The cultural drift of Los Angeles has always remained ahead of the game, certainly faster than the media is ever able to cover it, from the San Gabriel Valley to Little Ethiopia to the Sinaloan food trends that have made brown flight from South Central to Huntington Park and the Cliché mecca of Fontana.
When the Mexican community in Los Angeles heads out on a Saturday night, it’s likely they are going to dine on mariscos to the acute chordal blasts of trumpets, alto horns and valve trombones of the banda sinaloense group or drown fish-less sushi rolls in soy sauce thickened with wasabi paste and Tapatio at one of the popular Sinaloa-style sushi restaurants in LA.
But the latest Sinaloan trend is neither banda or bad sushi (guacala!) — it’s the gleaming, cylindrical towers of luxurious seafood items meticulously stacked and bathed in umami-rich sauces, industrial potions, and salsas.
The torres, or towers, are a mix of ceviches, sliced avocado and botanas (snacks) that are set inside a ring mold, whether purchased from a kitchen supply store or homemade from materials like PVC pipe, and given a blast of lime juice, garnishes, salsa negra, a sauce made with soy sauce, Maggi or Worcestershire mixed with lime, Clamato, chile powder, and seasonings.
This style of Sinaloan seafood comes from Los Mochis and nearby towns in northern Sinaloa where the flavors of the chuchería (candy shop) are standard: chamoy, Tajín (spicy fruit condiment) and tamarind, along with the aforementioned bottled and canned products.
The best seafood towers are a beautiful, symmetrical structure of raw and cooked shrimp, octopus, ceviches and pricey callo de haha (pen shell clams) — in Mexico you would also find sea snail and crab, of course, in LA we only have krab, the floppy strips of sweet surimi that are unfortunately, a big hit with the Mexican community. In LA you can get in on the Sinaloan lifestyle at these restaurants and trucks, where greedy eyes will stare lustily at your plate.
Top Mexican seafood destination Coni’Seafood is getting in on the Sinaloan tower scene as a means to serve up the excellent callo de hacha they’ve recently added to their list of quality imported seafood items. Their tower is a base of raw vegetables with a heap of raw and cooked shrimp, octopus, callo de hacha under a canopy of thick-sliced avocado. A murky and flavorful salsa negra is doused over the stout tower, forming a shallow pool of dipping sauce around the circumference with a garish of a head on shrimp twist.
3544 W Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, (310) 672-2339
Mariscos El Bigotón Truck
No other tower in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area displays more sturdy architecture than the pastelazo (cake), a perfectly set tower of fish and shrimp ceviches, chopped octopus, saw and cooked shrimp, callo de hacha and finely cut topping of avocado slices worthy of a cake boss. Owner Edgar Sanchez-Sanchez, a self taught coctelero (Mexican seafood cocktailer) who runs the truck with his father, has dedicated this special dish to his uncle who is battling cancer for the second time. The finishing touches are grilled peel and eat shrimp for this street food celebration of seafood treasures to nosh on with tostadas and hot sauce.
5458 Whittier Blvd, East Los Angeles, (323) 357-4269
Mariscos El Marinero
Fontana is fast becoming a hit for all things Sinaloa and no other cocktailer lays down more prime seafood items on a plate than La Patrona (boss lady), a sumptuous feast crafted at this Mazatlan-style seafood specialist. Ceviche forms the foundation with rows of raw and cooked shrimp, octopus, thin-soled purple onion, callo de hacha and chunks of surimi surrounded by a moat of salsa negra full of diced mango and cucumber. The fat tower is dusted with chile powder and finished with a fan of fresh avocado — there are a few other towers including one that’s pure callo de hacha and avocado in a puddle of lime and Maggi with raw shrimp, purple onions, and cucumbers.
17264 Foothill Blvd, Fontana, (909) 491-7033
Mariscos Los Dorados
Lynwood’s Mariscos Los Dorados offers several towers including the tostada cabrona (bad girl) whose pair of full pieces of callo de hacha on top grabs your attention, over a foundation of raw and cooked shrimp and diced vegetables. This beer can-width tower leans a little, with thin ribbons of surimi dangling at the bottom in an ample amount of a dark, transparent salsa negra. There are two seafood towers listed on the menu as tostadas with colorful names like the tostada cabrona, but in this case pieces of broken tostada are merely tools for taking down your glorious tower, one bite at a time.
3570 Martin Luther King Jr, Lynwood, (310) 631-2189