Chelsea Madren aka OC Food Diva: Johnsonville's The Sausage Dome Champion, World Food Championships E.A.T. Certified Food Judge, KCBS Certified BBQ Judge, Brand Ambassador, Culinary Researcher, Food & Travel Critic, Food Competitor, and Recipe Developer
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Holbox reels in the freshest local seafood with Yucatan flare in Los Angeles, California
The menu items in this post were provided by Holbox but the
opinions expressed here are my own.
Chef Gilberto Cetina Jr. is no stranger to the food scene. He has learned
his cooking skills while working alongside his father at Chichen Itza for 15
years. In 2010, he took over as chef of Chichen Itza, but he always wanted to
focus on his love of seafood. Holbox opened on February 17, 2017 and is a
seafood stand that focuses on fresh, local ingredients, bold flavors, and simple
preparation. The concept came from memories of spending the summers on the coast
of Yucatan, diving for conch and octopus and spearing fish with his cousins. Like
most fishermen, they prepared ceviche with the fresh catch. His memories remind
me of my family in Hawaii. My great-grandparents owned a fish market and,
growing up, my parents taught us about fresh fish – how to know when it is
fresh and how to prepare it (raw or cooked).
Holbox is located inside Mercado
La Paloma. The stand is bright and reminiscent of a sushi bar. The fresh
seafood is on ice and ready to be prepared.
Fresh sea urchin (uni) sits atop ice with spines still moving so
you know it is fresh.
The first thing that catches my attention about the fish (Pacific
Red Snapper in this case) are the clear, plump eyeballs. This is a clear sign
of freshness. If the eyeballs are dried up, sunken, or cloudy, steer clear.
Array of hot sauces to tempt your taste buds.
Here are some menu items to try:
Tacos de Pulpo En Su Tinta ($10) is braised octopus in calamari
ink sauce served in handmade tortillas. The octopus had a tender, yet chewy texture.
The squid ink added an umami flavor which made me go for another bite and
another bite. A little tomato added a touch of sweetness. I LOVE octopus,
pulpo, tako! I love it in any language and I love this taco! Rating: 4.9/5
Coktel Mixto ($10 small, $15 large) is made with shrimp, spot
prawn, octopus, oyster, avocado, house made sauce, onion, cilantro, and lime.
The sauce had a great balance of sweet and spicy. It worked well with the myriad
of seafood inside by bringing out the best of each ingredient. The presentation
was just beautiful! Rating: 4.8/5
Scallop al Carbon ($12) is wood grilled live diver scallop served
in its shell with chile X’catic sauce. The scallop was cooked very lightly so the
sweetness of the scallop came through. A raw or lightly cooked/seared scallop
will impart a sweetness like crab. Most of the time when a scallop is fully
cooked, it will lose this delicate flavor. The chile and citrus flavors were
very light and balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the scallop. Perfection
in half shell! Rating: 4.9/5
Chiles Rellenos de Pescado ($9) is three spicy yellow chiles
stuffed with fish, breaded, fried, and served with homemade mayo and morita
sauce. These rellenos are reminiscent of the American “jalapeno popper” but so
much better. The crispy exterior contrasted the soft texture of slightly cooked
fish inside. Rating: 4.3/5
Halibut Ceviche Tostada ($10, seasonal fish) made with local line
caught halibut, onion, cilantro, tomato, salsa roja, and avocado. This halibut
was freshly caught from the Channel Islands. Ceviche is Yucatan’s version of Hawaiian
poke but instead of using shoyu, Hawaiian salt, and sesame oil, they use citrus
juices, salt, onion, and cilantro. The citrus juices “cook” and marinate the
fish. The salsa roja added some spicy notes but was balanced by the creamy
avocado. The thick, crispy tostada held up to the very last bite. Rating: 4.8/5
You don’t need a passport to try some of the best Yucatan-style
seafood. It is just a few freeways away to seafood paradise!
4- Course Seafood Tasting Menu – $40 per guest and available Thursday
through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call for reservations.