Lo Mejor del Zarandeado: Nayarit-Style Fish Bliss At Anaheim's Mariscos Los Primos
State College Boulevard in Anaheim has hosted something like a dozen Mexican seafood restaurants in the five years since I moved here. They all claim to be Sinaloa- or Nayarit-style restaurants, because those are the Pacific coast states with the strongest seafood traditions, but with the exception of Mariscos Licenciado #2, most of them have been mediocre places to eat syrupy sweet coctel de camarón estilo Albertsons and Van de Kamp's al mojo de ajo.
It's with that jaded eye, made blasé by stale tostada after stale tostada, that I went to Mariscos Los Primos, located approximately in my backyard, expecting not much at all. After all, that restaurant seems cursed. It's been a quinceañera hall, a dance club (until the residents complained), and a de facto men-only cantina with a misleading sign intimating it was family dining.
We sat down and ordered a round of micheladas and the specialty of the house, pescado zarandeado. This is a whole fish--in this case, robalo, or snook, sourced from the sweet waters of Mexico's Pacific coast, butterflied, rubbed with mayonnaise and soy sauce, placed in an iron cage, and grilled slowly over an open fire. It's a popular beach food from Sonora all the way to Nayarit, and our server smiled when we ordered it. She told us it takes thirty minutes to prepare, so we ordered a set of appetizers to while away the preparation time (and the beer).
Tostadas de jaiva, the first to come out, were strange threads of colored pollock, like fish spaghetti, with avocado and pico de gallo. Liberal application of Salsa Huichol and lime helped it along, but in general, these were a miss.
Botana de camarón cocido is the Mexican equivalent of Las Vegas buffet shrimp, except you don't have to peel them; the same small shrimp, boiled and served cold, with tomatoes, cucumbers, lime juice, and an amazing, piquant salsa de chile serrano. It was the perfect texture for the shrimp; you could dunk the shrimp and season it with the tart liquid, or you could drag the shrimp through it and set your mouth on fire with chile sludge.
We finished the appetizers and ordered another round of Victorias; my daughter complained of being cold after they switched on the industrial-strength air conditioner. When I went outside to get her a blanket from the car, the unmistakable odor of wood fire hung in the air, mixed with the scent of fish grilling. Was that--yes, it was--that's our fish!