Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
You might not know it, but the opening of Tacos Punta Cabras is a pretty big deal. The search for legitimate, quality tacos in the western part of LA (particularly of the seafood variety) is similar to that for Chinese food. For example, to find authentic, good Chinese food, the long-running (and correct) argument is that you have to drive east to the SGV (or just East LA for tacos). But that hasn’t stopped diners from searching for that diamond in the rough here on the westside, though their efforts are essentially that of a 16-seed facing a 1-seed during March Madness. For a micro-level analysis, take a look at ROC Kitchen on Sawtelle Blvd. A Chowhound thread regarding the anticipation of the restaurant opening was active for months, accumulating almost 200 replies from prospective diners anxious and hopeful of it becoming the westside Chinese messiah they’ve been waiting for. And I’ve been seeing a full house every time I drive or walk by the restaurant. But enough about Chinese food – let’s talk Mexican.
While there isn’t nearly as much buzz, Tacos Punta Cabras is deserving of the comparable hype…and acclaim. Take out the novelty (or drunken) idea of ordering from a run-down food truck late at night on the westside (let’s draw the line at west of Leo’s), and I think most people will agree with me in saying that for the most part, the food itself isn’t especially memorable. That changes, however, with Tacos Punta Cabras entering the big dance – playing with a short bench of a limited menu of mariscos tacos and tostadas (sorry for the March Madness references – it’s that time of the year). First of all, keep in mind that it is still located on the westside, in Santa Monica. That means it probably won’t win any blind taste tests against the likes of Ricky’s or Tacos Baja Ensenada. But there’s no point in trying to live up to that comparison, and Chefs Josh and Daniel know that, instead wanting to “just make good food.” And if that type of good food is finally within reach, all the better for everyone in West LA.
The restaurant is located on Santa Monica Blvd, in a small space in the middle of the block surrounded by minimal parking. There is no signage, although there is a low-hanging, tacky banner that belongs in an UFC octagon ring. Enter the restaurant, and there are a dozen or so seats and a counter where you place your order. On a random Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, I got a fish taco and scallop tostada for dine-in, and some more fish and shrimp tacos to-go. The tacos had a nice, light batter, though I wish they were a bit more crispy – somewhat difficult when considering how they don’t have a stove or gas, using what I’m assuming are just non-commercial deep fryers. The tacos were more acidic slaw and less salsa and crema, but that works here, especially with the wonderfully-griddled tortillas that tasted like a blend of corn and flour. The chefs assured me that this product would travel well, and it sure did. The star though, was the tostada. The bay scallops, which I’m not usually a big fan of, were fresh and briny, and the tostada was more refreshing than heavy. The salsa was light, including some Persian cucumbers, and was accompanied by a spicy cashew puree that reminded me of tan tan mein. It’s just a quality mariscos dish. Finally the day has come when westsiders have a Mexican seafood joint to call their own, with fish tacos you can actually eat near the beach.