Jonathan Gold Follows the 'Snook Whisperer' Legend to Four Restaurants

The LA Times' reviewer takes a deep dive into an elusive fish and its even more elusive chef
Snook

Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

The Snook Fish as served at Cheko El Rey Del Sarandeado restaurant in Long Beach on March 15, 2017.

Pescado zarandeado is one of the wonders of the seafood world, a broad, thin fish sliced neatly in half on the vertical axis, roasted slowly over a smoky fire and served on a platter the size of a skimboard — half an acre of smoking, char-edged flesh.

The fish, usually a Pacific robalo, or snook, is dabbed with some mixture of citrus, spices and mayonnaise before it hits the fire, although it is usually all but greaseless when it hits the table. You tear off pieces and wrap them in fresh tortillas with a strand or two of well-caramelized onion. You drink a michelada or two. Your afternoon stretches ahead.

The cult of pescado zarandeado in Los Angeles is generally associated with Sergio Peñuelas, a Sinaloa-born cook who has mastered the art of slow-grilling snook. If you follow the confluence of food and social media, Peñuelas may have been bubbling through your feeds for more than a decade by now. Some of my friends call him the Snook Whisperer.

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