Showing posts with label los feliz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label los feliz. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style McCall's Meat & Fish Company - A Return to Cooking

McCall's Main

Right before our amazing trip to Southeast Asia, Jeni and I were burdened with some drama that almost caused us to cancel our trip - I was going through a separation with my employer. Besides feeling confused and down, we were now in a situation that many people feared - financial hardship in this economy. We had also spent a good sum of money on the flights and lodging and had no way of really turning back. The thought of trying to enjoy delicious food in another country with no job was difficult. But I always try my best to be optimistic. I said to her... look, this is inevitable and we'll be alright. We can't let something like this hold us back. We love to travel and we will make this happen.

In addition to the layoff, we were also dealing with a bad living situation. My landlord had really destroyed the joy in living in Silver Lake. We would both come home from work and feel this negative energy. We were very unhappy with her management and it got to the point where we actually felt suffocated and took out our frustrations on each other. The landlord had horns, fangs, hooves and claws and we resided in her compartmentalized hell. So you can see the combination of not having a job, financial hardship and life in a jail cell was really too much to handle at one time. We were in a huge rut.

But on New Year's eve, as we waited for the countdown in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I turned to her and promised her that we would have a great year. That I would find a job immediately and we would move to a better place. And she smiled in accordance.

Within a few weeks after we got back from Southeast Asia, I was able to explore the freelance lifestyle and I have vowed to never go back to full-time ever again. I think this was the work style that I had always been looking for. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to make it as a freelancer but the rewards are solid. The pay is better, the hours are great, I could work on and off-site and I am essentially my own Creative Director. I also have more time to focus on our photography business. I felt like a huge block had been lifted off my chest and I was once again, happy to be back in the workforce.

If it weren't for Jeni's frequent searches on Craigslist, we wouldn't have found our dream place... a Silver Lake duplex with the coolest landlords and neighbors. Finally, a landlord that didn't have four legs and a tail. This place had everything going for us... an extra bedroom to set up our photo studio, a backyard with market lights, a large kitchen with chalkboard paint on the walls and most importantly... a FREAKING washer & dryer. Long gone are the days of running down to use the coin-op washer and dryers. I can't tell you how many times I've been a quarter short on drying my red silk boxers and had to drive over to get change and come back - ugh. For a married couple, moving from an apartment to something that resembles a house is a huge step. I think for a month straight, Jeni told me everyday how much she liked the place like a broken record. I was very happy as well.

And this brings me to the last event that is really making this a great year for us. This may sound strange because of its relation to food... but I believe that even a small business can really change a community. There's Ricky Piña of Ricky's Fish Tacos, Peter Bahlawanian of Spice Station, Jason Kim of Forage LA and of course, Nathan McCall's and Karen Yoo's McCall's Meat & Fish Company. I can't express the wonders McCall's has done for us, and I'm sure, for the many patrons that live in the Silver Lake/Echo Park/Los Feliz area.

The kitchen at our last place was way too tiny. Jeni and I have ran into each other many times and you can imagine how bad it would be if we were both irritated, wielding sharp objects. I eventually started cooking less because I couldn't stand the kitchen. It was small, dimly lit and at one time, our cabinets were breeding grounds for creatures that made even the Orkin guy say, "That's gross". We ended up eating a lot of crap for dinner and it just wasn't healthy.

But when I walked into McCall's for the first time, I saw the rays of the sun beam down on me. I suddenly missed being in the kitchen. This was awesome. I could get virtually ANY meat that was served in our favorite restaurants. We bought smaller portions and had the ability to control the butter intake which is so overdone in haute cuisine. The fact that they were chefs and willing to tell you how to cook their products was indeed a blessing. In one month, I had visited at least 15 times. I'm now on their meat stalker list and under constant supervision by the police. At times, I've thought about asking Nathan and Karen if I could just bring a frying pan, portable burner and some tongs to cook right on the spot. I'd get the boot for sure.

