Just like in San Diego, fish tacos can be a matter of serious debate in Los Angeles. And, yes, a $0.99 fish taco is absolutely worth fighting over.
These dirt cheap treats are available at Tacos Ensenada as a Taco Tuesday special, and they’re more than “pretty good for less than a buck.” If you are sensible like me, you may judge Taco Ensenada’s Taco de Pescado to be in the top tier of Baja-style fish tacos in L.A.
As a San Diegan, I’m a fish taco traditionalist: I prefer ’em with a light and thin tempura-like coating as served by Tacos Ensenada. However, many Angelenos prefer the Taco Nazo chain and their thick-battered fish prepared in the style of a British pub. Others prefer Ricky Piña’s food truck which claims a family recipe for its fish, generously encrusted with a sturdy, brown sheath. And, yes, there exists a stubborn contingent of Rubio’s devotées who value consistency and convenience. There’s no reaching the latter group.
After visiting multiple Tacos Ensenada locations, I have a good sense of what makes their fish taco supreme: a combination of moist, mild-flavored firm white fish (basa, they’ve told me) fried in a perfectly-seasoned golden batter imparting a light crunch, with a harmonious ratio of toppings, and white corn tortillas still hot from the plancha.
Taco Ensenada’s Taco de Camarón is prepared the same way, but with shrimp. It too is phenomenal, though I prefer the louder marine flavor of the fish taco.
Also served here is a riff on Marisco Jalisco’s Taco Dorado de Camarón, and even though it is an inferior cover of the original, the source song is good enough that you don’t mind that the cabbage-chile salsa on top is more watery, or that the potatoes and shrimp within the crunchy tortilla shell are more aggressively seasoned. The essence of Raul Ortega’s masterpiece is there, even if the execution is a bit off.
Don’t let my criticism of the taco dorado keep you from Tacos Ensenada. The price is right and the tacos are much better than you would ever expect. This location off of old Route 66 in Duarte is their flagship store, and hosts a very long line on Taco Tuesday. I waited for nearly 40 minutes at dinner time to order and get my food. I do not usually wait in such lines, yet this is one place where I could probably be convinced to do so again.
Taco Scores: Tacos de Pescado (98), Taco de Camarón (94), Taco Dorado de Camarón (90)
Jay Recommends: Taco de Pescado, Taco de Camarón
Tacos Ensenada; 2171 E Huntington Dr, Duarte, CA 91010; Monday-Sunday from 9:00am-10:00pm; (626) 359-4959; ordertacosensenada.com (Other locations throughout the Los Angeles metro region.)