We couldn't have planned National Ceviche Day, or Día Nacional del Cebiche in Peru, to fall on a better day this year. A dish cool in varying degrees, ceviche is best enjoyed when it's uncomfortably hot outside -- which it is now, if you haven't noticed yet. Found throughout Central and South America, the regional differences are found in the details, from the type of chile used to the addition, or exclusion, of cilantro as a garnish.
In L.A., we've the good fortune to know the dish in its myriad forms from Mexico to Peru. If you prefer shrimp over fish, there's the Nayarit version at Mariscos Chente. Mariscos Jalisco on Olympic serves up a mix of chopped shrimp, octopus and white fish that has become a preferred choice in the neighborhood. With no dearth of options, we selected three dishes that range in price, location, and provenance. Turn the page for suggestions on where you can celebrate the day.
The line queues up quickly at Tacos Baja Ensenada, but it can move just as fast. The time will pass by in an instant anyhow; debates with your friend on whether fish, shrimp or a mix of both makes the better ceviche tends to swallow up the wait. Five dollars will buy the standard order of one fish taco and a ceviche. Ceviche comes scooped onto a sturdy tostada; anything less wouldn't hold up the marinade. While the East L.A. favorite on the corner of Whittier and Oakford may be a Baja-style taquería by name, its regulars are as prone to stop by for the ceviche. 5385 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 887-1980.
Spanish for "hearts and honey," Corazon Y Miel opened earlier this year in Bell, a part of town that probably preferred something other than the graft of its former officials to make it newsworthy. The restaurant is less focused on classic recipes, as is nearby La Casita Mexicana, putting forth instead a series of antojitos designed to pair with beer and cocktails. Most indicative is a shrimp and octopus ceviche, steeped in lime juice and adorned with peanuts burnt to strategically complement the seafood. Our critic Besha Rodell found it to be the best dish on chef Eduardo Ruiz's menu, calling it "an example of a familiar dish taken one brilliant step beyond the familiar." 6626 Atlantic Ave., Bell; (323) 560-1776.
The bloody clam ceviche at La Cevicheria is a dish that challenges what's considered appealing -- from its name to the look of it. Guatamelan in origin, the dish has established its reputation well among Angelenos familiar with ceviches of the fish and shrimp variety. Not meant for the squeamish, the cocktail of chopped bloody clams, broody red to the point of appearing black, is distinct in its blend of iron-rich clam liquid, lime juice, and Worcestershire. There's a small garden of garnishes on top -- tomatoes, avocado, and onions diced followed by slivers of mint and an orange wedge. It's hard to think of another dish heavy on hemoglobin that can taste as refreshing. 3809 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 732-1253.
Ricardo Zarate's ceviche routinely makes the critic's choice for one of the best in town these days, first brought to our attention at Mo-Chica at its Mercado La Paloma location. Golden in color from the aji amarillo, it's equal parts halibut, squid, scallops and prawns marinated in tigre de leche. And whereas some will wax nostalgically about its original iteration, the newer Mo-Chica on Seventh kept quite a few of the dishes that sealed Zarate's reputation for reintroducing the town to the culinary riches of Peru. In honor of the day, he's created a halibut ceviche with aji limo, sliced onions and fresh wakame. The dish is only available today at all three of his restaurants: Mo-Chica, Picca, and Paiche. 514 W. 7th St., Los Angeles; (213) 622-3744.
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