96: La Cevicheria's Bloody Clam Ceviche.
During the most oppressive days of summer, when the beaches are packed elbow to elbow and waves of heat radiate up from the sidewalks, few things are more refreshing than a bowl of chilled, lime-tinted ceviche. La Cevicheria -- a storefront along Pico in Mid-City, painted a pale-blue and decorated with nautical knick-knacks -- is nowhere near the ocean, but the food it serves is the purest form of beach cuisine.
Owners Julio and Carolina Orellana have dedicated their menu to a pan-Latin variety of stunningly fresh seafood dishes: a tomato-laced campechana; a silky Caribbean seafood stew stocked with squid and mussels; and a neon-green version of the spicy Nayarit shrimp dish aguachile, among other things.
What reigns supreme, however, is the Orellanas' signature Guatemalan-style concha negra ceviche, concocted from a mix of chopped bloody clams, plump shrimp, ripe avocado, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mint, tomatoes, onions and a wedge of sweet orange. When the clams are pulled from their shells and diced into bits, they ooze an iron-rich substance as dark and briney as squid ink, which gives the goblet its distinctive pitch-black color. It's probably unlike any ceviche you've had before, zesty and pungent from the Worcestershire, cool and revitalizing from the mint, but busting with an unmistakable seawater slap radiating outward like a weathered lighthouse.
You scoop up the cocktail onto crisp tostadas or Saltines, the latter being strangely more addictive than the former. At a certain point it feels a bit like one of those outdated appetizers on the menu at Musso & Frank, a feeling further deepened during the moment when you reach for the squeeze bottle of "yellow Sriracha," a blend of mustard and blistering hot habaneros that the kitchen makes itself. You're several miles from the beach, and a couple thousand more from the nearest Guatemalan ceviche shack, but a place like La Cevicheria has a funny way of making those distances disappear with a few bites.