be engulfed in a single bite and in dangerously large amount like this. But the most important part of the taco is a tiny one; the tiny chunk of cooked fresh pineapple atop each corn cake. It might be the meat-tenderizing/digestion enhancing bromelain in the fruit or just the same pineapple-pork phenomena that occurs in Hawaiian pizzas, whatever it is. There is no way to have an al pastor taco ever again.

Good Morning Merida! A Typical Breakfast at a Local Mercado in Merida, Yucatan

The early bird gets the worm, but in Merida, the early [loud and tropical!] bird gets things like Panucho’s, Salbutes, Papadzules, Polcanes, Mondongo and much, much more…

It’s a little known fact amongst seasoned travelers and thrifty backpackers alike that to truly experience a destination, you must bypass the boundaries of the popular tourist zones. The food at La Chaya the night before was absolutely fine but I knew that if really wanted to eat like the locals, I had to visit the local mercado de comidas.

mercado hustle

The local mercado is where the workers who work those tourist destinations eat at, there will never be any air conditioning or glossy menus here and you will eat off a plastic bag-lined, weathered plastic plate. But if you are like me, you will consider the almost unbearable tropical heat and humidity just another terrific ambiance factor for the Mercado actually.

Not to mention the food will also be about ½ the price. The portions may not be as large but you can rest assured knowing that the flavors of the food not be either dumbed down or jacked up. See, the food at a mercado is made specifically to satiate the town’s working-class residents, people who most likely have lived in that town for generations and know what a dish should taste and look like. Hence, the food at a Mercado is almost always… bomb!

Our hotel Residencial was fortunately located about eight blocks away from the town’s zocalo, adjacent to the towns local Mercado.

A mercado will always have more than a handful of stands and most of them will be slanging the same thing. It can become a bit of a daunting experience to choose one with each one of the vendors trying there hardest to get you to eat with them over the rest. I usually settle with the one with most people, as the food will be more often rotated, ie. fresher. But whatever you choose, chances are it’s going to be pretty good.

La Lupita Signage

My family and I sat La Lupita’s, one of the cocina’s located inside the mercado as opposed to the ones you initially walk by on the outside. I am pretty infatuated with my roots and culture but even then, I need a break from the almighty tortilla once in while. Fortunately in Merida, they also have some quite exceptionally crusty French baguettes that are used for tortas instead of the more fluffier telera or bolillo rolls.

Merida Mercado offerings

The display case with the morning’s offerings was pretty exciting, boasting a colorful array of things to sample. Being a full time advocate for the beyond-thanksgiving consumption of turkey, I was ecstatic to realize that Pavo in Yucatan was just as common a filling as Al Pastor or Asada is in the rest of Mexico.

torta de relleno negro

I jumped at the opportunity to have the meaty fowl as a breakfast option, especially when bathed in that wondrous, jet-black Yucatan Relleno Negro mole like sauce and propped atop some toasted baguette. Exercise a bit more caution with the salsas on the table though, they will tentatively have some sort of habanero effect in them.

The delicate petite sandwich didn’t quite satisfy my voraciously curious tummy so I ventured into the neighboring stand to see what else I’d find.

Score! They had yet another exclusive turkey rendition! This time, the roasted whole bird was drenched pickled in a vinegary, onion-heavy marinade called escabeche.

Yucatan offers many more cool-sounding, carby vehicles to enjoy these fillings with, its not just tortillas or bread anymore in the land of the South. No, there are things like Panuchos, Sambutes and Polcanes. I didn’t know what the hell any of these really were so I decided on the craziest sounding one to try naturally, “un sambute de pavo en escabeche por favor, con todo!”

Salbute de Escabeche de Pavo
It turned out to be quite the lovely surprise. A thick, handmade pocket of yellow corn dough that is fried medium hard and then topped with the filling of your choice. It reminded me a lot like a Mexican version of the Indian street food classic, Pani Puri.