When you have access to better ingredients and cook at home, you can make food that is not only tasty but also healthier. When I worked in a restaurant, I was shocked by the amount of butter used in the food. The food I cook usually has no butter and although it is necessary in some dishes to bring out flavor, fresh ingredients go a long way with good salt, freshly cracked peppercorns and citrus juice.

So here are a few things that I've cooked using McCall's meat and fish, fresh vegetables from the Hollywood Farmer's Market and spices from the Spice Station. My return to cooking couldn't happen without them, a little downfall in life and of course, my supportive wife. I thank all of the aforementioned for re-inspiring something I really enjoy doing.

McCall's Slider

McCall's House Burger Blend Sliders with Fried Quail Egg & Gruyere Cheese
It is rare that I'll eat a hamburger. Before the rise of gastropub burgers, you had Fatburger, In & Out and the fast food chains. I love Fatburger, but sometimes, it's just a lot of meat to eat. So that's why I opt for a diet version of the classic hamburger. McCall's offers a nice house blend. I marinated the meat with kosher salt, fresh black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, Worcestershire Sauce and my secret lover, Maggi. The longer you let the meat marry with the flavorings, the better it'll be. Pack the ground meat tightly to hold in the fat, and using your palms, roll the meat into a 'handball'. Then lightly squash the patty to get a nice burger shape. I recommend cooking thicker patties versus thin patties because you can have more control with the done-ness of your patty. Thin patties cook way too fast. The key to making this taste good is how long you cook the quail egg. Over medium heat, it should take no longer than 3 mins to cook a quail egg. You want the yolk to break as you bite into the slider. Add a thin slice of gruyere cheese and your favorite toppings and you're good to go. I served this with an heirloom tomato and arugula salad. Delicious AND light.

McCall's Scallops

Seared Scallops with Sauteed Maitake Mushrooms and English Shelling Peas
McCall's never runs out of their scallop supply, and if they did, I would go insane. They are better than any place I've bought them - better than Whole Foods and Fish King. But the key is to know how long to cook them. A dried out scallop gives you a nice FAIL stamp. One of my favorite cooking utensils is my 12" Lodge cast iron skillet that I got at Surfas for around $35. This thing is the shit. You can cook anything on it and it heats evenly. For scallops, it adds a beautiful brownish sear like the restaurants. I sear scallops with just salt and pepper on low-medium heat, never high, because excessive heat will make the water in the scallop evaporate, causing the scallop to 'crack open'. Because you're using a skillet, the heat stays longer in the skillet even after turning down the heat. And before I've seared my first scallop, I've already got the skillet turned on low heat for at least 10 minutes. I served these with delicious Maitake mushrooms from a new mushroom vendor at the Hollywood Farmer's Market. He has over 20 types of mushrooms to offer and even has a worker guarding the Chanterelle section... which if you don't know, costs nearly $25 a POUND. If you haven't had English shelling peas, these are like Nature's Skittles - so sweet and crunchy.

McCall's Manila Clams

Manila Clams with Chorizo de Pomplano and Smoked Paprika Wine Sauce
When I first saw these clams at McCall's, I didn't think much of it due to its larger size. For me, larger clam means more of a stronger taste that can be off-putting. But these were so sweet and better than Manila clams I've purchased at Asian grocery stores. I love serving steamed clams with some sort of cured meat and I found my favorite chorizo (Chorizo de Pomplano from Spain) this time at the Silver Lake Cheese Store. It has a nice amount of fat and a nice sustaining spice kick. I simply sauteed the chorizo cubes with some Cipollini onions, garlic and chives, and steamed them in a white wine and butter sauce. My in-laws sop-mopped all the sauce with bread. Delicious!

McCall's Corned Beef

Corned Beef Brisket with Boiled Vegetables
With a few days before St. Patrick's Day, we didn't have enough time to cure anything. We called McCall's to see if had any beef brisket and told us about a purveyor he works with in Burbank. Because he's a chef, I trusted him on this and ended up buying 6 lbs... spending over $50 on something I was accustomed to paying $1/lb before when I was a poor college student. Along with the in-laws, we destroyed the 6 lbs. of meat in one night. It was SO GOOD. You could actually taste the flavor of the beef. This is further evidence that McCall's does their research with purveyors.

