Thursday, June 20, 2024

Loreto: Catch of the Day

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On a recent Saturday evening at Loreto, the new mariscos restaurant in Frogtown, the late-afternoon sunlight hits the matte red exterior of the newly transformed industrial warehouse.

“This bar wraps around, kind of in the shape of a wave that carries you out to the desert,” says coowner Alejandro Marin of the restaurant’s most prominent feature, which guides you to the tranquil outdoor patio. He notes that his wife, architect Lena Kohl, intended the design and color in the space as an homage to Baja, where dry, arid desert collides with two oceans.

Marin, who is from Mexico City and owns and operates four restaurants there, says he fell in love with the food of Baja after moving to Los Angeles. “Weirdly enough, there was a lot more exposure to that type of cuisine here than I ever got in Mexico City growing up,” he says.

Loreto and its casual daytime spot outside, Mariscos Za Za Zá, are the newest endeavors from Marin and the team behind downtown’s LA Cha Cha Chá—a crowd-pleasing rooftop destination with a menu Marin describes as democratic. “It’s a very balanced menu. It’s approachable,” he says.

With Loreto, they wanted to try something new: “We wanted to be more specific and more subjective.” This means executive chef Paco Moran committing to a predominantly seafood menu. Here, raw seafood is followed by more raw seafood. Spicy shrimp aguachile with avocado balances a sweet paloma cocktail. Ceviche Magdalena, a standout, is a vibrant green bowl of yellowtail tossed with honeydew, cucumber, Maui onion and bright green herbs like cilantro and basil. The menu transitions to tostadas and botanas, or snacks, like a fried prawn taco with pineapple and aioli.

The desserts are as inventive as you’d expect: for example, chocolate cake with milk chocolate crémeux, pecan toffee, pecan ice cream with carajillo foam, and shaved Oaxaca chocolate.

“Even though you’re in the middle of L.A., it has this eerie feeling of being apart from the city,” says Marin. “We just thought it was a beautiful place with a sense of community.”

1991 Blake Ave., Elysian Valley, loreto.la

VENICE

Bar Coucou This France-meets-Venice Beach bistro boasts “aperitif culture” while serving wood-fired California-inspired fare like Wagyu beef burgers, hanger steak frites, and vadouvan-spiced mussels in coconut broth. 218 Main St., coucou.la

CYPRESS PARK

Barra Santos. The team behind Found Oyster brings this adorable Portuguese wine bar with a concise menu of traditional dishes like salt cod fritters, head-on prawns in garlic vinho verde, and confit chicken piri-piri. The food is best enjoyed at the bar, paired with Spanish or Portuguese wine. 1215 Cypress Ave., barrasantosla.com

CULVER CITY

Ilé Bistro. Chef Tolu Eros brings fine-dining virtuosity and West African flavors to this casual build-your-own rice or soup bowl concept at Citizen Public Market. He sources ingredients from Nigeria for jollof rice and fragrant pepper soup. 9355 Culver Blvd., citizenpublicmarket.com

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