What is it with great Mexican seafood restaurants picking horrible locations in Orange? The second location of Ostionería Bahía continues to live a strip-mall existence near Orange Park Acres. Now we have the 2-month-old Mariscos Mocorito in a small shopping plaza just off Katella Avenue where the walls are gleaming white and the jukebox blasts banda sinaloense all afternoon. Problem is, the plaza is the kind that caters to seekers of garden fountains and light fixtures, not eats. A sign on the sidewalk does point the hungry to the dive, but let’s hope enough walk-in business comes through to keep the place open, as Mocorito is just the third true Sinaloan restaurant in the county.
Sinaloan seafood is legendary—bracing ceviches, epic fish tacos and the exhilarating aguachile, which sees butterflied shrimp in a chilled lemon-juice broth spiked with salsa and red onions, while cucumbers and tomatoes sit on the side ready to cool the palate. Mocorito (named after a town in Sinaloa that has sent more than a few folks to Southern California, including the family of my amigo Cheeser) makes all of these dishes—maybe not to the heights of Anaheim’s Mariscos Licenciado #2, but not a bad beginning for an upstart. Their tostadas de ceviche, while smaller in size than they should be, get smeared with so much pickled shrimp and fish that enough of them fall off to create a second tostada—an easy feat, given the basket of unlimited tostadas and saltines that appears on your table with each order. The fried-fish and shrimp tacos work, but much better is the marlin variety—make sure to ask for it as a taco gobernador, which finds the fleshy fish stuffed into a quesadilla alongside tomatoes and peppers to great effect.
And then there’s the aguachile—splayed on a flat plate, chili pepper sprinkled in the broth and on the shrimp. No dish is better to fight the July heat: puckering sourness, refreshing coolness, with a heat that starts slowly but intensifies with every bite. You don’t even need to try the seven hot sauces on the table—Mocorito’s aguachile zings that well. And the plateful of lemon juice left over is perfect to soak the saltines and tostada bits in, a messy effort you won’t regret. Make this an aguachile summer, so at least one part of your life finds satisfaction in these sweltering times.
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Mariscos Mocorito, 320 E. Katella Ave., Ste. H, Orange, (714) 771-0050.
This column appeared in print as "An Aguachile Summer."