Where It All Goes South: A Better Taste of Ensenada

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

For a city with a large community of Mexicans and a good degree of familiarity with Baja California, it’s kind of surprising that there aren’t better options for Baja-style fish tacos here. The lightly battered, fried fillets of firm white fish (apparently mostly dogfish or shark), are served with cabbage, a selection of fresh salsas, and some kind of crema or mayo up and down the peninsula, though some point to Ensenada as the birthplace and epicenter of the dish.

Here it’s a different matter. For those trying to bring back the memories of that elusive fish taco had after a morning of surfing or on the way to watch the migrations of the grey whale in the Sea of Cortez, the dispiriting versions available at Wahoo’s or Senor Fish are meager reminders of the satisfying crunch of a Baja-style fish taco, perfect complement to the salty sea air, especially when washed down with a Negra Modelo. And no Baja fish taco experience is complete without the last act, inching sheepishly back to the cook, asking for one more.

For years, the only decent option around these parts has been Tacos Baja Ensenada, a casual joint on a modest end of historic Whittier Blvd., but unfortunately, a long haul for those who don’t live east of the L.A. River. However, in the past couple of years, fish taco lovers have been blessed with a new option for their cravings.

Ricky, the proprietor and namesake of Ricky’s Fish Tacos, brings a limited menu to his stand on the days he comes out, usually Thursday to Sunday. (Check his Twitter feed for the most up-to-date details.) Like all the best street-food vendors the world over, Ricky doesn’t traffic in unnecessary side businesses: Don’t bother asking him for burritos, quesadillas, or even seafood cocktails. He just makes Ensenada-style fish and shrimp tacos and aside from a home-made agua fresca, that’s it. Served on a warm corn tortilla, the light, tempura-fried tacos are a brilliant afternoon delight, and you won’t need anything else. The batter is full of flavor without overpowering the fresh fish, and all the classic Ensenada dressings are on offer: cabbage, a handful of fresh salsas, including a solid chipotle sauce, and a little crema to top it off.

Wedged into a crevice-like parking lot between a nail salon and a small apartment building on Virgil Blvd. just south of Sunset, Ricky’s spot is easy to miss unless you’re paying attention. His operation used to be more visible when he sported a rainbow-colored parasol down the block, but now he has erected a small tent where he and a friend preside over a hot cauldron of rippling oil next to a couple of white plastic tables and chairs. The ample fillets of fish and shrimp are tossed into the hot bath for a few minutes before they end up on your plate, where they hardly last much longer. Ricky only brings a limited supply of fish and shrimp, so make sure to get there before he runs out.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos

1400 Virgil Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Open Thursday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or until the fish and shrimp run out
@RickysFishTacos on Twitter
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