McCall's Skatewing

Rosemary-Battered Skate Wing Fillets
I came in as I usually do and checked out the fish. They usually have the usual suspects like Scottish Salmon, Black Cod, Halibut and Monkfish. Then I saw skatewing and immediately remembered the time I ate a Korean-version of it at Deep End Dining's place. It was ok and nothing to write home about. So I said no to that. Then Chef Karen Yoo basically called me out on it and gave me guilt trip. I smelled the fish and there was an interesting odor to it... almost like bleach or lye. I was a bit hesitant and went ahead and prepped it at home. And this is where I knew that Nathan loved what he did. While I was prepping the skate wing in some lemon juice, I received a call from Nathan. He told me that because I was concerned with the odor, he went ahead and did his own taste-test and recommended soaking it in lemon juice prior to cooking. I thought it was great of him to take his own time and tend to customer needs. He also recommended cooking the skate wing with the brown butter-swirl technique, where you basically melted butter until it foamed up and swished the pan around so that the butter would lightly 'poach' the skate wing. This technique is difficult because if you get the pan too hot, the butter will blacken. You want the butter to become a light brown foam, but not blackened. The texture of the fish was simply awesome but I had a difficulty getting used to the taste of the fish. I would try poaching this in olive oil and herbs next time I cook with it.

McCall's Arctic Char

Pan-Roasted Arctic Char and Farmer's Market Medley with Mint Soy Sauce Sambal Oelek Creme Fraiche
What the hell is going on in that picture? I have no idea, but it was delicious. The first time I had Arctic Char was at San Francisco's Bar Crudo, one of my fave SF restaurants. It was served raw and a bit more complex than salmon. That's because the Arctic Char is a hybrid salmon-trout found in the most northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. This fish can handle extremely cold water due and when you cook this fish, understand why it's so moist and tender. I have to say that this and the black cod at McCall's are truly high-grade. Even if you overcook either of these fish, the fish will still be very moist and edible. I marinated this fish with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander Seeds, chili de arbol, bay leaves and expensive-ass olive oil. The green, grassy kind, not EVOO. Using the Lodge cast iron skillet, i sear the Arctic Char on medium, careful not to overcook the skin since it is one of the best things about eating this dish. The skin is crisp like a chip if cooked correctly. I sear the fish skin-side down first for about 5 minutes and finish it in the oven at 350. Always take out the fish earlier than expected because even when it's out of the oven, the stored heat will continue to cook the fish through. I served this with some veggies I bought earlier in the morning and lightly tossed them in one of my fave sauces. I LOVE mixing creme fraiche with spices. This time, I mixed in some soy sauce, sambale oelek for kick and chiffonaded mint leaves. We both ate this dish in under 7 mins because it was so light and fresh.

McCalls Meat and Fish Company

Seared Kurobuta Pork Chops with Curried Cauliflower and Swiss Chard
I really don't know where else you can find Snake River Farm's pork aside from Snake River Farm. This purveyor puts out some really tasty American style kurobuta pork. If you've never eaten kurobuta pork, it's best to describe it as kobe pork. This meat is a bit more rich and fatty but the taste and tenderness are simply amazing. One of these chops is good enough for the both of us. I served these with sauteed Swiss chard and cauliflower that has been roasted in the oven with curry powder, salt and olive oil.

Because of McCall's, Spice Station and the Hollywood Farmer's Market, we've changed a lot of our bad habits. We buy groceries as we need and cut down on food waste. We buy better proteins and eat smaller portions. We're supporting local businesses. And ultimately, we're doing better for our bodies. We are of course spending more money, but we believe it's important you know what goes into your stomach. If you haven't seen Food Inc., you'll understand where all of this is coming from. Thanks for reading and I hope that you find your inner cook once you visit McCall's.

