The ideal fish taco is a time-sensitive collision of hissing-hot battered fish, a shell puffed up around mild, sweet flesh; a tortilla or two; crunchy cabbage; and cool, slightly sour crema. It is time-sensitive because, if the diner doesn't scoop it up quickly and put it away, the crema melts, the tortilla becomes gummy, and the fish's shell deteriorates. There are many variables, the most precarious of which being the freshness of the fish itself. In our day, we've encountered plenty of specimens we would not feed to a cat.
Between half-hearted shopping and a show last weekend, we doubled up on fish tacos at two reasonably well-regarded institutions: Best Fish Taco in Ensenada, a local micro-chain based in Los Feliz, and just a five minute-drive away, El Siete Mares, a Silverlake stand with outdoor seating.
At the latter, the tacos ($1.50 apiece, just $1 on Tuesdays) come topped with a thatch of light green rabbit food over the curled up wands of fish. The salsa — a roasted, medium-spicy concoction — pairs well with chips, but we didn't bother adding any to the tacos. Just a glug of Tapatio and some lime. We ate well and enjoyed the setting: the whisk of cars, the sight of a small child with dirty feet clambering from table-top to table-top.
At Best Fish Taco in Ensenada, however, the tacos ($1.50 each as well) are smaller: tiny, potent nuggets of flavor nestled by twos or threes White Castle-style in cardboard containers. They arrive naked, just that blistered hunk of fish — a darker golden, yet softer and juicier inside than that of El Siete Mares — with not a solitary speck of avocado, cabbage, salsa, or crema in sight. You add those yourself from the bar, which is nice, we think.
There may be better fish tacos in the area, certainly the town, but between these two, Best Fish Taco in Ensenada takes the blue ribbon. And if you're YouTubin' in the slow train to work this morning, “Fishy Fishy,” a parody of Kreyashawn's “Gucci Gucci” stomach virus-in-video form, stars the victor of this contest.