Ceviche review: Raw fish and a bit of spice washed down with a Pisco Sour
The Mexican food revolution in London took years, but fortunately it’s also brought an appetite for other Latin American cuisines and opened up Londoners’ culinary options even further. Step forward Ceviche, a Peruvian kitchen and Pisco bar in the heart of Soho. The restaurant opened in Spring 2012 on the site of Cafe Emm – a restaurant I loved, but fortunately Ceviche is a good successor. It’s been nearly 10 years since I visited Peru and I remember eating very well there and was particularly fond of the choclo (corn) based dishes and Pisco Sours, so was eager to rediscover the cuisine.
Since opening last year, Ceviche has become a hotspot on the London dining scene. I only booked 24 hours ahead, but was lucky enough to get a table for an early seating at 6pm. By the time we left at 8pm, the bar area was packed to the gills with people waiting for a table. Upon arrival, we were shown to a high table and bar stools – although there is low-level seating available too. The restaurant’s exposed brick walls are decorated with Peruvian posters, giving the place some Latin American ambiance, fortunately feeling authentic rather than tacky. The plain wooden seating, high tables and low lighting gave the venue a saloon-feel.
To those who don’t know, ceviche is usually fresh raw fish, marinated in either lemon or lime and is often spiced with chili or served with red onions. The menu consists of various tapas-style portions, with recommendations of three to four per person. My party of two decided to skip a starter and went straight for the various ceviches, which arrived in various stages. Before our food arrived, we started with some Pisco (Peruvian brandy) cocktails – I chose the Passion Sour (Pisco Quebranta, passion fruit purée, lime, sugar syrup and egg white), which had quite a kick to it, but was refreshing and tasty. My sister meanwhile opted for an Amor Prohobido, which was a lot of sweeter and not as strong. Our first dishes to arrive were the ceviche ones – Don Ceviche (fresh seabass ceviche in amarillo chili tiger’s milk, limo chili and red onions), Chacalon (mushroom and sweet potato ceviche with red onion in a passion fruit amarillo tiger’s milk) and Sakura Maru (tiradito of salmon in Nikkei tiger’s milk made with satsumas, mirin, soy sauce and limo chili). The Don Ceviche was a generous portion of raw seabass, which reminded me of sushi. I’m not a huge fan of sushi, so while I did enjoy the dish, I did tire of the flavour quite quickly and was fortunate I was sharing with my sister otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. I preferred the Sakura Maru, the sweet sauce was a delicious accompaniment to the salmon and we could have easily ordered a second serving.
While we enjoyed the cold ceviche, we were eager for some hot food as it was such a cold night. All three of our hot dishes arrived at once and didn’t last long on the table before we wolfed them down. While a very simple dish in comparison to the others, the Peruvian corn cake (Choclo corn and queso fresco vegetarian cake) was my favourite. The corn cake was hearty, warm and tasty. My sister ordered the Pulpo (Braised octopus marinated in coriander with chorizo chunks served with warm quinoa) and really enjoyed the unusual fusion of seafood and sausage. As a side order, we had the Arrocitio (long, grain rice with Peruvian choclo corn).
Although the restaurant recommends 3-4 dishes per person, we were quite full after a total of six dishes. However, there is always room for dessert so we decided to share a Encanelado de Pisco (cinnamon sponge soaked in Pisco spirit syrup with dulce de leche ice cream). Although a fan of cinnamon, there was just the right amount of it so as to not overpower the dish and the dulce de leche ice cream was incredibly sumptuous and went down very easily. Our bill came to around £60, including six plates, one dessert, two cocktails and service. Overall, I enjoyed the food and atmosphere so I’m sure I’ll be back in the future.
- Ceviche, 17 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RG. Tel: 020 7292 2040. Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus or Leicester Square. For booking and more information, visit the Ceviche website.
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