Tacos Punta Cabras – Surprisingly Great Fish Tacos in Santa Monica

19 Oct

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Westside Mexican food is, if not an oxymoron, at least a shadow of its Eastside counterparts. But a couple guys with sterling chef resumes opened up a true hole in the wall (minus the grime) in, of all places, the big business side of Santa Monica. What on earth are these guys thinking? And more importantly, can they make a taco?

Josh Gil and Daniel Snukal had been doing the Supper Liberation Club, an underground pop-up, for the past few years before opening TPC. The two of them have interesting résumés, from sushi master Urasawa to the avant garde with LudoBites, and the refined traditionalness of Joe’s in Venice. That is not the recipe that I would think of would result in great fish tacos.

Well they opened shop in a shoebox, a tiny storefront near the studios in SaMo. The place is new but dressed casually, with not that much effort to make it a destination. There are a few small tables outside and seating for maybe 20 inside. You order at the counter with a completely uninterested guy, and a few minutes later they call your name and you pick up a cafeteria tray with your food. I was happy with every part of this equation, except the surly counter boy.

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Let me just cut to the chase: the food is really good. Apparently, Gil and Snukal have spent a lot of time in Baja, and it shows with flavors that are definitely of Mexico, not the Westside. I got a fish taco, a shrimp taco, and an horchata. The horchata was pretty good, but a little thin compared to the great example at Guisados.

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The tacos were wonderful. The fry was nice, with a bit of crisp on the outside and flavorful moist protein. You can see from the cabbage slaw/mix on top is much more colorful than what you usually get at a traditional place like Tacos Baja Ensenada. It’s nice to have a bit of chives, radish, and herbs.

But what really makes TPC great is the salsas that came with the tacos. Very flavorful and a nice tangy, spicy complement to the fish. I would say this was basically as good as the tacos as Tacos Baja Ensenada, although different. Amazing.

The only thing I can think of that would make these tacos better would be better tortillas. These are obviously store-bought, although they do a good job of grilling them. But after Guisados, the game has been raised. That’s really my only criticism of TPC (other than lame counter guy), which means I basically love this place.

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Oh, and because the same people who criticize Phorage’s $10 as too expensive will be shocked at Westside prices for fish tacos, the tacos are $3.50, so know that. You can have a fine meal for $10 — $15 if you eat big.

Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica
310-917-2244
Open Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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