Another plus of eating at a mercado is the high probability of a roaming vendor stopping at your table to offer you some of his home cooked bounty. Like this dulces tipicos hawker that stopped at ours. I forgot what each of their names were but I got one of each of course. My particular favorites were the meringues, the crisp meringue clouds that exuded sweet syrup and were still creamy on the inside, this piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) taffy with bits of chewy young coconut baked within it and the chili pepper-shaped pumpkin seed candy that had a similar texture to Italian Marzipan even.

dulces tipicos de yucatan

Ahh…pansa llena y corazon contento!

Alambron Tacos y Guisados: My Dad & Tijuana Airport Food (Live-Blogging)

I never really realized but my father, little sister and I have kept an unofficial tradition of going back to Mexico City every summer for the last four years. The reason? To persuade my dad’s friend Don Aurelio to maintain the remnants of his lost empire for yet another year, a couple of dingy apartment structures in the ghetto Ahuizotla region of town. And although I can’t really get past even a single conversation with him without blowing his dynamite short temper, he always decides to bring me back with him for some reason. In his defense, he is 70 years old and is always right anyways.

Anyways, so this year is the first that we flew out from an airport other than L.A.X. Tijuana International Airport to be exact. Oh, how exciting! A bonus round of delicious authentic Mexican food! After all, we all know that Tijuana is no joke when it comes to good food and drinks thanks to the relentless documentation of it that Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA has done recently. Well, yeah…but not so much when you come with an overly paranoid father who deems it absolutely necessary to check in no later than noon for a flight that takes off at seven in the afternoon.

My poker-head brother has been rubbing off on me. The guy plays online poker for entire days sometimes. Although I’m not as addicted as he is, I did find myself killing a fair amount of time on pokerblog.com, this new internet café that is pretty cool.

We took the first “Crucero” bus (8 AM) out of L.A and way sooner than later we found ourselves at the airport and hungry for some lunch. My mind was lucid with suggestions for lunch, perhaps some Aguachile de Callos de Hacha (raw scallops in a green spicy sauce) from Mariscos Ruben? Maybe a quick torta to go from the famous Tortas “WashMobile” that I’ve read so much about? With six hot and humid hours to kill, in true parent fashion…my dad would say otherwise.

menu signange

My sister and I walked up and down the tiny Tijuana airport terminal desperately. Anything that wasn’t cold and refrigerated between two pieces of soggy bread would suffice. We eventually went with the only place that had any aroma at all coming out of it, Alambron Tacos Y Guisados.

salsa bar

Alambron ambiance

A display counter filled with a golden brown taco strata and a huge sign bearing “Barra de Salsas” couldn’t be wrong, right? Score! And there it was on the menu, the Tijuana exclusive, highly elusive Tacos De Marlin.

tacos de marlin

The one food that I miss most from our local frontera town is smoked marlin. The meaty big fish is smoked, sold in chunks then usually rehashed with tomatoes, onions and spices. You can’t really get it in the U.S unless you smuggle it in yourself but in Tijuana it is an just another average taco filling. Lucky!

The order here came with three griddled, grease-slicked beauties and a delicate salad of chopped iceberg lettuce, peeled cucumber and a zesty creamy aderezo (dressing). Combined with the all-you-can-suffer salsa bar’s accoutrements of chunky green, red salsas and the brined purple onion-habanero slaw…like my compa chuy would say “amanos chikiadoooo!” The tacos were bomb as expected, imagine a peppery bacon if it was made of fish.

An honorable mention goes out to my dad’s Lengua en Salsa Verde guisado dish, probably the best tongue dish I’ve had thus far in my life when I think about it. It was as tender as braised short rib. My little sister’s Tortitas de Carne con Nopales were not bad either. The tiny, egg cakes whipped with shredded beef were meaty, stewed with sour cactus strips and a surprisingly delicious red chile concoction it was downright impressive. The overall excellence of the meal was aided by the tall stack of steaming tortillas, al-dente rice and wonderfully seasoned paste of beans that come with every plate, “aqui si te dan tortillas a llenar, no como en Los Angeles que no mas te dan hay lo que sea”. Yeah dad I can tell you liked it; you finished my sister’s plate too!

