Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taco Tour: El Parian, Mariscos 4 Vientos, Tacos Sinaloa - Los Angeles, CA

Matthew and I went on a taco tour of LA. Just kidding. I think I seriously would have mapped out a system where we would hit up five taco stands and eat a taco at each stop, but our choices were limited since it was lunch time and a lot of the taco stands set up shop only at night. I compiled a list for fish tacos, shrimp tacos and blue corn quesadillas that we could try, knowing realistically we could only eat at most at two places. I was looking for a good carne asada place besides King Taco, but couldn't find anything notable. During our 5:30 am walks, Aran told me about El Parian and said her coworkers raved about their carne asada tacos.

So stop 1 on our list was El Parian. It's on Pico on the way to the Convention Center (a couple blocks before the 110 freeway), coming from Koreatown. We went around 11 am and were bummed because it looked closed, but the main entrance was to the right of the gated entrance, and thankfully for us, it was open. I thought it would be like King Taco where you order at the counter and sit down, but this was a sit down restaurant with a waitress. The waitress was really nice and brought out chips and salsa for us. The chips look like the kind you get at the supermarket, but the salsa was tasty.
Matthew got the carne asada taco and I got the carnitas taco. We kind of had sticker shock because the tacos were $2.85 each. I was used to tacos being $1 to at most $1.50 each. But when the tacos arrived, we realized that these tacos were a lot bigger than street tacos. They double up on the handmade tortillas and fill them with so much meat that you can actually make two huge tacos out of one. So basically you get 2 tacos for $2.85. Not bad at all! Here's my carnitas taco. It was pretty tasty - very tender and flavorful.
Here's the carne asada taco. This had chunks of charbroiled steak. They give you a lot of meat. Matthew said he preferred the carnitas over the carne asada.
We asked the waitress for suggestions and she said that their birria ($8.25) was good. It's a Gudalajara-style, chile-rubbed, fire-roasted goat that is stewed in a clear, earthy broth that sings of cloves, peppers, tomatoes and other spices. I didn't realize this till after the fact, but Jonathan Gold recently wrote an article about El Parian's birria and said it measured up to some of the best birria he's tried in Guadalajara. So we blindly walked into the best birria in all of LA. Sweet! I normally don't like goat because it tastes a bit gamey or has an odd smell, but this one wasn't like that at all. The meat fell right off the bone and the soup was really flavorful. I think I might have a hunkering for this next time I'm down with a bad cold. This large bowl was accompanied by a plate of cilantro, onions, lime and radishes and some fresh, hot tortillas. She also recommended we use some of their homemade hot sauce, which was on every table. We put this on our carnitas and carne asada tacos as well. Yummo! The waitress periodically came by and refilled our tortillas with ones straight from the grill. So what started out as a plan to eat only 1 taco each and try a bit of the birria dish, ended up with us consuming like 5 tacos each. Oh boy! Those hot, homemade tortillas were so addicting though and the birria was surprisingly tasty. Try the birria dish or if you're not sure you'll like it, they have birria tacos too. You will not be disappointed.

Stop number 2 was Mariscos 4 Vientos in East LA. I found out about this place through this blog. He had my attention at deep fried shrimp tacos. I've tried tacos where they have battered, fried shrimps in them, but not a shrimp taco that is completely fried. It warranted a visit. I think they Mariscos 4 Vientos started out with a taco truck but opened up an actual sit down place on the corner of Olympic and S. Lorena Street. My understanding is that the taco truck still does business nearby. When we got there during lunch time, there was ample parking available in the lot.
Here's the extensive menu, featuring a lot of shrimp. They had tostadas, grilled and fried shrimp plates, oysters and even hot dogs and hamburgers. Obviously, we did not venture all the way out here for the latter options, so we stuck with the shrimp tacos. As soon as we sat down, they brought out a freshly fried batch of hot tortilla chips with salsa and lime. Holy moly, the fried tortilla chips were awesome. The salsa also had pieces of seafood in it. If I wasn't so stuffed already, I would have done some serious damage to these chips.
We decided to get one deep fried taco each. It comes piping hot with sliced avocado and house salsa on top. The tacos were only $1.50 each. What a steal.
Here's what it looked like inside. There were chunks of shrimp, which looked like it was battered as well. I couldn't really tell what was inside. I don't know if it was because we were still so full, but I couldn't see myself eating more than one of these tacos. It's very tasty but also a bit heavy and you probably shouldn't eat too much of these in one sitting. =) I'm really glad I got to try these though, it was a great find.
A few nights before this, I had a chance to try the Taco Sinaloas taco truck in Koreatown after another gluttonous night of eating. This truck is on 8th and Irolo, near the Jons Marketplace and across the street from R Bar. I think there's also a Taco Sinaloas in Highland Park and in Torrance so I'm not sure if they are all affiliated or what.
We ordered five carne asada tacos. They had the smaller street tacos you would typically find at King Taco. They had vats of hot sauces on the side that you can douse on to your liking as well. Honestly, it was freezing that night and I was too cold eating this outside to really taste anything. It's cheap ($1 each), easy to find in Koreatown and they are open late. Enough said.
El Parian
1528 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Maricos 4 Vientos
3332 E. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Tacos Sinaloa
3334 West 8th Street (in front of Jons Marketplace)
Los Angeles, CA 90005

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