My Ceviche's Fresh Take on Seafood in South Beach
Co-owners Sam Gorenstein (left) and Roger Duarte with their aji amarillo-style shrimp ceviche.
After quite a bit of deliberation at the teeny counter of My Ceviche, I decided to order ceviche. It might seem the obvious choice, but it's not necessarily an easy one to make when seafood tacos are also on the menu. Seafood tacos are on my shortlist of both must-order and must-avoid dishes, depending upon the integrity of the restaurant. One of the many nice things that can be said about My Ceviche is that it's got lots of integrity.
For instance, its fish are brought in whole and then prepared on the premises. That's really what makes the ceviche, fish tacos, and other items here better than those at most other seafood places. You don't need a two-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Rising Star Chef to figure it out, but apparently it helps.
That reference is to Sam Gorenstein, who last October left his position as chef de cuisine at BLT Steak on South Beach and six months later emerged as chef/partner of My Ceviche, a take-out/delivery service opened with partner Roger Duarte of George Stone Crab.
On one occasion I tried the shrimp ceviche, and on another the "local fish," which was yellow jack (also known as coolihoo, which I think is a superior marketing name). Octopus is the third option. If you want all three seafoods, it's $1.95 extra. Otherwise, a medium serving is $11.95 and a large is $14.95. Both are generous.
Once you have the portion and protein figured out, there are six styles from which to choose. The traditional encompasses lime, tomato, red onion, avocado, cilantro, and jalapeño — along with a hunk of sweet potato and a section of corn on the cob, which are both plunked into all of the renditions (a bag of seasoned popcorn comes on the side). The pristine yellow jack was macerated to just the right bite. The local fish changes; sometimes it's corvina, sometimes triggerfish, and so forth.
An aji amarillo ceviche, sampled with tender ribbons of shrimp, is defined by an inclusion of citrus juices, mint, and the piquant peppers — a notably scintillating combo. The Asian ceviche features soy/citrus/ginger with mango; the "Caribeño" gets jazzed by a lime-ketchup base. Perhaps nothing beats a coconut water ceviche in terms of cool nourishment for the summer heat.
I indulged in my snacks while seated on a wood bench situated outside the petite eatery. To say petite is something of an understatement. My Ceviche is a little takeaway shack; you get your food in clear plastic containers, and then you take it away — unless, like I did, you sit on the bench and simulate something of a self-serve restaurant experience.
I segued next into a trio of tacos: shrimp, raw yellowfin tuna, and octopus ($9.95, or $3.50 each). The soft corn tortillas are fresh, and the seafood in each is nestled against pickled red onions, queso fresco, thin radish slices, and cilantro; a wedge of lime squeezes in alongside. All renditions are tasty, though the assertive char and ocean flavors of the octopus meld especially well with the other ingredients.
"Spicy mango slaw" brings a tangy (more so once you add the lime juice/olive oil dressing) tangle of shredded carrots, cucumbers, and green mangoes over lettuces mixed with cilantro, radish slices, and grape tomatoes. Garnishing the top is an avalanche of crunchy whole peanuts and hot circles of jalapeño pepper. It's as refreshing and stimulating as a salad can be.
Well, almost: Mine was missing the promised mint, which provides an invigorating contrast. The portion is healthy for $7.95. Shrimp, fish, tuna, or octopus can be added for an extra $5.95 to $7.95.
Bulky "Caribbean-style" burritos are terrific. A large flour tortilla tightly wraps grilled seafood of your choice with luscious coconut-jasmine rice flecked with kernels of corn that sweetly tease the mild grilled flavor of the fish. Cilantro, strands of pickled red onion, tomato, a bit of queso fresco, and a smooth dab of Mexican crema are also folded in. These burritos might be the mildest ones you've ever had — all the better for appreciating the freshness of the fish inside.
Alongside the burrito come fried corn tortilla chips with choice of salsa: pico de gallo; charred tomatillo, salsa roja, or lime-roasted jalapeño mayo. On one occasion, the chips proved too salty to eat, but other times they were fine.
If you don't read the menu's fine print, you won't see that you can select your salsa, in which case the counterperson will serve the lime-jalapeño mayo — which is a fairly spicy, very tasty option that harmonizes well with the burrito.
Guacamole can be added to any burrito or taco for $1.50; a side of chips and "spicy" guac — chunky and only mildly piquant with cayenne — is $5.95. Other sides include the coconut-jasmine rice, sweet potatoes with lime, charred corn on the cob with queso fresco, crisp plantains, and corn kernels bathed in butter and a bit of barbecue sauce, with queso fresco sprinkled over the top.
Two homemade desserts are offered: a chocolate brownie ($3.25) and a supposedly "crustless" key lime pie ($3.75) that came with a crust of moist graham crumbs; guess they changed the concept since printing the menu. The custard is extremely creamy and tart — it's a great version, with or without a crust.
My Ceviche is a fantastic and unpretentious addition to a tony South Beach neighborhood. Fresh, delicious street food at a good value invites no argument.
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