Hidden Aguachile at Tacos y Mariscos Sinaloa #2

Hidden Aguachile at Tacos y Mariscos Sinaloa #2

Tacos y Mariscos Sinaloa #2 (the first one is in Anaheim) belongs to the genre of Mexican eateries that infuriate me: the dives that masquerade as a regional restaurant. A thorough look through the menu finds no Sinaloan specialties, but instead a hybrid of Tex-Mex (fajitas, nachos), Cal-Mex (burritos, enchiladas), tacos, eggs and even hamburgers. One house salsa can't decide if it's going to evolve into guacamole or stay as a green salsa; the red is watery and features too much cilantro. And the chips provided have more salt than the Dead Sea.

Only after reading through the menu again and again will you find anything distinctive: camarones ahogados en chiltepín. But the name is a lie--a delicious, delicious lie.

Chiltepín, of course, is the tiny peppers as small as a pinky nail but with a heat that only habanero tops. It's native to the border region, even swings down to Sinaloa--but the above dish doesn't feature the pepper, despite what it's called.

Instead, the meal is a proper aguachile, the legendary seafood treasure of Sinaloa that's ceviche writ large: butterflied shrimp marinated in lime juice, tossed with raw onions and a furious salsa. Tacos y Mariscos Sinaloa #2 uses a serrano-based salsa and even leaves in chunks of the vicious chile, just to keep you honest. At $12, it's one of the cheaper aguachiles around, and the addition of orange slices creates a great Mexican dessert: sweet, chilled, spicy. The restaurant is just off the 5 freeway, and the aguachile is reason enough to ditch traffic for half an hour to refresh your soul.

But chiltepín this is not.

Tacos y Mariscos Sinaloa #2, 1620 E. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 835-6227.


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