When Lent began last Wednesday, Latin American restaurants all over Los Angeles started serving up seafood dishes to accommodate God-fearing souls and their gastronomic sacrifices. All things considered, observant Catholics will hardly suffer. I can't count all of the new fantastic seafood options that are being served now around town, especially on Fridays. Even if you aren’t giving anything up for Lent you can still participate in the feasting. Here’s a Latin-flavored Lenten cuisine tour for all you hungry Pilgrims out there.
Argentina: Tuna empanadas are the tradition in Argentina for those abstaining from meat during the six weeks before Easter, and Mercado Buenos Aires in the heart of L.A.’s Porteño country—Van Nuys—is a sure bet. Their version is stuffed with a stew of canned tuna, tomatoes, and peppers, and you know they have to be good to convince Argentinos to give up steak. >> Mercado Buenos Aires, 7540 Sepulveda Bl., Van Nuys, 818-786-0522.
Guatemala: Every fast deserves a sweet reward, and what’s sweeter than Amalia’s torrejas? It's a Guatemalan sweet bread broiled in cinnamon-spiked cane sugar and accented with raisins. >> Amalia’s Restaurant, 751 N. Virgil Ave., East Hollywood, 323-644-1515, amaliasrestaurant.com.
Mexico: This is the time of year when dried shrimp patties with cactus strips floating in a rich sauce of tomatoes and chiles land on the menu of Mexican restaurants all over L.A. Two restaurants that make excellent versions every year are La Casita Mexicana and Rocio’s Mole de Los Dioses. Friday is the day for tortitas de camaron—that’s really why it’s called Good Friday. >> La Casita Mexicana, 4030 Gage Ave., Bell, 323-773-1898, casitamex.com; Rocio’s Moles de Los Dioses, 8255 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley, 818-252-6415, moleofthegods.com.