By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Limes, avocados and fresh fish rule the day at Ceviche House, a brick-and-mortar offshoot to a farmers market venture started a few years ago by Mexico City native Juan Carlos Recamier.
In the absence of a stove and fryer, the ceviches incorporate a variety of raw fish choices in lively constructs inspired by different regions of Mexico and Peru.
The only source of heat Recamier uses is a blowtorch for charring a stupendous poblano chile relleno filled with rice, veggies and chunky pieces of queso fresco. Similar to a stuffed baked potato in appearance, it’s easy to forget about the egg-battered versions injected with jack cheese once you poke into it.
Recamier sources his seafood from Catalina Offshore Products as well as directly from fish mongers he has come to know at downtown’s Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. His early-morning pickups can include yellowtail, big eye tuna, scallops, shrimp and white fish, all of which are utilized in about six different ceviches and a few sashimi-style dishes.
The La Paz ceviche, bedded on locally sourced baked tortillas, features the ruby-red tuna showing off a bright twang from both limes and orange zest in a judiciously balanced habanero-citrus sauce. A hint of ginger finds its way in. And the noodle-cut cucumbers strewn throughout added an extreme, refreshing element to the assembly.
Equally invigorating was the Peruvian ceviche, which won me over with its red bits of spicy rocoto peppers lurking between cubed whitefish. Here, the fish is “cooked” in a milky, citrus marinade (leche de tigre) that’s spiked with a tad of garlic.
Recamier explained that in Peru, raw fish is marinated for less time compared to its Mexican counterparts. I found it citrus-y nonetheless. Garnished on top with orange aji peppers, the spice factor crept up gradually before climaxing at a moderate heat level.
From the “tiraditos and specialties” category, the state of Sinaloa in Mexico is represented by shrimp aquachile, which falls somewhere between ceviche and sashimi.
The shrimp were whole and translucent, and served in a tangle of sliced radishes, red onions and micro greens, all resting in a puddle of thin citrus sauce accented boldly with Serrano peppers and cilantro. Though flavorful, I would have preferred the shrimp cut into pieces, as they required some sawing with my plastic knife.
All of the dishes included generous slices of fresh avocado. The shortage, Recamier said, has eased in both price and availability, at least for restaurant vendors.
Other ceviche styles include the Acapulco with whitefish; the Veracruz with shrimp, scallops and mango; and the top-selling Puerto with shrimp, jalapenos, jicama and bell peppers. There’s also salmon carpaccio, a ceviche chile relleno and Mexican sashimi featuring tuna, yellowtail and salmon on one plate.
Ceviche House is bright and quaint, with subway tiles dominating a couple walls and only one table inside. Ledge seating provides additional dine-in space, as well as several tables on the front sidewalk.
Recamier has stepped up to the plate in the ongoing ceviche trend by giving customers creative choices and detailed presentations. Since opening less than a year ago, he’s already planning on opening a larger, second location, revealing only at this point that it will be in “coastal San Diego.”
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.