They're taking over Miami, one lime-cured corvina morsel at a time. You know what I'm referring to... The dish of the moment is ceviche! We are a town obsessed with piles of lipsmacking, citrus-cured seafood goodness. Even if a restaurant isn't traditional Peruvian, they've got at least one ceviche on the menu - even the Cuban cafes (rather unsuccessfully!) are getting into the act!
So we weeded through the treasures and the traps, and have pitted two of our city's finer options against each other for the first of a new regular feature we like to call Plato Royal, comparing the same dish at two different restaurants to determine a favorite. Today's subject of scuffle? Oriental ceviche.
La Cofradia's "Oriental" ($15) - Fresh diced Ahi Tuna marinated in Leche de Tigre, soy sauce, ginger and sesame seed oil, snow peas and seaweed salad garnish
Pros: The fish is very fresh and cured perfectly, singed slightly on the outside and with just the right about of rawness on the inside. I always like seaweed salad, so it was a pleasant surprise as an accompaniment. The portion is substantial, and comes with the traditional cool baked sweet potato slice.
Cons: The "Oriental" is very one-note, with any flavor that the tuna might have
being masked by a heavy hand with the toasted sesame oil. It's a little boring and lacks the flavor pow you want from a ceviche. La Cofradia recently re-branded itself a ceviche bar, but they only have four ceviches and three Tiraditos on the menu, which doesn't really feel like the kind of selection and variety you would expect from an establishment with that label. You also are limited in the sampler platter arena (the "Rocoto" ceviche is not available as part of the "Trio," which includes a smaller portion of the Oriental matched with tastes of the "Traditional" and "Aji Amarillo" is $16.)
Jaguar's "Ceviche Oriental" ($2 Spoon; $15 "Amazon" portion) - Tuna, ginger, soy, jalapenos, shallots, cilantro, lime, grape seed oil, avocado, diced cucumber and toasted sesame seeds
Pros: The Oriental at Jaguar is a brilliant exception to the rule of "less is more." Oriental isn't a traditional ceviche variety anyway, so why not have fun with it. This version combines elements of Peruvian ceviche with some Mexican and Asian influences. A vibrant confetti of cucumber, crisp jalapenos and shallots supports the fresh tuna; so many flavors and textures without being to busy. Mellow ginger and soy, plus the subtle nuttiness of toasted sesame seeds (rather than strong oil,) tie it all together without upstaging the main attraction and the vibrant zing of lime and cilantro. When you walk into Jaguar, you know they mean business about ceviche. They offer six varieties (plus a sampler) and two tiraditos. A sampler option is available of all varieties (in "Spoon" portions) for a steal of $12.
Cons: The day I tried the Oriental, it was swimming in its (granted, tasty) emulsion, with the tuna only peeking out in one spot. Wish there was also an in-the-middle portion size, because if you don't opt for the Amazon, $2 a pop for two-bite spoonfuls can get pricey.
The Verdict: The jungle cat at Jaguar reigns victorious!
Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & LATAM Grill
3067 Grand Ave
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
La Cofradia Ceviche Bar
160 Andalusia Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33134