Tortitas de Carne at Alambron
Tortitas De Carne con Nopales at Alambron
lengua en chile verde
The Lengua Plate is Killer at Alambron Too

The only downside is that this little place is at an airport; the food for all three of us came out to nearly thirty bucks! Leave it to a random restaurant at the Tijuana airport to show up most Los Angeles Mexican food as a whole and to prove to me yet again that my dad is always right.

pops
The Pops

Tijuana International Airport
Carretera Internacional
Tijuana Baja California
Zip code 22300

The Taco Task Force of Los Angeles: Assignment #1 (Baja Ensenada Style Fish Tacos)

Let’s face it, the Los Angeles Taco scene has been in desperate need of some strict regulation. There ARE Tacos of sufficient quality in this Mexican’s home away from home known as L.A. But in a time where Crispy Tacos and haphazardly spiced Al Pastor continue to receive inexpert praise…the urgency has never been higher.

The Taco Task Force of Los Angeles was assembled by Bill of Street Gourmet LA and me after several delightful trips to the Taco Motherland in its closest proximity to us; Tijuana and Ensenada. Taco’s are the foundation there, serving not only as a cheap, filling convenient street food but a fundamental staple to Mexican Gastronomy as a whole. The basic Carne Asada is a complex structure comprised of three to four different cuts of beef in almost any Taqueria you walk into in Mexico, where as in the U.S…you will be lucky if you get a good quality cut of just properly tenderized Flap meat.

But when a two and a half hour trip is simply unattainable, the Taco Task Force of Los Angeles will strive to optimize your local Taco experiences of Los Angeles and beyond…

Other members of the Force include:

Joshua Lurie of Food GPS
Cathy & Vern of Gastronomy Blog
Matthew Kang of Mattatouille

Following a recent trend of interest in Baja California, our first objective was the Baja Ensenada style Fish Taco.

A signature item originated in the warm Ensenada fishing docks, the Baja Fish Taco is believed to have its roots in the influx of Japanese immigrants that once habituated the Baja coast. The abundant, fresh seafood lived harmoniously with their advanced frying Tempura techniques. It was only a matter of time until it interbred with the tortilla culture of Mexico…

With only a few tweaks that worked for the bettering of it–such as the common sense switching of oil to lard and the required addition of Mexican grown spices & local (softer) wheat flour–the Fish Taco was born.

Typically, Fish Tacos are to be adorned to your personal preference, from the essential fresh garnishments of finely minced cabbage, a simple Red, Green or Pico de Gallo Salsa and either Mayonnaise, Mexican Crema or a thin, creamy blend of the two. Handmade tortillas are beside the point as it will clash with the delicate flake of fish, thin, no frill’s, small taco Tortillas is its usual vehicle.

Five components of the Fish Taco were to be graded from a a range of 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (exceptional).

Those components were:
Key Ingredient (Fish; Freshness?)
Authenticity (True to Ensenada style?)
Cooking (expertly fried; greasy?)
Overall Flavor (blanket flavor)

With that said, the following will be posted in accordance with the Force’s consensus of least favorite to best:

5th Place:

El Taconazo (South El Monte)

taconazo storefront with cute-ish girl
Best Fish Taco in The World Since 1978? Really now?

A family run small franchise with locations all around Southern California…kudos for that. BUT, the most driest, blandest and unbalanced fish taco ($1.69) of the the round up.

DSC07035
Is Anybody In There?

The fish of choice was a scroungy Pollack. A popular fish amongst the food business for its friendly, light flavor and usually moist flake. Here, that was not the case with a strange off flavor and and lumpy, papery batter. The over compensation in mediocre relishes only made it even more underwhelming.

