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The Five Best Pescados Zarandeados in Los Angeles

Pescado zarandeado is a grilled, butterflied whole fish marinated in a mix of salt, chiles, citrus, and, in some places, achiote paste. It's a flavor bomb that is cooked in steel baskets over charcoal or wood fire. L.A. is the best city in the country to find this dish... if you know where to look.

11:31 AM PDT on October 9, 2023

    Here's where you'll find the best pescado zarandeado in Los Angeles.

    When people plan on “getting mariscos,” a few iconic preparations typically come to mind: ceviche, tostadas, shrimp or fish tacos, mojarra frita, and perhaps a coctel de camarones.

    But thanks to the large Mexican population and its cultural influence on Los Angeles, you'll also find somewhat lesser known regional dishes in the area, including pescado zarandeado. 

    Pescado zarandeado (translated to “shaken fish”) is a grilled whole fish that is first butterflied and marinated in a mix of salt, chiles, citrus, and, in some places, achiote paste.

    The fish is then cooked in a metal basket over smoldering charcoal and brought to your table whole, allowing diners to flake the flavorful meat off the fish’s bones.

    Typically, it is served with several accompaniments: limes, salsas, sliced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes, as well as tortillas or mesquite-grilled bean tacos. The marinade and grilling technique gives the dish a rich, sweet, smoky flavor that is instantly addictive. 

    According to legend, the dish originated in pre-Hispanic times in Mexcalitlán, a small island in Mexico's state of Nayarit. But like many Mexican dishes, the scores of regional differences and distinct family recipes make each preparation unique.

    Here are some of the best places in Los Angeles to try pescado zarandeado for yourself.

    Mariscos El Kora De Nayarit

    Located in El Sereno, this unassuming restaurant has been in the same location on Huntington Drive for 22 years, where Estela Lopez first opened it. Now her son, Jarmi, operates the restaurant. He recently expanded it to a location on the Venice boardwalk. 

    In contrast to most other zarandeado establishments, that typically use robalo (snook) for the dish, this restaurant opts to use barramundi (also known as Asian sea bass or giant sea perch). However, depending on the season, they also use huachinango (northern red snapper).

    According to Jarmi, the fish is seasoned with salt and three types of chiles, following a recipe originating from the mountains of Nayarit, which is the family's ancestral home. The restaurant is named after the Cora people, also known as Kora, an indigenous community in Nayarit to which the Lopez family has ties. 

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    The restaurant is also known for its micheladas and a signature dish - camarones a la Kora, their tangy take on camarones a la diabla, which comes heavily spiced with their trademark blend of chiles. Enjoy your mariscos on the back patio, where the pescado zarandeado is cooked in baskets over mesquite on the outdoor grill. 

    4863 Huntington Dr N. Los Angeles, CA 90032. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 78, 179, or 665 - “Huntington/El Sereno (westbound)” or "Huntington/Eastern (eastbound)."

    Coni'Seafood

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    One of the most well-known mariscos restaurants in Los Angeles, the story of Coni'Seafood’s begins in a backyard in Inglewood in 1987, where it was initially known as “Mariscos Chente.”

    First opened by Vicente ”Chente” Cossio, who comes from Acaponeta in Nayarit, the business is now operated by his daughter, Connie Cossio, who sources her products directly from Mexico.

    The restaurant has received due accolades from local publications for years, including a Bib Gourmand recognition from the Michelin Guide, which prominently adorns the walls in the front dining room. Connie also operates a second location on Centinela in West L.A., which has become somewhat of a celebrity haunt recently. According to Cossio's niece, Liz, “it’s still totally a family business,” despite the success. 

    Start the meal with the ceviche marinero, their version of ceviche negro, prepared with raw shrimps tossed with lemon, cucumber, tomato, onion, and mango. Wash your food down with the tasty micheladas, prepared with Clamato and served in mason jars rimmed with chile and lime. 

    The fish used for their pescado zarandeado is robalo (snook), butterflied and marinated with aioli, garlic, and a mix of chiles. It is then grilled in baskets in the restaurant’s narrow kitchen.