McCall's Meat & Fish Company
2117 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 667-0674

Spice Station
3819 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 660-2565

Silver Lake Cheese Store
3926 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 644-7511

Hollywood Farmer's Market
Ivar & Selma Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
Sundays 8am - 1pm

Eat Drink Style Flight of the Fish Tacos - Bret & Jemaine Do Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Los Feliz

A while back I had done a comparison posting on a few of LA's fish taco joints and awarded Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada as my favorite. See what Bret & Jemaine think about the fish tacos and hear them freestyle on fish tacos as well.

Eat Drink Style McCall's Meat and Fish Company, Los Feliz - A Tale of Two Butchers

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

It's 6 am and a husband and wife wake up and begin their morning routine. But unlike most people that put on a shirt and tie or a dress, carry a laptop or a messenger bag and head out for their commute, Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo are doing something entirely different than most married couples. Instead they are putting on their chef coats, grabbing their knife bag and walking out together for work. They are on their way to one of Los Angeles's newest culinary-related business, their very own McCall's Meat and Fish Company located right in Los Feliz.

McCall and Yoo both did not intend for this to happen in their lives. Nor did they know that they would ever fall into cooking, and that it would bring them high regard on the Eastside.

Hailing from Fresno, McCall was pressured to find a job right out of high school and found himself at a local restaurant as an expediter. He then had the option of staying with the 'front of the house' or going into the 'back of the house', otherwise known as the kitchen. He took the latter and the next thing he knew, he found himself drawing inspiration from the French Laundry book. He then enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena (CSCA) and eventually worked at Cafe Pinot, Sona and various kitchens throughout Europe.

Yoo was a web designer from UCLA that wanted a way out of the corporate world. In a leap of faith, she enrolled in the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu with virtually no interest in cooking and soon found herself working at places like Campanile and Sona, as the head pastry chef.

At David Meyer's Sona, they met and later on got married and moved to NYC to work at Daniel Boulud's "Daniel". With plans to open up their own restaurant, they decided instead to take a genius turn in their career path and open a much needed boutique meat and seafood shop in Los Angeles.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

On an early morning, I decided to photograph them both during their morning routine. I knocked on the window of McCall's and was greeted by Nathan and Karen. It was 7:30 am and they were looking extremely sharp in their chef gear. Right off the bat,I knew they were serious and passionate about what they do.

When I first walked in here, I was immediately reminded of a painting done by one of my favorite painters, Mark Ryden. A strange man that has a penchant for painting meat and sausages with famous figures. But if you like to cook as much as I do, McCall's will give you the feeling of being in a candy store again.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

And from a design perspective, you know that Yoo hasn't lost her touch. They both have done a great job of making you forget that you are in a butcher shop, but rather in a "meat boutique". I've been to many butcher shops and the common denominator is that white ceramic tile in morgues and the chemical smell used to abate the smell of meat and blood. Possibly old meat. And I think a lot of people are intimidated by butcher shops because of the smell and sound of large buzzing bone saws. But at McCall's, all the 'dirty work' is done before you've even stepped in the store.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

One thing chefs pride themselves on is cleanliness and presentation. Working in a restaurant, you're either cooking, cleaning or getting your ass kicked by the head chef verbally. Sometimes all at the same time. Because it is so true that good food comes out of a clean kitchen. I watched Yoo put out these beautifully manicured lamb racks. Was it bizarre to crave some nicely seared lamb ribs this early in the morning?

It's now 8 am, and they've got three hours to make everything look shiny and new before the first customer swings that door open. With Blackalicious blasting through their speakers, and on another occasion Bone Thugs n' Harmony, they both grab their knives and do a quick run-through on the sharpening steel. I grab my camera, step back and watch the two butchers go to town.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

There's nothing more beautiful to me than watching a fish being filleted. McCall grabs a black cod by the deep eye sockets and checks out both sides of the fish to make sure it looks good. He then lays the fish gently down on the cutting board. McCall is completely focused, more so than Daniel-san from Karate Kid doing his Crane Kick. With a few swift moves, the black cod is halved and without a head.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

He tells me that the Black Cod is really an ugly fish, but tastes so good. I add that the Chilean Seabass (aka Patagonian Toothfish) is even uglier and that actually doesn't belong to the bass family. It was a clever marketing plan to sell the fish that is tied for first in the annual ugly pageant with the evil Angler fish. Warning: you are about to see the true meaning of ugly. Speaking of the Angler fish, I'm surprised it is still a surviving species based on its looks.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

