Deep Blue: Mariscos Winner

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

As Figueroa Avenue winds its way up the hill toward Highland Park, the sleepy charm of Sycamore Grove Park hides a secret. Those in the know will recall that at the turn of the 20th century this infamous strip was home to a seedy collection of saloons and roadhouses, popular with both the patrons of the red light districts in nearby Garvanza as well as the bandits who preyed on them. However, far from furtive pleasures, the park is now the picture of bucolic repose, full of strollers, birthday piñatas, and one spectacular mariscos truck, El Mar Azul.

The menu at El Mar Azul is a model of simplicity. Once you get to the head of the line, you are either ordering one of the tostadas or a seafood cocktail. From a slightly faded sign, the truck spells out its treasures: abalone (abulon), crab (jaiva), octopus (pulpo), and shrimp (camaron) tostadas, plus one that is an mix of all four (mixtiada), and abalone, octopus, shrimp, and mixed seafood cocktails (cocteles).

All the tostadas and the cocktails are superb, highlighted by the generous pieces of fresh seafood. But my favorite has always been the tostada mixtiada. Hunks of seafood rest on a crispy corn tostada, swathed in a mysterious cream sauce and topped by a crown of slices of fresh avocado and dashes of hot sauce and lime juice. Proprietor Felipe Cejudo is reluctant to divulge the secret of his sauce (or cole slaw as some have described it), but it elevates his tostadas into a symphonic piece of cooking: the tangy, salty, creamy, and spicy flavors collude to form the most satisfying mariscos tostada in town. Perhaps Cejudo’s D.F. (distrito federal, a.k.a., Mexico City) origins are the reason behind the creamy sauce—the truck describes its offerings as “estilo D.F.,” or Mexico City style—but the tostadas inspire many addictive returns, often within the same trip.

Cejudo’s way with seafood is not his only surprise. For more than 17 years, as long as the truck has been parked at Sycamore Grove Park, he has maintained the same prices: two bucks for the tostadas (three for the mixed one) and five for the seafood cocktails. When asked how he has been able to perform this mind-bogglingly feat, Cejudo claims the answer is “top secret,” much like his prized sauce. Thankfully for his hungry patrons, it’s a good thing that his truck isn’t.

El Mar Azul
4702 N Figueroa St
Highland Park, CA 90042

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