I had to wait for an hour and a half at the Hollywood DMV today, just so I could renew my driver's license. I'm glad I planned ahead appropriately, so that there was a little light at the end of that nightmarish tunnel -- Mario's Peruvian Seafood is just a few blocks away, on the corner of Melrose and Vine.
It has been several years, since I've been to Mario's. Suffice it to say, I've been a bit consumed with parenthood, and Mario's had sadly slipped my mind.
What a pleasure it was to get reacquainted! Mario's is still a rather dumpy little hole in a strip-mall wall, but when you're busy eating and sweating over some of the most esculent Peruvian food in the city, the ambiance doesn't really seem to matter.
Many dishes on the menu can cause a person to develop intense longings, especially the lomo saltado, but the dish that I have harbored the deepest cravings for is the ceviche de pescado. The other ceviches are quite good, but somehow I am always the happiest with the soft sweet fish.
The heat from the aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chile) in the addictive green sauce and the ceviche is marvelous. It has a different effect on me than other chiles. My lips burn and my eyelids sweat, yes, but I also get funny shivers up and down my body from the heat.
I love that feeling!
The ceviche comes with chopped celery, which adds a complementary crunch to the soft citrus-cooked fish flesh, chopped cilantro and a giant pile of sliced, raw, red onions. I stayed far far away from the onions. They kill me.
On the plate you'll find a hunk of boiled potato and a homely portion of corn on the cob that despite being either from a can or boiled to within an inch of its life, is still sweet and somewhat compelling. The potato and corn are both good tools for soaking up the copious amounts of yellow liquid on the plate, and nice instruments for delivering that addictive green sauce, that I mentioned before, to your mouth.
I'm a fan of all of the parts of the dish. I even appreciate the few crunchy wedges of iceberg. They have a mild cooling effect. And you need all the cooling you can get. The ceviche marinade is extremely citrusy, very spicy, and just the right amount of salty (yes, that was me in the corner spooning up the liquid like soup).
I experienced the the warm glow from the ajis amarillos the whole drive home to Echo Park.
I love that feeling!
Mario's Peruvian Seafood
5786 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038