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Meet the Fine-Dining Chef Out of Oaxaca Doing Mariscos That Will Blow Your Mind This Saturday

11:48 AM PDT on May 2, 2023

Francisco Aguilar and his cousin, Alexis Chacon. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

TACO MADNESS, Presented by Bud Light Chelada, is L.A.'s first and biggest taco festival. All of L.A.'s heaviest hitting taquerías will be in one place for one day only! The 21 + event is happening this Saturday, May 6, at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles. Ticket sales proceeds will support L.A. TACO's award-winning street-level

Get your ticket here

We initially spotted Simón L.A. parked on a Santa Monica Boulevard block in West L.A.’s Sawtelle neighborhood. The former fine-dining chef Francisco Aguilar’s adventurous menu of coastal Mexican specialties immediately stood out among the street’s concentration of Oaxacan markets, Persian empires, and long-standing sushi-ya. 

Smoked tomatillo aguachile negro. Leche de tigre-laced ceviche de pulpo. Aguachile de ribeye. Fish al pastor. Tacos with soft shell crab and the golden fried regional specialty of pescadillas served over a patch of black bean paste.

Recipes that backed the plain print above the truck’s skull-and-bones graphic that read: “Mariscos Chingones.” And all done on four wheels.

Aguilar, who worked at Oaxaca’s famous rooftop restaurant Pitiona before charting his path in L.A., was a flurry of activity inside this big blue whale of a lunch-wagon, and aided by his cousin, Alexis Chacon. Soon, he passed over a bowl of his singingly rich, tangy aguachile, clean, fat shrimp bobbing above its inky brim, with resounding heat that followed us home. 

Simon's fish al pastor taco, photo: Javier Cabral
Pescadillas at Simón L.A. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

Beyond incredibly crushable, crispy fish tacos were served on fresh handmade tortillas, both those of the Baja breed and a pescatarian's pastor speckled with crispy fried and grilled onions beside a warm wedge of sweet pineapple. Wide-mouthed jars of habanero-carrot salsa, salsa macha, and salsa piña, all meant to be paired with different tacos as the labels attested, stood ready in the truck’s armory. If you're lucky, they'll also have their salsa de chicharrón which deserves an article in itself.  

Our neighborhood’s selfish dreams of keeping this inspired, high-quality menu close to home did not last; Simón, deserving to be loved widely beyond what our wee western boundaries with their sporadic foot traffic could offer, split for Silver Lake and wider fame, leaving us with another Kato-sized hole in our hearts.

Today, Simón can be found daily on Sunset Boulevard at the triangle of numerous renowned businesses and restaurants. Aguilar has received rightful recognition for his incredible sourcing and brazen recipes, which include new weekly specialties–such as fish milanesa inside a tetela and shrimp memelas a la diabla, in both L.A. TACO and from L.A. Times critic Bill Addison.

Mariscos, this flavorful and fresh, in thrilling recipes that are regionally diverse and nuanced by the hand of a creative kitchen professional, rise as a testament to L.A.’s position as an international culinary colossus. A place where a talent like Aguilar heads to envision and impress from a moving vehicle while shedding the bonds that fine dining demands. This is food made in and for a free Los Angeles, convincing us that such a thing may still exist.

Aguilar is bringing his dynamic, critically acclaimed mariscos to L.A. TACO’s TACO MADNESS, presented by Bud Light Chelada this Saturday, May 6, at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Get your tickets right here so you can try it yourself and join us in an evening celebration capped by DannyLux, Pachyman, and Grupo Folklórico de USC performances. Get your tickets here.

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