>> Coni'Seafood | Eat the World Los Angeles

Sunday, 10 February 2019



There is a lot to unearth about the history of Coni'Seafood and Mariscos Chente, two of West Los Angeles' most beloved Nayarit-style seafood restaurants. The history can all be traced back to 1987 and the Inglewood backyard of Vicente "Chente" Cossio. Multiple locations, swaps, different chefs here and there, etc. It is all out there on the internet to read, or maybe a good conversation in person if you want to chat with the three generations of family involved yourself, but for now I will just focus on and be in awe of the food.

As I wrote last year after stopping in directly after a flight to LAX, the Inglewood Avenue location of Mariscos Chente has a special place in my heart. They also kept another location, first painted white with murals of palm trees and marlins on the exterior, then a less fun blank orange, on South Centinela that I never made it to. In late 2017, the name was swapped and the color scheme changed to a sleek grey-blue to match the first location of Coni'Seafood on Imperial Highway in Inglewood (which was the original Mariscos Chente back in the day). Sr. Cossio's daughter Connie was taking more of the reigns on the family empire.

Take a breath, none of it matters. Prepare to board your direct flight to Acaponeta, a town in the north of Nayarit near Sinaloa known for its seafood and proximity to Playa Novillero, possibly one of the world's nicest places to sit in a thatched hut and eat while enjoying the sound of the ocean.

No matter what location you go to under either name, it would be a mistake to have a meal and not enjoy the skill with which they can prepare shrimp, and in my opinion especially the aguachile ($15, above and below), just about as close as food comes to being a work of art. Instead of the usual lime, they submerge and cook the dish in lemon here, which combines perfectly with an amazing jalapeño puree.

Very simple, but almost alive. The shrimp seem to tell the stories of the sea they came from in the murky, aquatic flavors. Aguachile translates directly to English as "chile water," and that almost perfectly sums it up. That liquid the shrimp now live in should be full of heat, it should make you sweat.

The only negative about the tostaditos ($17, below) is that only six arrive. Thankfully each mini tostada is loaded up with a pile of shrimp and octopus ceviche, reaching the limits of what is capable in one bite. The marlin pâté at the base (take a moment to think about what marlin pâté could be in its most delicious iteration and that is what is here) tries its best to hold everything together, but in the end a second hand or plate is necessary to capture the falling objects. All the better though, as the second bite is just as good as the first.

Up to this point you may already find that the restaurant has surprised and satisfied you enough, but at least once in your life you should splurge for the pescado zarandeado (market rate, the fish below came to $45, a style of grilled fish almost unavailable in the United States. While it is typically snook, the fish that arrived on this day was sea bass. No matter, the translation does not say anything about the species, only that the fish is "shaken," part of the cooking technique.

This particular expression comes from the splitting of a fish and the unique flat grill basket it is placed (and shaken) in when cooked over fire. Despite the modern feel of the restaurant, the place still fills up with smoke and pleasure from each fish being cooked. This style is very easy to screw up and takes a real skill, cook it seconds too long and the fish is dried out and inedible. But here at Coni'Seafood all the luscious meaty bits are perfect even when blackened here and there.

A small bowl of caramelized onions are cooked and used for a glaze over the fish, small puddles provide extra blasts of salt and sweet. I personally find this bowl unnecessary though, opting instead to place pieces of fish alone directly into the tortillas they bring out with the plate.

The central Pacific coast of México is closer than you think. Grab some beers.


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