McCall is finished with five Black Cods in a matter of twenty minutes, with nice fillets placed on a tray like freshly baked goods. He immediately brings out a container of sanitizing solution and cleans up the mess from the Black Cod. I told you good chefs pride themselves on cleanliness. He pulls out a tray of sashimi-grade Salmon that he had already cut up. But he goes through them once more to make sure that everything is cut neatly. He then cuts me off a piece of the belly (toro) - so good.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

I've always wanted to buy a block of Salmon and go to town on it with nothing else but soy sauce - eating it like a sandwich. But that would be a very expensive sandwich ha.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

My mom traumatized me with the canned Sardines she used to eat over rice. I remember the sound of the lid being popped open and right then, terror would ensue. That stench would send my sister and I running for the hills. But when you've eaten fresh Sardines, maybe lightly battered and fried with an aioli, it's a different thing. Yoo assures that they are anything but fishy because she herself cannot stand fishy fish.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

I move over towards Yoo's prep table and in front of her, lay one of the most beautiful racks of pork. Kurobuta to be exact. In Japanese it literally means "black pig", but you may know it more by its Western term, "Berkshire" pork due to its provenance in Britain. Because of its particular farm feed and shortness in muscle fibers, you are rewarded with meat that is extremely juicy and heavily marbled. Basically it's the 'kobe beef' of the pig world. I feel really bad for these black pigs.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

With a small paring knife, she takes off the main lid of fat on the outside of the rib rack. She goes in between each rib and cuts out a block of fat which I immediately asked if it will be used in hopes of getting some freebies. Those are simply flavor bombs and you may have seen some Korean BBQ places grease up the grill with some pig fat.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

And finally, you've got your final product. Look at the marbling and Yoo's craftsmanship.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

I follow McCall back to this walk-in fridge and he shows me yet another tasty addition: live spot prawns. He opens up a Styrofoam box with about 30-40 live spot prawns from Santa Barbara, sitting calmly. The second he grabs one, it's splash city. Yes, they are fresh! When you've got a smaller pool of shrimp, it's much easier to tell which ones may be weak and on the verge of death. At 99 Ranch, it's hard to distinguish that.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

He puts the shrimp back and then smiles as he points to his blocks of dry-aged Angus beef, like a man showing off his hunting trophies.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

We walk back out and Yoo is on to her next thing: cutting up the house-made sausages. They offer two flavors, pork-fennel and garlic-paprika and both are very nice.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

For poultry, they offer already-trussed whole chickens from KenDor farms of Van Nuys, which is named after the owners, Ken and Doreen. Why is it better? If you were free to roam, ate feed mixed with grasses, seeds, grains, vegetables and olive oil, you would be very happy. I asked Yoo if the chicken would be tastier if it was fed bacon.

Yoo: "Okay that sounds delicious and wrong at the same time."

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

I look back and McCall is now working on a huge block of sashimi-grade tuna. Yes, I retouched the image but I did not add any red to make the fish look better – it was naturally rich in color and quality.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

Yoo working on skirt steak with precision. This cut of meat can be fairly thin and easily "butchered". Mmm.

McCall's Meat & Seafood Company, Los Feliz

What I like about McCall's is the access to the same types of beef you would find at any fine dining establishment. You can get flat iron cuts, tasty short ribs, hangar and kobe beef by request. For me, the opening of McCall's is further proof that the culinary industry will never be out of trend because it is a breeding ground for the most passionate and creative people out there, who make it an exciting and dynamic career. While most people believe that becoming a chef is the only career out of culinary school, this proves to be a successful deviation from the norm. I think what McCall and Yoo have done is more than offer a resource for good food, but they've also inspired people to return to cooking.