The Final Score (as transcribed by Josh of Food GPS; his score is first, followed by B standing for Bill, J for me and C for Cathy and her fiance Vernon)

Grade of Key Ingredient: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2.5, B 2.5 AVERAGE 2.25/5

Condiment: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2.5, B 2 AVERAGE 2.125/5
Authenticity: 2.5, C 2, J 2, B 2.5 AVERAGE 2.25/5
Overall Flavor: 1.5, C 3.5, J 2.5, B 1.5 AVERAGE = 2.25/5
Cooking: 1.5, C 2.5, J 2, B 2 AVERAGE 2/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 2.175/5

El Taconazo on Urbanspoon
El Taconazo in Los Angeles

Address:
9516 Garvey Ave
South El Monte
CA 91733

4th Place

Señor Fish (Original Location in L.A: Eagle Rock)

señor fish signage
Colorful Façade but What About Your Tacos?

Other veteranos of Fish Tacos being around since 1988, there’s actually a few of these sprinkled around the L.A basin. I remember always walking by the one in Alhambra on my way to school back then but always being repelled by that gimmicky fish character, plus, this went under the Pricy Taco category ($2.50).

señor fish guey
Clumpy Batter but Good Fish N’ Toppings

With the myriad of other fresh, grilled options on the menu, they seemed to have lost their focus of a traditional ‘ol fried fish taco. The Cod itself was outstanding. flaky and moist! But the batter was soggy and just peppery as far as spices go. Kudos though for touching up on the the Ensenada tradition of personal customization of toppings, already dressed with slivered cabbage, Crema and a Pico de Gallo but one of the few with a exceptional Salsa bar.

salsas at senor fish
El De Guajillo Era Chingon

Grade of Key Ingredient: 3.5 C 4, J 3.5, B 3 AVERAGE 3.5/5
Condiment: 4, C 4, J 4.5, B 4 AVERAGE 4.125/5
Authenticity: 2.5, C 2, J 2, B 2 AVERAGE 2.125/5
Overall Flavor: 3.5, C 3, B 2, J 3 AVERAGE 2.875/5
Cooking: 3, C 2.5, B 2.5, J 3 AVERAGE 2.75/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.075/5

Señor Fish on Urbanspoon

Señor Fish in Los Angeles

Address:
Eagle Rock
4803 Eagle Rock Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 257-7167

3rd Place

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (Los Feliz)

"Best Fish Taco"...HA!
Those Quotes Are There For A Reason…Best in Ensenada?!

Newcomers to the Fish Taco slanging scene (Since 2007), this place was quite cracking with locals. Behind the counter, an assembly line of Fish Tacos was hard at work. This, along with being the only entirely D.I.Y topping customization spot of the day, made it look very promising.

Fish Taco Assembly Line
The Model Fish Taco Assembly Line

DSC07043
D.I.Y!

ALTHOUGH entirely customizable, the Angeleno-ized accouterments were seen as “goofy” by the Street Gourmet shifu, with stuff like Pineapple Kiss (“tropical refreshing bite”), a watery Hot Guac, Mad Mango Salsa, a Mango Less (“all of the passion – none of the mango”), Mild (“delicious, but wimpy”). Plus points for perfectly uniform, finely shredded cabbage and free flowing Crema Magica (“the final ingredient”).

naked tacos
Pretty Good Naked Tacos

The fish itself was the most flavorful of the day thus far, albeit chewy instead of soggy, the batter touted a mysterious irresistible deliciousness with not much actual spice flavor, perhaps a little MSG in the mix? No idea, but the fatty Basa (Vietnamese Farm Raised Catfish) was an endearing choice. Tortillas were nothing special.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4.5, J 4.5, C 3.5, B 3.5 AVERAGE 4/5
Condiment: 3.5 B 2.5, C 3.5, J 4 AVERAGE 3.375/5
Authenticity: 2.5 J 2.5, B 3.5, C 3.5 AVERAGE 3/5
Overall Flavor: 4, C 3, J 4, B 3.5 AVERAGE 3.875
Cooking 3.5, C 3, J 3, B 3 AVERAGE 3.125/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.475/5

