One of our favourite meals on my last visit to Los Angeles before the pandemic was at Holbox, the seafood-centered counter at Mercado La Paloma from the people who first brought us the excellent Chichen Itza. We have been plotting a return ever since, never expecting that it would take another three years. Of course, dining out on this trip was complicated. While proof of vaccination is required for dining in at restaurants in Los Angeles proper—the mandate is not really being followed elsewhere in LA County—our preference was also for dining outdoors whenever possible. Thankfully, both sets of caution were in evidence at this meal: proof of vaccination was checked stringently on entry to Mercado la Paloma to order our meal and there was excellent outdoor seating out front on a lovely, sunny day. And so, our meal.
We were meeting old grad school friends for lunch; they were very coincidentally also visiting during part of our trip. We were thus four adults and two young boys. The boys split the bistec a la Yucateca from Chichen Itza again for their meal—washing it down with smoothies from Oaxacalifornia elsewhere in the food hall. The four adults split a bunch of things from Holbox.
What did we get?
- A large ceviche mixto. Featuring octopus, shrimp and striped bass, this was dynamite both on the excellent tostadas it was served with and also delivered directly to the mouth with a fork.
- Shrimp aguachile. On our previous visit the scallop aguachile was one of our absolute favourites. But this time we couldn’t resist this version—newer on the menu—with farmed transparent shrimp from Downey. And goddamn, it was good, with the head served fried to a crisp. Great with the accompanyng saltines.
- Kanpachi and uni tostada. Kanpachi ceviche on a tostada with uni on top—what could go wrong? Absolutely nothing but against all odds this may have ended up being the least of the four larger dishes.
- Sopa de mariscos. An excellent seafood stew featuring rockfish, mussels, more of those transparent shrimp and fish sausage. Served with very good bread. I think a couple of us had this as the top dish at the meal.
A quartet of tacos to close:
- Baja fish taco.
- Baja shrimp taco.
- Scallop taco
- Smoked kanpachi taco
It may sound unlikely but these were not difficult to split—each cut in half, one half for each couple, each of whom took one big chomp out of their half. All four were very good, the smoked kanpachi taco was outstanding and may have been my top dish at the meal.
For pictures of the space, the menu and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next from the LA trip.
Oh, I should say that if you’re sitting outside, whichever counter in the mercado you’ve ordered from will bring your food out to your table—at least Holbox and Chichen Itza did. And I should also add that the chips and salsa served gratis by Holbox were also excellent.
Price? With tax and tip the Holbox portion came to about $143 (or just about $36/head for a lot of excellent seafood); the Chichen Itza part was about $23. Excellent value both for the quality and quantity. Highly recommended whether you live in LA or are just visiting.
Coming next: either yakitori or ramen from the same strip mall—though not the same restaurant—in Gardena. That will probably be this weekend.