For geographical reasons that are beyond me, a 10-minute drive south of LAX will land you in a section of town that holds one of the best collection of Mexican seafood restaurants in Los Angeles. Draw a small circle on a map where the nebulous borders of Inglewood, Lennox and Hawthorne cross and you will find it includes such solid marisquerias as El Puerto Escondido, Mariscos Moni, and the highly-regarded Mariscos Chente, roughly forming a Bermuda Triangle of mariscos inside of which many others are hidden. One of my current favorites is the tiny La Sirena Azul, which lies in a quiet stretch of Century Boulevard located in South Inglewood. It’s not so much a restaurant as a kitchen with few tables out front, flanked on either side by a dusty jukebox and a beer cooler. From the dining room you can see large pots of stew bubbling on the stove and the remains of freshly shucked oyster halves lining the counter. La Sirena’s chef and owner hails from north of Puerto Vallarta, a city which prides itself on it’s seafood, so it’s not much of a surprise to see the menu is composed of the quintessential dishes from the Mexican coast: ceviches, cocteles, aguachiles and pescado frito. Come around 4 o’clock, and you will find the place packed with Latino workers craving a refreshing meal after a long day.
On almost every table you’ll see severals tostadas de ceviche, which can be had for only a $1.50 each. A crispy tortilla is topped with either pescado (tilapia), camaron (shrimp), pulpo (octopus) or abúlon (abalone) then mixed with lime juice, tomatoes, cilantro and onions and topped with a few slivers of avocado. The ceviche de camaron in particular, is one of the best I’ve had, the sweet tender shrimp balancing the acid of the lime juice nicely. Further improvements can be had with a fews shakes of their home-made hot sauce, which sits on the table disguised in refilled Tapatio bottles, though La Sirena’s version is much spicy and thicker than the commercial hot sauce it replaces. Also popular is the michelada, a oddly-quenching combination of beer, Clamato, lime and salt, which can be best described as the cerveza-based cousin of a Bloody Mary. The cocteles, seafood cocktails, arrive in massive glass goblets brimming with cilantro, avocado and a briny broth that is enhanced by the unlikely, but tasty, combination of what seems to be ketchup and orange juice. A spoon comes alongside, though most prefer scooping up massive hunks of seafood with the provided basket of tortilla chips.
If you want to venture into true soup category, then you’d be best to order the caldo de siete mares, alliteratively translated as the soup of seven seas. A bowl the size of the a hard-hat is filled a simmering oregano-tinged tomato and fish broth chock full of rough chunks of halibut, with skin and bone intact, clams, shrimp, octopus, and finally, meaty crab legs that jut out from the surface at menacing angles. The broth itself is quite mild, strengthen if you wish by the addition of onions, cilantro or dried chiles. The most reasonable way to eat this soup though is with your hands, cracking crab legs and sucking the tender bits of fish that fall from the bone, while a pile of discarded crustacean carcasses amasses on your plate. Seafood may be a more dainty affair for some, but here it is served in it’s rawest form (literally). A more extravagant meal can certainly be found at nearby Mariscos Chente, but the food here is fresh, flavorful, and homey in it’s own right. It’s the kind of place that makes you understand why savoring an icy beer and plate of ceviche as the sun sets may be one of the best after work rituals this city has to offer.
La Sirena Azul
4545 W Century Blvd
Inglewood, CA 90304