There's a little restaurant in Bell Gardens doing fantastic stuff with seafood. El Coraloense's walls are painted bright blue, the decor is fish-themed, and the chef is younger than most of the people reading this article. But the food is serious business.
Natalie Curie, who runs the kitchen, has one parent from Nayarit and one from Sinaloa. If you believe in such things, that means seafood cookery runs in her veins, as those are two states known far and wide for their excellent fish. Curie's dishes are often not traditional, but when she plays with form, it's thoughtful and smart. And usually successful.
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There are some gimmicky items on the menu: The Coco Loco is served in a coconut, with an umbrella. There are lobster nachos. One dish is called Viagra.com. These are bits of frippery that might sometimes distract from the more serious side of the menu.
The best way to dive in is to try the tostada sampler. Three ceviches will arrive, all different seafoods topped with various aiolis and salsas, and sometimes even fruits and nuts. It's a great culinary education, especially for anyone who thinks they've become jaded about seafood.
And honestly, no judgment if you get the lobster nachos, too.
6600 Florence Ave., Bell Gardens; (562) 776-8800, elcoraloense.com.