One thing that I can never get enough of is ceviche. I like to think of ceviche as my first departure from only having raw seafood in the form of sashimi. And that departure was a one-way flight with no return ticket.
Steph C., our friend June, and I ventured out to find this hole-in-the-wall spot that has earned rave reviews from Jonathan Gold. We were looking so hard for a small sign or entrance that we completely overlooked La Cevicheria's large signage and bright blue exterior. Like three little school girls, we scurried across Pico and ran inside the restaurant.
The first thing we all noticed was how surprisingly small and empty the place was. If we hadn't already heard such great things about this place, the lack of people might have made us reconsider our decision. But do not fret. No crowd means no wait, and when you're waiting for incredibly delicious food, a shorter wait is never a bad thing.
The other great thing about going to La Cevicheria when it's not crowded is that you get to spend a lot of time with the Guatemaltecan, or Chapín, owner and chef's husband, Julio. With open arms and an unforgettable ear-to-ear smile, Julio pampered our party of three with extra bites and great stories.
What started as an unassuming bowl of chips evolved into a meal of a lifetime. We started our meal with two gigantic goblets of ceviche.
The first was the Mixed Chapín Ceviche. A stellar mixture of shrimp, octopus, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, onions, mint, and Worcestershire sauce, this ceviche set the tone for what would be an amazing meal featuring fresh seafood. The freshness of the seafood wasn't the only thing that made this ceviche superior to most. The smart addition of mint brings out the flavors of the seafood and tomatoes and also complements the cilantro. The ingenious hint of Worcestershire sauce adds a salty, smoked, fishy flavor that helps to balance out the citrus. The avocado on top also adds a great fatty element to the bowl.
Though the Chapín is more of their signature dish, their Bloody Clam Ceviche put La Cevicheria on the map. With a heavier helping of Worcestershire sauce and a generous amount of clams, this ceviche made me feel like I was eating what might be a steak ceviche. Each spoonful bled into my taste buds and left me thirsty for more. Each bite of clam was like biting into a juicy grape from the ocean. LIke the Chapín, this ceviche had a smart combination of cilantro, mint, tomatoes, onions, and avocado.
We had flat tostada shells to eat with the ceviches, but the ceviches easily stand on their own.
Having to choose one ceviche over the other would be tough, but go for the Chapín if you feel like something lighter and more refreshing, and go for the Bloody if you feel like something heavier and more filling. Before we knew it we were shamelessly spooning out the dregs of both bowls of ceviche. My favorite comment from Julio: "If the cast from True Blood came here, they would all go crazy!" Vampire or not, I'm sure everyone who's had the Bloody Clam Ceviche has gone crazy for it.
Next up were the Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce. I love mussels, but I feel like mussels have been dominated by broths in the last few years. These mussels were a pleasant reminder that there are other, classic ways to prepare mussels. The garlic butter sauce was heavy on the garlic, and heavy on the butter, which is a good thing. The mussels were cooked just right. This dish comes out with a dozen addictive mussels, but the sauce makes you feel like the dish had two dozen.
The Aguachiles were a perfect way to balance out the heaviness of the mussel dish, but if I had to choose one dish that I had to pass on next time, this would be the one. The intense acidity of this dish was welcome after the creaminess of the mussels, and the strong cilantro and jalapeño flavors with the recently raw shrimp were to die for. The shrimp tasted incredibly fresh and the dish had just the right amount of heat to make you want to go back for another bite.
The last main dish we had was the Mariscada Caribeña. A creamy, sweet, coconut-based seafood stew, this dish was the perfect way to finish off the meal. The bowl comes with a scoop of rice and a good amount of mussels, shrimp, and squid. The stew was soulful and comforting and reminded me of some of the seafood stews I had on the coasts of Costa Rica.
Right when we thought our meal was over, Julio suggested that we get dessert. We were hesitant at first because we had just eaten an entire ocean of food, but at such a cheap price, we had to get it.
The Tres Leches Cake was more than enough to share after the meal we had. The cake is perfectly moist with just the right amount of condensed milk at its base. The fresh strawberry sauce also adds a great fruity sweetness to the cake, complemented with a few slices of strawberry. The cake disappeared in seconds.
After seeing how much we enjoyed our meal, Julio brought out some extra pastries and cookies that his wife had made. As expected, they were all delicious.
Needless to say, I'll probably make it a point to return to La Cevicheria every time I get a chance to go back to L.A., and every time I have ceviche from now on, La Cevicheria will be my gold standard.
Special thanks to Steph C. for the pictures for the post.
GET: Mixed Chapín Ceviche; Bloody Clam Ceviche; Mussels in Garlic Butter Sauce; Mariscadas Caribeña; Tres Leches Cake.