I headed up to Silver Spring last night to check out Ceviche, the newest venture from Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld, the man behind Gua-Rapo, Chi-Cha Lounge, Agua Ardiente and Matte. In line with its sister restaurants, Ceviche hovers between a restaurant and lounge. The swank newcomer is hidden in the second-story corner of a strip mall next to Pho Hiep Hoa, a Vietnamese restaurant. Even with the address in hand, it was difficult to find.
The space is very open with dark red walls and large open windows that look out onto the street scene below. The lounge has some nice leather seats and a long communal table for solo eaters. For picky eaters or those who shy from spice, Ceviche may be too exotic; but the food is well prepared and the cocktails are fun. The budget-conscious drink menu -- everything costs $7 -- offers a Peruvian Pisco Sour, a signature martini with key lime and a tartly sweet daiquiri Floridita, a grapefruit rum drink in the style of Hemingway.
As the name suggests, there are a variety of ceviche preparations prepared with fish, shrimp, mixed seafood or, for vegetarians, none of the above. (I recommend the spiced-up Natural preparation.) Fish is the specialty, but the menu has some Latin favorites scattered throughout. The aperitivos include steamed mussels, grilled sardines and chicken cilantro fritters. The highlight of my dinner was the Campesina salad, a simple tomato salad with slices of queso fresco and fresh avocado with cilantro in a light, jalapeno-spicy dressing. The vegetarian entree, Locro Ecuatoriano, was a heavy dish of potatoes, avocado and hard-boiled eggs in a cream sauce, but it fit the bill for somebody seeking comfort food. I enjoyed a halibut in spicy coconut milk. Each of the large plates comes with an accompaniment. My sautÃ©ed vegetables were doused in fresh garlic. Read: Do NOT eat these on a date or before kissing, talking to or breathing near anyone of interest. In that event, stick with the simple arroz blanco.
One big problem with the restaurant is that it seems unsure of its target demographic. In the heart of family-friendly Silver Spring, its customers will inevitably include more families with small children, moviegoers and touristy types than the hipsters Ceviche seems eager to attract. A sign on the door states that athletic attire is prohibited and business casual is recommended; but these restrictions seem out of place for a restaurant sharing an address with Romano's Macaroni Grill and Potbelly Sandwich Works. The restaurant should probably ease its restrictions and welcome everyone. That said, my jalapeno-infused Amor Prohibido cocktail did seem less spicy when sipped next to a Gameboy-toting 10-year-old. Also, with appetizers and ceviche costing $6 to $9 and $9.50, respectively, and entrees ranging from $12 to $21, the menu is more expensive than neighboring eateries. Ceviche is a great bet for people seeking out a fun dinner before a show at AFI, Roundhouse or the Majestic, but the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., so it won't cater to those with the post-movie munchies.
Open only two weeks, there are still huge issues for the kitchen to work through. In a restaurant that was nearly empty, we waited 20 minutes for our entrees once our appetizers had been cleared. That said, with some tweaking it will be a great destination for nice family dinners, post-shopping weekday lunch and, coming in the next few weeks, happy hour.
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