McCall tells me that his business plan is about providing only the best ingredients as any fine-dining establishment would, only in an uncooked form. You walk into McCall's, pick your protein, throw down some white table cloth, candles and Cheesy & Sleazy, and your minutes away from your meal. It's not that you couldn't get the same thing at Whole Foods, which does sell good meat as well, but I prefer the opinions of two chefs that have worked at reputable restaurants. It is what they would serve at their own restaurant. On top of that, you don't need to look up any recipes online, instead you can simply ask either McCall or Yoo what to do with that kurobuta pork you have in your hands. The pricing is on the same level as Whole Foods, but if you care about what you put in your body and respect the hard work and detail put into their business, as I have seen, then you'll understand.

I have to add that when asked what their favorite restaurants are. They replied, "We have no time. Sometimes it's Rick's Burgers over in Silver Lake. People are shocked that we have all this good food in front of us, yet we have NO time to even cook it at home." I thought chefs didn't eat fast food!

McCall's Meat and Fish Company

On another occasion, I couldn't help myself and ran home with two Kurobuta pork chops. I stared at it like I was receiving my first $100 bill. I asked McCall if I needed to brine this and he just looked at me. "Why? It's already the juiciest pork out there." Okay sorry Chef!

McCall's Meat and Fish Company

Are you like me when it comes to Salmon? I only like it raw versus cooked. When it's cooked it takes on this new flavor and taste that isn't very appealing to me. If I had to cook it, I think poaching would make it most edible for me. But man, McCall was kind enough to give me the belly section only (toro). Jeni isn't into Salmon sashimi and she devoured this.

McCalls Meat and Fish Company

Skillet-Seared Kurobuta Pork Chop with Roasted/Curried/Creme Fraiche Cauliflower and Sauteed Garlic Kale
McCall was right, it was so tender. When it comes to high quality meat, you don't need anything more than Kosher salt and fresh black pepper. I cooked it to medium as I like it slightly pink. With better quality meat, you run a smaller chance of acquiring trichinosis, so go ahead and make it a little juicier.

Thanks for reading and say hi to Nathan and Karen.

McCall's Meat and Fish company
2117 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90027
(323) 667-0674

Eat Drink Style Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Tacos Baja Ensenada & Siete Mares - An Analysis on A Few Los Angeles Fish Taco Joints

Here at the eatdrinknbmerry laboratories, we strive for accuracy in gastronomical studies and never stop searching for the tastiest, palate-pleasing food. While most people are too quick to voice opinions on food without really trying any other place with the same type of food, we find it important to provide our take on as many places as possible. Saying bold things like "hands down", "the best in (insert geographical area)" and mean things like "you've got no f_____ tastebuds" can often lead to some pretty heated discussions that could trigger off another LA riot – those are simply unnecessary. People have the right to like what they like right?

At eatdrinknbmerry laboratories, we try to break down food to its simple components. Well not too much, otherwise we wouldn't have anything to eat.
We are human, too, and enjoy stuffing our faces.

And if necessary, we will dig deep... really deep, and get into it.

In this latest experiment, Case Study #32168, we focus on the fish tacos of Los Angeles and try to find the best ones, without having to drive the 48,328 miles to Ensenada, where fish tacos were born. We first decided to study fish tacos after a friendly recommendation to The Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, in Los Feliz. I, myself, have driven by many times on the way to Yuca's and have been taken back by the bold name. But after the first time I decided to stop by, I'm up to a dozen visits. I can honestly say, I'm hooked. Instead of writing a post solely on BFTIE, we researched the local favorites on Chowhound and gave them a shot. Here is our report.

Tacos Baja Ensenada East Los Angeles

Subject #1: Tacos Baja Ensenada, East Los Angeles

I've heard and read about this fish taco joint in the East LA proper. It's supposedly one of the better places in LA. I drove from Silver Lake to East LA by street just to check out all the restaurants around there. We were like kids in a toy store, pointing and pondering about how good the food must be over here. We arrive at TBE, which looks like it was a hamburger joint in its previous life. We walk in and the first thing we see is the ceviche bar and salsa station. I take a look at the ceviche and my eyes grow large. Whoa. So many kinds of seafood for ceviche and cocteles. No. Not this time, we had to research the fish tacos. We order 2 fish ($1.45 each) and 2 shrimp ($1.95 each) tacos but the cashier directs our attention to the combos. What?! Two fish tacos, rice, beans and a drink for $4.50. Awesome. How do you guys live?