    It comes out flaky but still tender, and covered in its own juices. The dish is served with tortillas, sliced red onions and cucumbers, and a small bowl of addictive and sweet caramelized onions. 

    3544 W Imperial Hwy. Inglewood, CA 90303. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 120 - “Imperial/Yukon.”

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    Mariscos Mi Lindo Nayarit 

    This restaurant, a local favorite in Florence, used to be a car repair shop until Alicia Ramirez transformed it shortly after the Los Angeles Riots. Traces of the location’s past are still visible in the metal, roll-up garage doors that you see.

    “We started as a truck here," says Paul Herrera, Alicia's son, who currently operates the original location on Florence Avenue. "Then we came and took this spot over, and it just grew and grew.”

    The family has since opened a second location (Mi Lindo Nayarit #2) nearby on South Central Avenue; in addition to a takeout-only spot, as well. 

    The pescado zarandeado here is made with robalo (snook) and seasoned with salt, lemon, soy sauce, and a blend of chiles. It’s then grilled over mesquite coals and served with tortillas, rice, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, onions, avocados, and an intensely spicy and bright salsa verde. 

    The rest of the menu also faithfully reflects the regional Nayarit style of preparing mariscos, with the ceviche featuring julienned carrots for texture. The restaurant is especially busy on the weekends, when you can enjoy lively (and very loud) banda music. 

    1020 E. Florence Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90001. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Lines 53, 102, or 111 - “Florence/Central.”

    Mariscos Nayarit

    Located a stone’s throw from Plaza Mexico in Lynwood off Imperial Highway, this restaurant is always full of families, who come to enjoy the mariscos and conjunto bands that play here. 

    “I’m number one, and that’s it,” quipped the owner, Enrique (he declined to give his last name).

    The restaurant has no social media presence or website and only seems to attract customers by word of mouth. Even the phones seem to go to a voicemail account that isn’t set up. 

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    “What you see here is the same way that it’s been for 33 years,” Enrique says with a hint of pride.

    The menu is a single sheet of paper with little in the way of descriptions, much less photos of the dishes. As soon as you sit down, a server brings you a stack of perfectly fried tostadas and a chunky salsa verde, similar to the sauce used in an aguachile. 

    Like many restaurants, they use robalo (snook) for the pescado zarandeado, but depending on the season, they will also use pargo or corvina for the dish, as well.

    The fish is prepared in an outdoor grill adjacent to the semi-enclosed patio where the seating for the restaurant is located; you can smell the mesquite burning while you wait for your food to come out. It is served on a metal platter with tortillas, cucumbers, onions, limes, and a mild tomato salsa. 

    The various ceviches are also popular with clients; an order of the ceviche mixta with shrimp, fish, and octopus (or a tostada) is a must-have. 

    2983 E Imperial Hwy. Lynwood, CA 90262. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 120 - “Imperial/State” or Bus Lines 60 and 251 - "Imperial/Long Beach."

    Mariscos Martin 

    Of all the mariscos restaurants on this list, Mariscos Martin’s pescado zarandeado is the most heavily seasoned. While the recipe is a closely guarded secret, the fish comes out bright red, possibly seasoned with chiles or achiote paste.

    Run by the Robledo family, the business operates in two locations: Baldwin Park and La Puente on Valley Boulevard. Expect a weekend wait and possibly a struggle finding parking, but once seated, you will find it well worth the pain.

    Other than their pescado zarandeado, which is prepared with huachinango (red snapper), the restaurant also offers filete zarandeado (a tilapia filet), and camarones zarandeado.

    The plates are accompanied by tortillas, limes, rice, a small side salad (which you can ask to substitute for French fries), and extremely rich refried beans. The zarandeado is also served with the restaurant’s variation of salsa macha, an addictive, smoky, oil-based salsa made with dried chiles. 

    Bring cash. Or if you forget, there is an ATM located in the restaurant. 

    13430 Valley Blvd. La Puente, CA 91746. Closest transit lines and stop: Foothill Transit Lines 194 and 282 - "Valley/Vineland."

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