We finally got a chance to try Holbox!
The new food stall in the Mercado La Paloma food court, Holbox is the creation of Chef Gilberto Cetina (of Chichen Itza fame), which is just across the way.
Holbox (Mayan for “Black Hole”) specializes in Yucatecan and other regional Seafood specialties, and when you walk up to the counter to order, you see fresh Seafood on display.
In fact, just minutes after we ordered, Chef Cetina Jr. was breaking down a giant Opah!
Each order comes with complementary Chips & Salsa. The Salsa was fantastic, deeply tart, lightly spicy and fragrant. The Chips were sadly stale though. :
Pata de Mula (Mexican Blood Clams, Onions Cilantro, Lime Juice & Chile Morita Sauce):
If you’ve never had Pata de Mula before, there’s a reason they are called “Blood Clams”: Stunning, natural crimson-colored liquid surrounds these Clams. They were potently oceanic, almost earthy but quite interesting. We’ve had Pata de Mula with some friends a few years ago at a local hole-in-the-wall that seemed brighter, but these were fine.
Opah & Uni Ceviche (Opah & Santa Barbara Uni, Onion, Cilantro, Tomato, Salsa Roja, Avocado) (S):
Compared to earlier menus, it seems Holbox is now offering their famous Ceviche in Small or Large orders. Small arrives on a Tostada (like what @PorkyBelly highlights), but a Large order arrives on an elongated plate, with 2 Tostadas on the side for self-serve.
First, it looks like they’re back up to 5 Uni per Small Order. It looked gorgeous.
Sadly, the curse of Variable Uni strikes again: The Uni was really funky, overly briny (like bad seawater), and just old. Last week’s visit to Miyabi Uni, with their servers telling us their supply of Santa Barbara Uni was not viable that week may have been a foreshadowing of what happened here.
The actual Opah Ceviche was very fresh and tart. It was easily leagues ahead of the awful, muted Ceviche we had Verlaine (a supposed elevated alta cocina restaurant).
If the Uni was fresh, I could imagine this would be incredible. But I think here on this board, we’ve all experienced the tragic ups and downs of Uni this past year. But I’ll be back to try it again.
Coctel Mixto (Shrimp, Octopus, Oyster, Avocado, Housemade Sauce, Onion, Cilantro, Lime):
This was incredible! Extremely fresh Shrimp, Oyster and especially the Pulpo (Octopus)! The Octopus was the highlight, being so tender and nothing like the rubbery texture that Octopus is associated with. We devoured this in seconds.
Wood Grilled Black Cod Fish Tacos (Wood Grilled Black Cod, Housemade Mayo, Cabbage, Pico de Gallo, Handmade Tortilla):
A new menu item, the Wood Grilled Black Cod was perfectly cooked! Imagine buttery, tender, supple Black Cod and you have Chef Cetina Jr.'s version. It was just a touch underseasoned (everyone in our group thought so), but still so fresh and perfectly cooked.
We felt Chef Cetina didn’t really reach the levels of Guerilla Tacos and Chef Wes Avilla in terms of matching Salsas and flavors, however, thanks to @PorkyBelly and others, we remembered to test out their 5 Handmade Salsas:
They all were very interesting and very fresh. For the Black Cod Taco, a bit of the Chile Morita was good. The Cacahuate Salsa (with Roasted Peanuts) was even better.
But I thought even the Kut (Roasted Habanero Peppers Salsa) was also very distinct and matched well with this Taco.
Basically adding any of the 5 Handmade Salsas made this Black Cod Taco sing and much more interesting.
Torta de Camaron Empazinado (Breaded Shrimp, Homemade Bread, Mayo, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado):
Thanks to @PorkyBelly for this recommendation as well! The Breaded Shrimp was lightly crisped (although we wish it had more crunch), and so fresh! They were very generous with their Shrimp as @PorkyBelly noted, and biting into it with their Homemade Bread tasted like a very good Shrimp Po’ Boy.
Like the Taco test above, I sampled all 5 of their Salsas and really, all 5 of them made this Shrimp Torta SO GOOD! Any of the 5 would’ve worked just fine, so be sure to add one for your meal.
With their Housemade Salsas added, I enjoyed this Shrimp Sandwich more than Little Jewel’s Shrimp Po’ Boy.
Overall, Holbox is a nice, exciting at times, place to enjoy Chef Cetina’s Seafood creations with a Yucatecan angle. While the much-vaunted Uni Ceviche was disappointing (foiled by bad Uni ), we’re hoping it was just an off-day (for supplies) and look forward to trying it again.
The Cocktel Mixto (with that amazing Pulpo) was reason to return - so good! - and the Black Cod Tacos are fantastic, so fresh, perfectly cooked and buttery tender (with the addition of one of their Housemade Salsas).
(inside Mercado La Paloma)
3655 S. Grand Ave., #C9
Los Angeles, CA 90007