Elysian Valley, also known as Frogtown, isn’t always thought of as a place to open an ambitious restaurant, with nearby areas of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Atwater Village working as more well-known LA restaurant neighborhoods. But with the recently opened Lingua Franca and now Loreto, which comes from the LA Cha Cha Chá team, it’s clear that this quiet area next to the LA River speckled with offices and production spaces features some tremendous opportunities to open visually stunning restaurants.
Walking into Loreto, opening March 24, is like stepping into a portal — a sleek, high-design room where every detail seems pored over and thought out. Exposed wood rafters give the former warehouse a robust, timeless touch while the arresting bar offers sweeping golden shelves to display spirits and wine. Designer Lena Kohl imprints a stylish perspective blending midcentury modern furniture and accents (check out the wooden wine storage embedded into the banquettes) with industrial exposed brick that wouldn’t be out of place in Mexico City. And the spacious outdoor patio is still covered with loose sandy gravel, imparting a desert-meets-ocean vibe in the Sonoran side of the Gulf of California (sans water view).
As for the menu, cooks fling out upscale, polished takes on ceviches and tostadas that might comprise a few appetizers at other Mexican seafood-influenced spots, but occupy the vast majority of the bill of fare here. Chef Paco Moran leans on almost all Mexican seafood (except Maine lobster), incorporating Sinaloan shrimp, Baja scallops, and other fish from the Pacific. The judicious but highly effective use of salsa negra adds an umami punch to tostada mixtas and aguachile.
The impressive Torre (tower), built with shrimp, tuna, octopus, scallop, and uni, serves as a luxurious take on the Sinaloan classic. A tight list of hot botanas includes the spicy lobster torta ahogada, panko-crusted prawn taco with bacon morita aioli, and half-moon empanadas de camarón. Four kinds of zarandeado serve as the shareable mains, including fish of the day (currently branzino), octopus, shrimp, and lobster served with all the accoutrements: black refried beans, rice, quesadillas, pickled onions, and two kinds of salsa.
Cocktails come via Adam Ohler, who knew to pair salty, refreshing drinks with delicate but well-seasoned seafood. The margarita’s agave syrup is infused with sea salt instead of adding a salt rim, blending mezcal and tequila for an easy-sipping start. Ohler’s Garibaldi cocktail eschews a Negroni, which might overwhelm the seafood, for a drink rounded with orange juice, star anise, and Campari.
Mexican seafood has seen some new contenders recently, from Sinaloan expansion El Muelle 8 in Downey to the established but relocated Holbox, currently working out of a Downtown food truck. Loreto serves as an evening-only seafood destination while the outside, once it opens later this year, will operate as Mariscos Za Za Zá (the previous name for this restaurant). Za Za Zá focuses on affordable fresh seafood served from a window that’s meant to be enjoyed outdoors on the expansive patio.
Loreto is open Thursday to Monday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with eventual Tuesday and Wednesday service. Reservations are available on Resy and it’s located 1991 Blake Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, with $15 valet.