99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Coni’Seafood

photo by Anne Fishbein

If you’ve driven all the way to Inglewood to seek out Coni’Seafood, chances are you’re here for the snook. That snook, or pescado zarandeado, is the dish that has garnered the most adoration from devotees of chef Sergio Peñuelas, and there’s no doubt the whole split, grilled, tender white fish is one of the city’s great seafood dishes. But really, it’s only the beginning of what this small, slate-gray restaurant has to offer. In a dining room one wag describes as resembling “the Flintstones’ living room,” there are smoked marlin tacos, which are like the best tuna melt ever, only in taco form. There are all manner of cocteles, such as the ceviche marinero, a jumble of shrimp marinated in lemon, cucumber, cilantro and tomato, topped with hunks of sweet mango and bathed in a wicked, dusky “black sauce.” Then there are the camarones, giant, head-on shrimp that come in many different variations of sauce: diablo for the spice lovers; borrachos — in a broth made from tequila, lime, cilantro and crushed peppers — for the hungover. There’s a brightness and complexity and pop to this food that makes all of it — not just the snook — well worth the pilgrimage.

-- Besha Rodell