Recent Discovery: Mariscos El Jato

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During these consecutive rainy days, it’s important to remember that summer is, in fact, near. We suggest a Boyle Heights find, Mariscos El Jato, which is about as close as you’ll get to the dog days right about now. With fresh seafood and cold beer, the only thing missing is the feel of toes in the hot sand. This is Boyle Heights, not Ensenanda, but the mix-up is understandable.

Like many authentic Mexican eateries in East Los Angeles, Mariscos El Jato gives off a certain machismo charm. Its tie-dyed exterior is adorned with bright murals of soccer playing goats decked in Chivas jerseys alongside obligatory paintings of scantily clad women. Inside is more of the same:  televisions rolling the day’s fútbol highlights on repeat, young waitresses wandering between tables, decor reminiscent of a Mexican Ed Hardy (Eduardo, then?). No doubt, in outward appearance, this is a boy’s club. A place where world weary men venture after work for a frosty beer, a good meal, and frank conversation. It may come as a surprise to an outsider, then, that the food served here is delicate, refreshing and—dare we say—refined.

Entering the restaurant, guests must first pass through an adjoining seafood market that hums with customers, serving as a discernible indicator to what Marsicos El Jato does best. Here, cold preparations are the main focus. The tostada mixta: tender slices of octopus colored a deep purple, shrimp steamed just enough to bring out their pink hue, and small, sweet oysters that slide down the throat. Precooked imitation crab is thankfully absent. It is rare to find mariscos not overcooked to rubbery oblivion, or worse yet, drowned in a pool of salt and citrus. There is neither here, only the simplicity of the sea, mixed briskly with lime, cilantro, and onions. Most tables sport at least one large crystal goblet of mariscos cocteles, consisting of seafood floating in a homemade cocktail sauce thinned with lemon juice and a few spices, making for a piquant combination.

To soak up the buzz of a few beers, El Jato’s tacos dorados de camarron, fried shrimp tacos, are among the best in the city. The outer tortilla shell is crisp; tinged with the taste of hot corn oil and begging for Tapatio. Inside is a solitary massive shrimp that melts on the tongue. The tacos come layered with buttery slivers of avocado—a topping that seems to find itself in almost all El Jato’s dishes (we imagine they go through as many avocados as they do fish). The kicker? A platter of five tacos costs just $6.

Mariscos El Jato
2936 East 4th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 264-6590 ?