Address:

1650 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-5552

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada in Los Angeles

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Urbanspoon

2nd Place

Tacos Baja (East L.A)

fish taco facade
The East L.A Gem

This place has not been short on national coverage for its fragile-fried fish. Magazine and newspaper pieces are framed on every wall and they have continually been adding more tables since they opened up ten years ago. They have built a loyal following, coming from East L.A, its fun to observe the interaction between people in the lines that form sometimes.

hot blondies
Hot, Chile Powder Kissed Blondies

I used to eat here pretty often since my dad actually grew a liking to this place (very rare). I remember at times eating 15 of those delicious Chile Gueros at a time. They are kissed in oil and dusted with a savory, chili powder that reminds me of Lucas, a Mexican staple Chile Powder candy of Latino youth. These serve the same purpose to fish tacos that french fries do to burgers, not absolutely necessary but certainly nice if you come across some that are done expertly.

manta ray tacos from TBE
My Old Favorite and Still Perfectly Fine
(Rear Taco)

Seemingly small at $1.59 a pop but these tacos are packed with 1-2 moist, soft and flaky fat piece(s) of Catfish that are crispy on the little edges. Tortillas deserve an honorable mention for their superior quality, petite, chewy and thick. A smoky salsa and a cool crema only increase the experience with its zing and fresh-crisp qualities.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4, B 4, J 3.5, C 3.5 AVERAGE 3.75/5
Condiment: 2.5, B, 2.5, J 3, C 4 AVERAGE 3/5
Authenticity: 3.5, B 3.5, J 2.5, C 2 AVERAGE 2.875/5
Overall Flavor: 3, B 3.5, J 3.5, C 4 AVERAGE 3.5/5
Cooking: 4.5, B, 4, J 4.5, C, 4.5 AVERAGE 4.375/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 3.5/5

Address:
5385 Whittier Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 887-1980?

Tacos Baja on Urbanspoon
Tacos Baja in Los Angeles

1st Place

Ricky’s Fish Tacos (Silver Lake)

rickys stand
Dunking That Basa

A eager newcomer to the L.A Fish Taco scene, Ricky has been charming the local bloggers with his Ensenada raised swagger. He touts his brief weekend taco show times on twitter and is proud of his rare 5 Star rating he has received on Yelp.

rickys fish taco champion
Announcing The New Premiere F
ish Taco of Los Angeles at The Moment
($2.50)

With his skilled frying technique that involves piercing the fillet while frying and his secret frying medium that adds a unequaled deliciousness all too common to….lard, shortening, a mixture of the two perhaps? For him to know and we to find out, but all I know is that it produces a light, non-greasy, perfectly spiced crisp! His Basa batter involves imported Mexican wheat from his homeland and a significant amount of mustard to give it that signature zing. He thins out mayonnaise with skim milk to get the crema to the right texture and slivers his cabbage razor thin, just like they do it back home. The salsa is minimally chunky with a decent kick. All it needs to be absolutely perfect is a griddled tortilla instead of a the steamed, blandish Superior brand Tortilla he uses. But I do tend to be a tortilla elitist and most public will not even notice.

…Introducing the new, TOP, most authentic Ensenada-Style Fish Taco of Los Angeles County.

Grade of Key Ingredient: 4, J 5, C 4.5, B 3.5 AVERAGE 4.25/5
Condiment: 4.5 B 4, C 4.5, J 4.5 AVERAGE 4.375/5
Authenticity: 3.5 J 5, B 4, C 4 AVERAGE 4.125/5
Overall Flavor: 4, C 4.5, J 5, B 4 AVERAGE 4.625/5
Cooking 4.5, C 4.5, J 5, B 4.5 AVERAGE 4.625/5

OVERALL FISH TACO SCORE: 4.4/5

Ricky's Fish Tacos in Los Angeles

Follow Ricky on Twitter to find out when and where he will set up taco base.

Our next assignment will be….Birria.