Tacos Baja Ensenada Chilis with Chile

While waiting, J and I started to get our fish taco condiments: salsa and limes. But I noticed some boiled yellow peppers rained on with chile spice. Afraid it would be too spicy, I took a small lick and oh man, so good. Reminded me of that mexican candy I used to eat, called Lucas – which was basically chile salt (a big seller for ice cream roach coaches). I ate two large yellow chiles. So tasty.

Tacos Baja Ensenada Fish Tacos

After a few minutes, we pick up our order and take in the smell of freshly fried batter. The taco itself is quite large. Large enough to have things falling out after one bite. First bite: CRUNCH. Very nice, loved the texture of the batter. Tasty and crunchy. But way too much batter for me. The crema sauce was very tasty and the proportion of salsa/cabbage to taco was a little more than packed. One of these combos is sure to get you full. FOR ONLY $4.50!

Tacos Baja Ensenada Shrimp Taco

By the time I finished the fish taco, I saw that my shrimp taco had gotten a little soggy from the cabbage, salsa and crema (cream) on top. I took a bite out of the shrimp and immediately frowned when the batter came off the shrimp completely. Soggy, but very tasty! I wish I had ordered these separately so that I could hear that delicious crunch in the taco.

Overall. Very tasty fish and shrimp tacos. I liked the shrimp over the fish. Tasty crema. Love the crunch in the batter, but after a few bites, the batter made me feel like crap. I highly recommend ordering one taco at a time if you're into texture. The rice is VERY tasty here. It's loaded up with caldo de pollo (chicken bouillon cubes) and butter. I'd definitely be back here if I'm in the East LA area. But from the Silver Lake area, it's just too far. Also, on Wednesdays, it's $1 fish taco days. I'm not complaining about that!!!

Some debates on Tacos Baja Ensenada here and here. And by my gluttonous friend.

El Siete Mares Silver Lake

Subject #2: El Siete Mares, Silver Lake

Instead of eating at the El Siete Mares (The Seven Seas) restaurant, we went for the take-out side next door, called El Siete Mares Playita (Little Beach). This is a favorite for the residents of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz and Atwater Village... with another 22 locations all over SoCal.

We ordered 2 fish ($2.29 each) and 2 shrimp ($3.29 each) tacos. Much pricier. These better be good I thought to myself. I hear the bell ring and the cashier signals me to pick up the order. I did a double take, as these tacos were huge. Tacos that were roided up like the MLB... daring you to finish both of them in under 10 mins. The tacos actually laughed at me. No wonder they were so expensive, it was filled with at least 3 big pieces of battered fish/5-6 shrimps, piled with cabbage and salsa. No joke, these were massive.

El Siete Mares Fish Taco

To an ant, this would be Mt. Everest. The fish taco was very tasty but the proportion of fish and cabbage to tortilla was just way off. Some major imbalance going on. I can understand that there are the more-for-your-money eaters and the taste-for-your-money eaters out there, but this was just ridiculous. I took out 2 pieces of fried fish and set them on the side so that I could enjoy my fish taco in a NORMAL manner.

El Siete Mares Shrimp Taco

Now time for the shrimp. Shrimp taco was still hot when I bit ito it, and the batter was quite light. It had excellent crunch and was very tasty.

Overall: With combos priced at $6-8, it's totally understandable. Prices are higher, but quantities more than compensate for it. You don't NEED rice or beans b/c the portions are very large. Chips and salsa are the perfect compliment. El Siete Mares is good. As of now, I'd eat the shrimp taco at TBE and ESM again.

