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EATS: Restaurant Reviews and News | FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Get Your Hooks Into Some Light, Tasty Mexican Seafood

June 18, 1998|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

When I walked into the new Westside outpost of the beloved Boyle Heights Mexican seafood restaurant La Serenata de Garibaldi, all I could think was: What happened to the stunning mural of "Les Desmoiselles du Avignon" that covered the walls of Picasso, the cafe formerly housed here? It must have been plastered over, I speculated sadly, noting the now vibrantly colored stuccoed walls and the balcony festooned with potted geraniums.

This same Santa Monica space has gone from Italy (Fama) to the Mediterranean (Picasso) and now to Mexico. And with Border Grill just across the way, 4th Street can now boast two wildly popular Mexican restaurants.

La Serenata marches to a more serene drummer and specializes, like the original, in light, savory Mexican seafood cooking. I can't get enough of the chips served with a subtly smoldering salsa. And I'm always torn between the fish empanada or the wonderful fish quesadilla for two, to start. Fisherman's cocktail (for two, also, but more realistically for four) is a bowl brimming with scallops and seafood in tomato juice brightened with lime, chile and cilantro.

I'm partial to the fat masa dough gorditas piled with fresh mahi mahi or shrimp. The fish tacos are terrific too, garnished with avocado and onion. Choose any of the fresh fish of the day or giant shrimp prepared in almost a dozen sparkling fresh sauces.

But it's not all seafood here: There is, for example, irresistible shredded beef in a complex and satisfying red chile sauce to pile in the freshly made tortillas--a sumptuous feast with the bowl of creamy frijoles.

Until the answering machine at the original Boyle Heights location gives a date when its remodeling will be completed, fans of La Serenata will just have to trek all the way to the Westside (the more casual La Serenata Gourmet on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles is also open) for their hit of the restaurant's fine cuisine.

BE THERE

La Serenata de Garibaldi, 1416 4th St., Santa Monica; (310) 656-7017. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Public lot parking. Dinner appetizers $3 to $13; main courses $11 to $22.

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