This Colombian Rice Dish Puts Paella to Shame

Find that, plus shark stew, snapper ceviche, and more at La Perla del Pacifico, the Tumaco-style seafood spot that’s back and better than ever

Less than a year into writing my Street Gourmet LA blog, back in 2008, I came across a Colombian seafood restaurant that specialized in the rare regional style of Tumaco, Colombia—the last town on the country’s Pacific coast before you hit Ecuador. The restaurant was called La Perla del Pacifico, and it was hidden in the back of North Hollywood’s La Fiesta Outlet Mall. And like most Latin American restaurants that serve obscure regional dishes and set up shop outside the comfort zone of even the most adventurous eaters, it closed in 2010.

Six months ago, however, La Perla del Pacifico reemerged, this time inside the East L.A. space that once housed Cancun Olé, a former nightclub that’s a dead ringer for the Babylon—the club where Frank Lopez tried to whack Tony Montana in Scarface. Here, La Perla del Pacifico reopened with little fanfare—just a colorful banner (until they save up for the sign) and lots of hope. Justo Gomez and his wife Ana Milena have never lost their passion for the beach cuisine of Tumaco, and it shows as the food is even better than it was back in 2010.

The menu is identical to the restaurant’s 2008 version:  encocados (seafood in a coconut, tomato, achiote, and ahi amarillo sauce), seco de toyo or piangua (shark or mussel stew), and arroz con mariscos, a seafood and rice dish that’ll make you forget that it’s hard to get good paella in L.A. The sancocho de pescado, red snapper in a creamy stew of ahi amarillo, has brighter flavors than before, and the ceviche—made with red snapper and aji amarillo, lime, and a splash of white wine—is rounded out by cherry tomatoes and a mild, green ají picante sauce. It’s good—real good. Let’s hope this incarnation of La Perla del Pacifico is here to stay.

La Perla del Pacifico, 5219 E. Beverly Bl., East L.A., (323) 331-6917