And now for Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, in Los Feliz.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Los Feliz

Subject #3: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Los Feliz

I first came here on a friend's recommendation and have been eating here weekly. I've seen the same people here before too. This place is run by Joseph Cordova, who used to sell his tacos at at market in Atwater Village, and opened up BFTIE around July. Cordova speaks fluent Spanish, as does his mom, who usually works the cash register. They've got a eat-now-pay-later way there.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Sign

Walking in, you'll see that this place has a simple set-up. You've got the lady in the front frying tacos over a small round fryer. You've got the drink fridge behind the cashier. You've got the salsa bar to the left with 4-5 kinds, ranging from wimpy to ring-of-fire hot. You've got scattered stools, tables and a counter top for those that like to stand and eat. And then you've got the 3-item menu: fish ($1.50), shrimp ($2.00) or drinks. Unfortunately, you cannot get a drink taco. Might be bad.

Here's why I like BFTIE, compared to the other place. You pay and walk up the frylady, and tell her your order. She cooks the tortillas to a nice crispiness, with slight burn spots and adds either 1.5 pcs of fish or 3-4 pcs of shrimp. Definitely a smaller portion, but balance is extremely important to me when eating tacos. Then, you walk up to the bar and style your own taco. You start with the avocado salsa, then the finely shredded cabbage, your choice of wimpy -> ring-of-fire hot salsa, a nice radish relish which is new to me and the big tub of crema with a spout. You are in complete control. This makes people blame themselves for making a shitty taco vs. pointing fingers at Joseph and his frylady. I make my tacos with the avocado salsa, tons of cabbage, salsa and just a lil' bit of crema. And they are wonderful.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Fish Taco

Cordova is an ex-wholesale seafood guy, and his experience shows. He uses a type of farm-raised fish called basa, which is a type of catfish native to the Mekong Delta area. Because Joseph's batter is so light, you're actually able to taste the sweet flesh of the fish. It's not sandy/gritty tasting at all. The fish is fried perfectly. As you can see, I use the condiments sparingly, compared to TBE and ESM which gives you no option at all.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Shrimp Taco

Every time I eat the shrimp tacos, I always wonder where he gets it. It has a great sweetness and crunch to it that makes me want to eat more and more. The batter tends to be a little heavier on the shrimp b/c of the shrimp's small mass, but you can definitely taste it. J and Immaeatchu cannot refrain from ordering shrimp only. I myself, actually like the fish better.

Best fish tacos in Ensenada? I'm not sure – never been. Best fish taco in Los Feliz area, for me yes. BFTIE is addicting – I think about them every week. I find that some of the best places to eat at are always the ones with a simple business plan. Serve two type of tacos, but make sure they are the best they can be. At BFTIE, they do not serve beer, but you can drink out in the patio. Just run up to Cap n' Cork up the street for some good beer. My only caveat with BFTIE is that it hurts my wallet. If you have 4 shrimp tacos, like J usually does... that's $8 with no sides or drinks. But sometimes, you just need to cut to the chase. Cordova used to be more strict on the 1 taco-order-at-a-time rule when he first opened, but is more lenient now. But why risk the chance of making your tacos soggy. Just get one at a time and chill out there with a beer. Also, BFTIE doesn't have a phone number. Memorize their schedule like I have, everyday from 11-8 and closed on Mondays. Read more about them on this Chowhound thread.

In conclusion, all the tacos I've tried were delicious. If you want to get full, go to El Siete Mares. I like their fried shrimp taco, but haven't had their ceviche/cocteles, which I hear is tasty. If you want one of the LA originals and are looking for the best value, go to Tacos Baja Ensenada in East Los Angeles. The rice and beans are very good. But if you want to try a different style of tacos and ONLY tacos.... with basa fish, sweet shrimp, and the option of customizing your own taco, go to Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada. Again, all the places made me happy. Click image for a larger view on the fish taco analysis. I threw in Rubio's for the hell of it. It's not bad there but it's not that good. It's kind of a place I would go to if I found myself stuck in a mall food court with only a mongolian bbq, philly cheese steak grill and chinese/japanese/korean fusion place to choose from.

When I have time, I will add El Taco Nazo and Senor Fish (Little Tokyo) to the posting. Thanks for reading.

Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada
1650 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tues - Sun 11 am - 8 pm

Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 887-1980

El Siete Mares (Playita)
3131 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 665-0865